forcing the entire world thru the ghost of a worn-out shredded nail thread: joe henderson on an eiderdown records easter special – the year of the rabbitApril 19, 2017 at 5:08 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: a story of rats, bent pyramid trio, bird people, easter, eiderdown records, gonzalez & steenkiste, gregg skloff, hellvette, hound dog taylor's hand, jake blanchard, joe henderson, prana crafter, rabbits, somesuprises, tales from the street, the shouts from the sea, woven skull
A Story of Rats / Hellvette – Split (Eiderdown Records)
Gonzalez & Steenkiste – Stuffed With The Down Of The Eider (Eiderdown Records)
Hound Dog Taylor’s Hand- Live at the Comet (Eiderdown Records)
Woven Skull – Emissions from Sun Bleached Brains (Eiderdown Records)
Bird People – Down of the Hasma (Eiderdown Records)
Gregg Skloff – The Glacial Enclosure (Eiderdown Records)
Jake Blanchard – Colour Discolour (Eiderdown Records)
Bent Pyramid Trio/ The Shouts From the Sea – Split (Eiderdown Records)
Prana Crafter – Mindstreamblessing (Eiderdown Records 2017)
Somesurprises – Serious Dreams (Eiderdown Records)
I have in front of me three cassettes. I also have Bandcamp links and a number of mp3s. They are all from Eiderdown Records, in Seattle. I chose ‘em. I consult Discog’s for information.
The releases span roughly five years. I feel a puzzle is to be solved. I am looking down the open grove of trees, at a path yet taken. The urge to contact my editor for a quick resolve is there. But for now I will resist it and admire the dates as if they were counting down to some future event, all partnered up in artwork duos, twin-sets of thick printed double colours. That’s the Eiderdown Way. All releases on cassette tape, some available, some sold out. But all put together they remind me of a comic book strip, that goes like this:
A Story of Rats / Hellvette – Split (Eiderdown Records 2012) Split tape and digital album
Track one: The ‘deep vibes scene’ of the Pacific Northwest, Garek Druss & James Woodhead: AKA A Story of Rats & other. 19 min’s wandering thru the last route taken by Laura Palmer. Deep swells, UFO’s, tremolo sap greening bright fluorescent, and a few ghostly voices. Melody breaks the inhuman sphere. The clearing. A tongue comes in. It’s backwards looking. Opens up into protocol. The humans are coming.. .
A soft plod. Menagerie of grey-tailed parrots applying pressure to their own necks. Reminds me.
Tracks two – five: Before I know it we have skipped a few miles. It is SYLVESTER ANFANG ‘s Glen Steenkist. The accordion swells. If it is that at all. It is an air organ. Swirling. Hypnotic. Cathedral.
You’ve just got to slow down, space your letters, don’t dash your punctuation, don’t join up, half-it.
It stops, for once. It’s retrospect. Harvest-like. Shuttered backwards through a field of maize. Sunshine. Leaving tracks in the floor. A newly formed memory. Slightly disintegrating. Moving downwards. To the place of forgotten dreams. And sly bubbles. And synths. And something in between the air gland again & the well-rounded little option on a keyboard (I miss those). Hermes continues to smile from the wall out there. As always, but this time craning low. A bunch of fairytales beside him. Half broken, half working; illuminating. By a battery box. – TIME – bowed banjo, harmonium, tampura, and Casio. There you go.
Cassette SOLD OUT. Super limited “bootleg” version cassette: All tracks dubbed on one side of a 100 min cassette. Side B left blank for you to dub your own music on it.
Gonzalez & Steenkiste – Stuffed With The Down Of The Eider (Eiderdown Records 2012) Tape and digital album
Three tracks. Track one; bowed metal and air. The sense of circular gestures, I imagine it to be calming. Physical. Tactile. Not synthetic. Not synthesized. But in volume. Loopified. Pulling at two threads. Stop.
A tune in the dried up grass. Gentle. Concerned for each other, in a non-charitable way. Like brothers. Striving to make things better, in a tiny microcosm on a field. Surrounded by houses. Displaced. Cancelling out the manufactured skyline.
The breathing exercises continue. Made public. Like a cut in time. I get to thinking about how we are not free. That free-will and potentiality are just different words for chance and chaos. Walking the line, as if being tested by a police officer. The bright blue strand of lineage. The cat-eyes that light up the road.
Closing the window for a while because it is my right, or option. To be in the world or to halt. And world a place right here, right now. Worlding the moment you retreat from “them”. And encounter “them” in another place. The transportation of music has made it possible for us to be with others. With their dreams. Their fantasies. Their drives. I am listening to the sound of a man scrape the walls of a metal cave, I can even hear the monkeys outside in the jungle. Is it a ritual?
I look at the vent half plastered over in the far side of the wall. Is it an attempt to cover up the vent? In wavy lines. An ornate pattern of holes that I had never noticed before.
I become aware of my pace. My punctuation. My breath. Picking up tiny mounds of wisdom along the way. That I rattle imperceptibly in my hand. My fingers aware of the air. Correcting myself. I like how this music compresses the air, as if it were being played as an accordion itself. Pleated time and space crumpling and expanding in designed concertinas.
They are Belgians, these too. The Anfang guy again with Ernesto Gonzalez. Released in 2012 and all SOLD OUT. Makes you think of the bliss of the ‘original’, that we all, seemingly unwitting or not, follow. The glow of the most bitter and finest. Tinsel like. This is an attempt at redemption. I mean to say an attempt to speak thru the Distorian. Through the hand that muffles your snout. The internet soon breaks. We’re all left alone on a cloud. Unable to talk. Unable to speak to each other. In Australia. Bites hard, the fingers tapping down. Predicting the past. A bend in the pipe. And then a hard finish. Which makes me impressed with that. Like an orphaned duckling.
Bootleg version still available: All tracks dubbed on one side of a 100 min cassette. Side B left blank for you to dub your own music on it.
Hound Dog Taylor’s Hand – Live at the Comet (Eiderdown Records 2014) Tape and digital album
Hound Dog Taylor throws a rusty old bike into a lake of river water that’s swept into town (see, we can play with time – it’s guitar and drums). I’ve become anxious.
What is this non-existent howling coming from the courtyard outside?
Good, I’ve become sentient again. Climax Golden Twins man Jeffery Taylor has been jamming with Ostrowski & Seman. There’s double bass.
“First ever release by Seattle’s secret weapon against the tech squares and yuppie droolers! . . “Live At The Comet” is a document from a town that doesn’t even know what’s good for it” – says Eiderdown Records.
Windows open and close quite energetically upstairs. Pain fecks (or paint flecks) rain down. The hairdryer or likewise is activated. No, it’s definitely a deliberate hoover. Aggressively cleaning the hallways upstairs. I am confronted and close huddled to these kinds of sonic events that ring down thru the courtyard that amplifies micro-details like the squawking of the birds and that same mans laughter. Just breath in time with the words, said to the cleaner. And slam the brakes down on these old walls. Everyone is in silence.
Cassette available (with perhaps the coolest artwork of them all)
Woven Skull – Emissions from Sun Bleached Brains (Eiderdown Records 2015) Tape and digital album
(Aonghus: Guitar, bells, field recordings, Gamelan, wooden flute. Natalia: Mandola, Gamelan, Scrap metal, wooden flute. Willie: Percussion, Gamelan, Wooden flute. With others. Recorded between 2013 & 2014 in Drumnadubber. Antwerpp. Occii. Amsterdam. Queens University. Belfast)
This is one of the tapes I have between my fingers. I begin down this twisted path. The trees make tunnels. Rain. Sudden and reliable. The most soothing of all waters. The mystery remains. They are Irish. I begin to satisfy my laziness. The day becomes an option. We have entered sacred territory now. Time is better. It is not so frightening. The walls become a healthy option. Like some decision made centuries ago. I turn the corner slightly. The course of the future. It’s all a game now. With no winners, only players. I zone in on the voice now and it startles me. Something has entered the realm, or I have left. This is magical realism. An invocation of the artistry. The artisans of past. The Old Ones. Who knew how to operate the forest. And the seas. The Old Ones who have come to look at their children. And what they have done. It’s the smoke from waste incinerators that seems to make our environs clean and pleasant to be around and in. I live for those drums. That synchronisation. Something faintly emerging from it. That sounds like a voice. And then it gracefully ends. Somehow we have entered the last third of the second track. I wonder if this is numeric. There’s moss growing where it shouldn’t be. We should not hack this of life. The earth is an emerging artwork. Only seen by our worlded eyes.
- The Uncertain Shuffle / A Sweeping Minion And A Man-Made Goat / A Toad Till Now.
- First Three, Then Seven / Stoned Teenage, Listening To Tangerine Dream (part 2) The Quivering Few.
Bird People – Down of the Hasma (Eiderdown Records 2016) Tape and digital album
‘The bird-hipped group’. Is the first thing I wrote of this. Whilst I was reading about T-Rex & Britain (that fictional island). Working in the sewers. Having a genuine holiday whilst listening to this release. That’s from 2016.
Our future in the sun. Hanging off the edge. Dangling. The dam synchronicity. The bell taunts from a newly formed occasional windows message. At precisely the same time. We have taken some few steps towards the opening of another dimension. And we walk thru it confidently. We make a quick promise to take it with us wherever we go. And that is a little one of the magic’s of musical ‘stuff’. We kinda touch fingers, and everything becomes a little bit shorter. A little bit more.
(I will talk about artist Jake Blanchard, who’s made the imagery for the tape, later.)
Bird People are from Vienna. Turns out there is myth-istry in the duck and the Eider. Something about the Hamsa. Someone wants to go back.
Lap steel guitar, electric bass, voice, cello, fiddle, sitar, shruti box, gong, percussion, bansuri, alto sax, harmonica, oscillator, and bells. From 14/15. Winter. Uli Rois, Roy Culbertson III, Réka Kutas, Steffi Neuhuber and Lucas Henao Serna.
It’s still bellowing. With string and air. It’s like a wooden Nintendo-65.
There’s some sitar now. And the soothing bellows. The drone again. Who would have known that a sub-genre would become equated with these creepy little entities that we’ll have to become acquainted with very soon. Or else live in the shadow of a shadow world.
Chewed up India. Mixed up with America. Something rustic about this introspection. It’s still whirling. On a pleasant Easter afternoon.
It’s all gone Jungle Book, one of the best. We’re still here. I feel as though I am looking backwards at a marathon I have just run. I put on the shawl of India. And sit here, in Brighton. As the music has ended. And the seagulls talk in increasingly complex fashion.
Gregg Skloff – The Glacial Enclosure (Eiderdown Records 2016) Tape and digital album
Cryptic contrabass, ‘objects’ and ‘effects’. Olympia WA. 2014. Nehring on artwork. Weathers on the Master. At the Little Blue House by Kevin Doria.
What is this? And who are you? Are questions bought to mind when I’m tapping. Gregg Skloff. The time flies by right throughout the day. I pay close attention to the keys, as they are always present: dangling. Puts me in the oeuvre of ‘Miasmah Records’ in Scandinavia, Norway.
I feel the lineage, a rope in the blizzard. Pipes, wooden pipes with reverb stuck on them. WITHIN. BENEATH. OVER. AFTER. THE GLACIAL ENCLOSURE. The scoop calls closure. They go on. They’ve got echoes to catch up with.
Decriminalise human behaviour. We will continue on. It is drone. It is a discipline. It is to see into the future. It is all about time. And the stretching of time. Somehow thru sound. The making of sound physical. As it has always been. Imperceptiblebeginnings to track three that lush into a private and introspective hum, one that’s just for yourself. Not the kind of music, as has been said before, to play with companions. This is private music. For you, and you only. It’s all gone silent.
Jake Blanchard – Colour Discolour (Eiderdown Records 2016) Tape and digital album
Scissor snaps. Sundays blur into Sundays. And then the rain shifts, he’s doing something mathematically wet. They’ve stolen the duck tunes. It’s of no use to them. Intermittent.
Quite relaxing for this supposed Brighton Beach scenario, where I’m all holed up in a basement. That’s the way it is.
It’s pretty, this. Like jewelry. Where are they when you need them? A reddish ecstatic.
Intermittent: joyous snake. Digitized. Searching the horizon for home.
The line blinks. We’re still here. I am watching ‘Arrival’. Long drones let us know we are here. The eyes set downwards. “You can do this”.
Released in 2016 with some nice pink and green screen-print of a mammal on a tree.
Pigment // The Witches horse-Block // Distant Migration
“Electrifying shahi baaja and other contraptions”
Bent Pyramid Trio/ The Shouts From the Sea – Split (Eiderdown Records 2016) Tape and digital album
(BPT. Ambrosia Bartosek. Voice & Electricity. James McClellan. Reed & Floor work. Adam Svenson. String & Metal. Recorded live at Hollow Earth radio for Magmafest Eiderdown Sound Salon. 3 – 2015 / TSFTS. Patrik Cain & Phong Tran. Recorded “live” at Richmond House. January 2016)
A twitch. It’s sounding right now. I check to see if the world is still closed off. I will continue as long as you have my hands bound behind my back. Conducting my business as usual. Tinkering. The bells. A stroke of genius. Wistful. Because they cannot make noises. It’s two tracks. One from Bent Pyramid called “Three points”, one from The Shouts From The Sea called “Untitled. Swinging, jostling. These are faint and warbling. Lots of little sounds.
A device in your hand. Some kind of Walkman. Encouraging. Enthusiasm, tempered by the physical properties of metal. And clapping hands.
Tinkering about in loops. And beating. Breaks into my kind of rhythm. The one you dread to describe, or pin down. It’s nice now that there are voices travelling backwards. A siren winding down. At night. Something squeezing past the alleyway. The bits of rubber. Elongated waste. Quite erratically whirling around. Gurgling. Ascending. I leave it be. There is a siren. It cannot be! Plucks us into ‘The Breathing’.
Blue & purple artwork of a three faced naked Cyclops-persona.
Prana Crafter – Mindstreamblessing (Eiderdown Records 2017) Tape and digital album
Very beautiful, sounds live at the start. Reminds me of Mayonnaise. The day belongs pretty much to us. Let’s walk along the path of honesty. Find out what music can do to you. Softly softly. Whilst cutting a filthy figure. Digits roll down. You’ve burnt your tongue. Like a cloud, splintering at the seam. Always looking a little bit further past the rift. Each track distinct. A new mood. Impressed upon you. I’d forgotten what a good nights sleep felt like. My limbs, like Luminous Clouds. It’s a bright and chilly Easter Monday morning in this part of the world. I forget it is The Year of the Rabbit, mist rolling in over The Downs. Joined with me is Prana Crafter aka Will Soll, gusting by my left, but your right shoulder (an enduring riddle). I leave the rest up to fate…
At Agartha’s Gate // As The Weather Commands // Praina Pines // MindStreamBlessing // Luminous Clouds // Bardo Nectar
Purple and green picture of a four-poster bed with a tree in it and a lizard on top in some fantastical volcanic landscape.
Somesurprises – Serious Dreams (Eiderdown Records 2017) Tape and digital album
The guitar plucks intro is reminiscent of Hope Sandoval (yes, Joe – I told you I wouldn’t use comparisons) – but whilst we’re at it, Marissa Nadler too. The peach guttural of Cat Power. That phonic embrace, the mouthing of the words.
Now, for a certain disposition at times, I would say that this constellation of invocations may actually serve a purpose for people like me. If you are like me. And like Cat Power et al. All standing in a circle holding hands. Sisterhood.
Noun: a quasilegendary nymph of the Rhine who lured sailors to shipwreck on her rock by singing: a creation of Clemens Brentano in a poem of 1800.
Strumming my arteries, this is a nice sensation. I feel as though I could welcome anyone in right now, to tea & cake & some surprises. I look like shit, I feel like shit, but this is civilized. No-one will suspect me.
It is beautiful, and past-tense, and hurrying back in time. Infinitely sad. In a retrograde way that you will recognize when you see it. Like this sadness has always been around; I only just noticed it. I only just read the news today. I*just* didn’t have the time to think about it. Somesurprises here are trying to think of things that make me sad. And introverted. But I blame it on the news and turn away. ‘Cause I know I’ll be coming back to this one solely because of my disposition. It is undeniably beautiful. [A past commentary].
Part two of the aforementioned landscape mini series. This time it’s a pile of alphabetty-style bone things with a chimney bit ontop that is smoking and a river in the foreground. El-Sergany & Medina w. Luelle. Washington.
Eiderdown says: “late night sound epitomized…true hypnagogic odes to the spaces in between dreams and reality, form and fiction”
mayor skipped town / srs drms // late july // all my failures // low on sleep // 21st century cigarette.
Thanx Eiderdown Records in Seattle for occupying my mind for the last month or so with spiraled curly audio-forms and carefully chosen relics from the distant present-era.
Next up is an ECLAT (Every Contact Leaves A Trace) special for May: ‘The Year of the Waking Machine’.
We leave you with this month’s installment of pavement topics:
THE APRIL STREETS EPISODE
“You’ve fooled me time and time again, Brer Rabbit, but now it’s my turn to pay you back. I’m going to teach you a lesson you’ll never forget and when I’ve finished we’re going to eat you for supper.” With that Mr Man called his daughter to guard Brer Rabbit and stamped off angrily up the garden path. Brer Rabbit stayed very quiet until Mr Man was out of earshot. Then, to the little girl’s surprise he began to sing. In those days Brer Rabbit was a very good singer, though not many people were aware of the fact. The little girl was delighted and as soon as he had finished she begged him to sing some more. Brer Rabbit coughed harshly. “Oh I don’t think I can sing any more, little girl. You know I haven’t been well at all and I don’t want to damage my chest. “ “Oh please, Brer Rabbit. Just one more.” “Impossible, I’m afraid. I could dance for you instead of course. There’s nothing wrong with my legs and you may not believe it but I dance even better than I sing.” “Yes please, Brer Rabbit. Oh yes, do dance, I’d like that.” “Not possible, unfortunately.” “Oh please,” said the little girl. “Just look at me. How do you think I can dance trussed up like this? I can hardly waggle my ears let alone move my legs.” “Let me untie you then,” said the little girl. “You can if you like,” said Brer Rabbit coolly. The little girl bent down and untied all the knots in the fishing line – and Brer Rabbit was free again. He looked around cautiously for any sign of Mr Man, but he was still busy in the house. Brer Rabbit did a rapid pirouette. “Just watch me dance, little girl,” he shouted as he raced for the garden gate. And Brer Rabbit danced all the way home.
holding our treasure aloft: thoughts on facebook, rfm and the d.i.y. underground compiled by rob haylerMarch 21, 2017 at 7:42 am | Posted in musings, not bloody music | 3 Comments
Tags: chrissie caulfield, d.i.y, DIY, ethics, facebook, joe henderson, joe murray, luke vollar, marlo eggplant, no audience underground, rob hayler, sky high diamonds, sophie cooper, twitter
On Friday 3rd March, as I was enjoying the opening of the Crow Versus Crow/Malorymaki art exhibition in Bradford, Joe Murray (who had been invited down to play at the event) mentioned to me that new RFM staffer Sarah Gatter (known ‘round these parts as Sky High Diamonds) had offered to create a Facebook page for RFM.
Without thinking too hard about it I gave my blessing. By lunchtime on Monday 6th March the thing existed. Blimey. As the dust settled there began a lengthy and involved discussion amongst RFM colleagues about the merits, or otherwise, of Facebook and other social media. This has proved so interesting that I have returned briefly from my sabbatical to compile these thoughts (edited to remove repetition, small talk and logistical stuff) and add some of my own.
Let’s start with Sarah and the rationale:
A brief online chat with Rob and Joe over the weekend suggested that an RFM Facebook page would be a good idea as it would exist as a ‘go to’ site for interested parties to get a rundown on RFM and the latest blog reviews. I am happy to manage this page but if any of you are Facebook users and would like to be added as admin (meaning you can then also upload the RFM blogs, add photos, monitor, add and remove posts, including posts or comments from other people etc.) then find me on FB and I can add you as admin.
As agreed with Rob & Joe this page will be a ‘copy’ of the RFM WordPress blog in its use of words and images, both of which will simply be an echo of the already published blog info. No new material or personal posting to exist here as it then gets confusing.
All business, right? Nowt to worry about, eh? Well… Marlo kicks it off:
Woah, really?! I think Luke, Chrissie, and I use it. Both Joes, Rob, and Sophie don’t.
I was thinking RFM was purposely avoiding that platform…. Times are a-changing…
Rob and Joe, can I ask why? I mean, it isn’t really harmonious with what I though RFM mission statement? Or is it?
Chrissie is pragmatic:
I’m very much a semi-detached user of Facebook these days but I think the idea of a page is OK provided it doesn’t distract from the blog.
Is the plan just to post links to the RFM reviews when they appear on the Facebook page? This seems like the best way of doing it to me and allows for people to possibly discuss the reviews and share them easily on FB.
Sof then voices unease:
Know what you mean Marlo. I came off FB because I got so sick of everyone relying on such a massively corporate website to find out about underground DIY gigs etc (including Tor Fest – winds me up so much). Don’t see why everything needs to have a FB presence to exist these days.
…which allows Marlo to expand her point:
Thanks Sophie for understanding. I feel torn myself constantly cause I cornered myself into the FB for Ladyz in Noyz back in the day and am stuck now or take the risk of losing the international audience. I should have just done a proper page in the past. Myspace to FB…sheesh…
I know it isn’t a collective and whatever Rob and Joe feel is right, I go with [Editor’s note – heh, heh]. Just wanted to see why the shift?
I will be here either way!
Time for me to weigh in:
I wasn’t involved in any discussion as such but Joe M did mention at the show on Friday that Sarah had offered to mirror RFM on Facebook and I said sure, if she’s willing to do the work then let’s try it.
I have never had any personal desire to be on FB, nor have I ever had an account, but since the blog’s inception the majority of referrals have been from FB links (twitter is catching up but FB still in front) so, like it or not, a lot of our traffic has come from that direction. Thinking about the ubiquity and omniscience of FB makes my stomach flip but it is only one aspect of the corporate global evil that we are using for our purposes. PayPal, Google, Apple, Twitter – bleurgh – even Bandcamp takes a hefty rake and WordPress charges me more for keeping the site ad-free than it does for hosting our actual content! We wade waist-deep through the shit holding our little box of treasure aloft so that it doesn’t get caked in crap too. ‘Twas ever thus.
Also, should you be concerned about such things, the numbers are down. Mostly, I think, due to the breaks in regular posting last year caused by my burn-out/’real life’ issues, 2016 was the first year since RFM’s birth that number of visits didn’t increase. I’m not fussed about a plateau – this is a niche concern after all – but this was quite a dramatic drop (2015 = 32k, 2016 = 23k) and I’m not above a bit of rattling the stick in the bucket. Calling attention to your fine work is noble, and can be even if the format is grisly.
That said – some suggestions/requests. Firstly, I’m not sure I want that photo of (some of) us from Crater Lake to be so prominent. Makes me a little uncomfortable. Secondly, I don’t want the text of posts just reproduced on the FB page – pictures, lists of artists featured, little summaries like those we tweet are fine but I want people to visit RFM to do their reading (or subscribe to the blog and get each post emailed to them directly – currently over a 100 people do this). I don’t want the FB page to replace the blog. I see that posts are being made as I type [Editor’s note: Sarah was cracking on]! The format is fine like that I think.
Over two emails Sarah doubles down for practical reasons and stresses it can be a collaborative effort:
The page is easy to delete if having second thoughts. I personally think it is a good idea as FB really is the ‘go to’ site for getting information. Also, those of us on FB can like and repost the blogs (as we do on Twitter) giving each blog a bit more of a following and a bit more oomph and clout. Also, when blogs are just in a newsfeed (as on both Twitter & FB) they are easily lost and many people (myself included) don’t have the time to fully read a review, or even scan through it, when leisurely (or frantically) scrolling through a news feed.
However, if people are aware that there is a permanent page storing these blogs with a link to a whole heap of other blogs, then that instantly makes all of the blog posts more accessible.
I’m happy that everyone gets a say about layout and content and happier that there are many admin involved, also to make sure that everyone’s happy!
At this point Joe Henderson offers a forthright, brain-stirring intervention:
Will briefly say my piece. I think that, for me, the magic is instantly lost when Facebook gets involved in anything – to be honest. Given my own experience of it and the flow of research surrounding well being & social media I make a concerted effort to stay away.
I don’t mind using the word ‘poisonous’ to describe my attitude towards Facebook, however, I’ve seemed to deal a little better with Twitter, although I still have yet to use it myself (I went on there to get another News source other than the BBC, turns out I can’t get the app anyways on my old iPhone, so I haven’t ended up using it anyway).
Can I make a request that none of my articles are re-posted to Facebook? And on a far stronger note – I do not want any of my writing to be subject to Facebooks content codes and control.
Part of the charm of things like Radio Free Midwich is their unwavering principles in the face of peer pressure.
Sophie, I know what you mean about lazy promotion. I came to think of Facebook promotion as really exclusionary – like, that you could miss out on so much by not being in a link or social loop. I have no solutions, but I think in general… good old hand-made posters and nerdy art stuff like that appeals to my DIY, punk sensibilities more. Things shouldn’t be eazy..
I’m happy to hang back for a bit and maybe see how things pan out. Very sceptical right now, but open minded for y’all. My first article should be out this week (given a little tweaking in the mean-time). Am happy for it to go out on the website but please don’t put it on FB – I hate that place and it’s toxic, damaging glare. But, of course am happy for you guys to go ahead and frollick (in the dust & mirrors)
Oh, is that Sarah wavering a little? <winking emoji>
I also think that hitting the delete button on the FB page would be weirdly very satisfying, and quite anarchic, at this early stage of gaining a few ‘likes’ and ‘followers.’
“Now you see us, now you don’t.”
Not sure what else to say!
Joe Murray shouts encouragement from the window of a moving train:
For me this is all about spreading the word. No more. I think we are a valuable piece in the no audience crossword so a few more clues (like FB) help folk connect.
But still…we all have to be comfortable with it. I guess we can self-destruct this channel whenever we feel the need.
It’s always good to debate and have different views. Let’s keep an eye on things and review in a month or so.
All our viewpoints matter.
Speak soon, and if I may gush for a second…we goddamn rule!
Respect as always…
Sarah, like all good academics recognizes grist for the mill when she sees it:
I’m loving this debate, currently attempting to put a PhD proposal together on this very stuff- the relevance of social media to DIY, so the varying perspectives on how we use and control/are used and controlled by social media platforms is intriguing. Many of the artists I know go through long/short periods of deactivating profiles and deleting entire pages of personal data and then coming back to social media on their own terms and for their own agenda when it suits them, I like that.
Sof, bit now firmly between teeth, questions the stated purpose:
Slightly related / aside – I saw this band in London last week and at the end of their show they made a massive statement that “clicks get gigs” find us on Facebook! If we have loads of likes then we’ll get more shows! What a load of bollocks. Talent gets gigs not some website. People who work hard at what they are doing get gigs. It doesn’t make any personal difference to me if RFM has a FB page or not I’m just saddened that this is the way people think you have to be nowadays. I know it is the go-to for loads of people, the company I work for get loads of work via it but what a lazy state of affairs. As if the Internet doesn’t make it easy enough for people already why not condense the info in to one accessible website ? Twitter is just as bad – argh! Please meet me down the pub or the library / send me a letter for further ranting opportunity!
I’m actually in talks with a web developer to create a sort of Cops n’ Robbers website [Editor’s note: for non-UK readers Cops n’ Robbers is a legendary Yorkshire-based listings zine with oodles of DIY and N-AU swagger]that would cover West Yorkshire (and maybe nationally) gigs as an alternative ‘go-to’ site instead of FB. For this gig I did on Sunday just gone I really wanted to just advertise without FB but actually got a complaint! Forced Jake to make a page – made it more legit I guess. Fairly confident that most people who showed up were at Pelt a couple of weeks before and picked up a flyer but perhaps that’s wishful thinking.
Clearly a Luddite technophobe over here, where are my DDDD copies?
P.S. I really like Twitter btw. Not as personal.
In her typically quiet but laser-sharp fashion Chrissie makes the point that…
Contacts get gigs mainly – in my experience at least. It doesn’t matter how talented or brilliant you are, if no-one has heard of you then you don’t get gigs*. Facebook is just one of many places that can possibly be a help there. Ignoring it is a choice, of course, but you are cutting off a potential source of people. The platform on its own may, or may not, be evil. But the people on it mostly aren’t (with some exceptions).
* I’m not saying my band Helicopter Quartet are either talented or brilliant [Editor’s note: they are, both, in spades], but we don’t get any gigs because we don’t have any contacts and both of us are so painfully shy we never make any.
At this point Marlo and I both start thinking ‘there’s an article in this’ and ask if anyone wants to make a more formal contribution. Marlo suggests:
Perhaps we could all string something together around the question:
How do different social media platforms feed or weaken the ‘underground’? What associations do different social websites bring to the table? What is lost or gained in ‘opening the floodgates’?
Chrissie responds first:
One of the nice things about social media is that it can bring together people of niche interests together – it’s largely what I do on twitter – in a way that’s almost impossible or very difficult to do in other ways.
Yes – you can start your own website but how do you get people to use it in the first place: twitter/Facebook etc. are the funnel through which you can get access to people who might want to go there. Of course, there are all the arguments about centralisation and monopolies and I’m not happy about those things either. But principally I’m a pragmatist and that’s how these things are structured at the moment. To some extent they always have been, it’s just that the ownerships change over time.
As to ‘opening the floodgates’ – it doesn’t happen. Despite what I just said above, adding RFM to Facebook isn’t going to triple or even double viewing figures (if it does, please buy me a hat to eat). It’ll bring in some new readers, yes. But it’s not a magic potion and it doesn’t make you popular overnight or even ever – it’s a small help. I have Facebook pages for my two main bands, nothing has ever happened because of them. That’s partly down (as I said in a previous email) to the need to be ‘present’ to chat with people on there and make contacts, and partly down to having contacts on the IN THE FIRST PLACE to bring in others.
For my personal opinion, I hate Facebook (for non-political reasons), and I only use it to publicise (unsuccessfully) band things and chat in some obscure synth groups where it feels more cosy and safe. I don’t post personal things on my timeline any more, but plenty of people still do and I have chatted with lots of interesting people there.
Luke puts his head around the door to add:
Hey folks – well for what it’s worth I use Facebook every day. It has its drawbacks and I’ve sworn off it a few times. Having said that it does allow you to keep in contact with groovy people chat about music, films, books, gigs etc. I guess it’s about making it work for you and keeping it real. I can’t be doing with Twitter. So I guess I’m saying if RFM hits face-ache. I’m cool with it.
…then Sarah offers a more fleshed out statement of her position
My continued interest in the electronic DIY underground/no audience culture stems from the DIY rave movement of the mid 80s and early 90s.
I see the current No Audience Underground, as an extension of this movement and I am still fascinated by how it was documented through film footage, photography, music, art and printed/published writings by those who protested for the right to squat empty buildings, resist fox hunting, gather for music events etc. etc. I did attend some events back then however, it was always pot luck to get to those events due to no social networking and reduced publicity (for obvious reasons) except for well organised word of mouth-those guys were good!
Those DIY activists made thorough use of the tools that were available to them at that time to promote their beliefs, ideas, celebrations and defeats into a wider consciousness and I believe that without those wonderfully documented processes (e.g. the wibbly-wobbly film footage of squats being raided, dancers in the street protesting the CJA etc.) this representation, and therefore a current understanding and contextualisation of that scene, would not be available to us today. I see this as a cultural mapping of those times and I see social media as a contemporary tool available to us now to continue that cultural mapping.
Social Media is a site of production and reproduction but in many ways it responds to the DIY ethos in that it is free (most of the time), accessible (to the majority) and can be used to promote the individual, it is not entirely corporate like other sites of production and reproduction. However, I like to think that at some point DIY will turn away from social media and re- ground itself into a less available scene, but I would be happier with this only once much documenting has been achieved and exists in some kind of accessible form.
Things that nag me are: Does the DIY underground movement become less ‘exclusive’ and therefore less underground when its documentary style footage is available to all to access online? How do the ideas of audience/participation/spectacle/active and passive viewing fit in with this? We are all passive audiences when viewing footage/sound/writing of the underground through social media. I also ponder how an attraction to a much larger and wider audience may well undo the emblematic DIY underground counter culture status, such as witnessed in the growth of the Glastonbury Festival, as well as contribute to a more general and overwhelming saturation of the arts.
In summary: For me, social media is currently a way of culturally mapping the continued growth of the DIY movement and is a tool available for us to use (and abuse) right now, but I am not entirely sure that it should or will have a monopoly on documenting the DIY movements for the long term.
I propose that we find a way to occupy the dark web!
…and that was that until over the weekend of the 11th and 12th when Joe and I received the following volte-face from Sarah:
Hi, I was in two minds about RFM on Facebook.
- It seemed like a good idea to make use of it as a tool and to support the artists, whom I think want reviews about their work publicised.
- It might be free, it might be accessible but it is a limiting platform and I am beginning to agree with Joe H, it makes us lazy and passive.
This has been echoed within another group that I am involved with [Editor’s note: The Unexplained Sounds Network] who have today proposed ‘silence’ in order to find new ways to communicate and collaborate other than Facebook. I am in agreement with them. DIY must mean DIY and Facebook takes that away through its controlled use of data, amongst other things. I did say in my last email that we need to find new ways and jokingly suggested the dark web but I am starting to feel that more needs to be done with searching for new and less lazy & passive ways. Sorry for the complete 100% U turn!!!
Heh, heh – the irony that this doubt as to the appropriateness of one form of social media was sent via a twitter DM was not lost on me.
So, where are we now? Firstly, let me just comment on the loveliness of my colleagues – a multiway discussion carried out over the internet that remained civil and useful for an entire week. Have you ever heard the like? Secondly, it strikes me that there are three questions to consider with answers to the first two informing the answer to the third. I’ll begin with a stab at the moral/political question: is Facebook evil? Next, the pragmatic question: does it actually work as promotional tool? And finally, the overarching question of whether it is ‘appropriate’ for our slice of the DIY underground to use it.
Despite not holding an account I have, of course, spent plenty of time dodging the demands to sign up in order to see gig info or otherwise lurk. If RFM is being discussed then the hits coming from FB feel like a partially heard conversation happening in a room with the door ajar. I’ve never been tempted to walk in, however, because what I hear about Facebook outside of Facebook is predominately negative. I don’t doubt that there are lovely people using it (like those members of Chrissie’s synth discussion groups) but friends talk about it with exasperation, torn as to whether to cut ties as you might with a needy and bullying family member. The final straw for a mate of mine was when he was disinvited from a stag do following a row caused by him daring to confirm his attendance with, y’know, his actual voice and not via Facebook. It’s become like shopping in a supermarket, or reading The Wire – something none of us actually enjoy but which we grudgingly accept as part of modern life. Imagine spending the evening in a gigantic, soulless, city-centre chain pub, one which has an unsmiling bouncer on the door demanding ID before letting you in. The beer is crap, the décor unpleasant, neighbouring tables are full of braying idiots but, hey, it’s here that we have agreed to meet. Evil – on a personal, individual level? Probably not. Fuck that shit? On balance, yes.
That’s not to say that the information you provide to Facebook can’t be used for straight-up evil though. As these thoughts were congealing in my head I read this article, published on The Guardian website on February 26th. I’m genuinely concerned that if I name names bots will be released, like flying monkeys, to come and destroy us but the gist is that an off-the-radar software company is busy analysing hundreds of millions of FB accounts and using that data to target propaganda furthering the hard-right agenda of their billionaire backer:
These Facebook profiles – especially people’s “likes” – could be correlated across millions of others to produce uncannily accurate results. […], the centre’s lead scientist, found that with knowledge of 150 likes, their model could predict someone’s personality better than their spouse. With 300, it understood you better than yourself. “Computers see us in a more robust way than we see ourselves,” says […].
This team worked both with the Leave campaign and with Trump. Was it enough to swing both elections? Maybe us complacent liberals wouldn’t have laughed so hard at those ‘dumpster fire’ campaigns if we’d known this Black Mirror style PSY ops was occurring in the background. Evil – on a worldwide, political level? Yeah, I’d say so. Fuck that shit? Absolutely.
But, the pragmatist asks, does it work? Leaving aside the moral qualms and given that everyone is in the crap pub, what happens if we put our poster up on the noticeboard? I think I’m with Chrissie on this one – the answer is: nowt much. The reason is, I think, to do with the size and structure of the scene and not where the noticeboard is located. In an article I wrote five years ago about the, *ahem* ‘economics’ of the no-audience underground I said:
OK, leaving London to one side as it has its own rules, experience has shown me that most UK conurbations of city-ish size can rustle up 20 people interested enough in the type of experimental music RFM covers to turn up to gigs. 10 or less if you are unfortunate, 30 plus if your scene is thriving. Should you wish to perform in this ‘arena’ then these people are your audience: the subset of this crowd who can turn up on that evening.
Marketing and promotion do little to alter these numbers. This is because music of this type will always be a fringe interest (ignoring little blooms of hipster popularity every now and again) but that fringe is well-informed and inquisitive. As long as the gig is plugged in whatever the usual places are (for example in Leeds we have the essential Cops and Robbers) then the cognoscenti will find out about it and do their best to roll up.
…and, despite the Facebook gig listing becoming ubiquitous in the meantime, I still think this is about right. Had I been stood next to Sof when that band made their ‘clicks mean gigs’ announcement I would have groaned but at some level I guess it might make a difference nowadays – just not at our level. Chrissie is right about contacts to a certain extent too – those who hustle for shows do generally get more shows – but within the no-audience underground any attempt at hype or unwarranted self-promotion is usually met with at least a raised eyebrow if not all-out hilarity. Given the absence of money, the unit of currency ‘down’ here is goodwill and it is earned, exchanged and repaid through being active in the scene. Perhaps this is our equivalent of <dry boke> ‘networking’ <coughing retch> and it strikes me that this can make more of a difference than any particular means of spreading the word – look, for example, at the love showered on Crater Lake or Tor Fest (“Call something a festival,” says Jake Blanchard, mystified, “and people just turn up.”).
For us, Facebook is now one of the ‘usual places’ where we find stuff out but its prominence has not noticeably affected attendance numbers either way. When not specifically concerned with discussing Facebook itself I think most people consider the format transparent and ‘see through it’ to the information itself in the same way you don’t consciously think ‘this is a poster’ but instead just register the date, venue etc. To be honest, I’d have been grateful to have it back in the Termite Club days when I was stuffing envelopes with flyers (<Noel Fielding voice> Imagine that!) to send to a postal mailing list or badgering magazines knowing full well that their attention was far less important than whether or not it rained on the night of the show.
To the last question then: given that we are at least justified in having misgivings about using Facebook and that as a promotional tool it is little better than other means (necessarily so given the nature of the scene we are part of) how appropriate is it to use it at all?
Firstly I’m going to dismiss a couple of related concerns more or less out of hand – that it is inappropriate because it is ubiquitous or ‘mainstream’ and that it is inappropriate because it ‘makes things easy’ – then I’m going to end the whole thing really abruptly.
If something so nebulous and subjective as ‘mainstream’ culture can be usefully defined (I’m not sure it can, but that is for another day) then Facebook is unarguably part of it. Your mum is on Facebook right now, discussing her favourite tracks from the Stormzy album. I don’t care. One of the great strengths of the no-audience underground is that is does not define itself in opposition to ‘mainstream’ culture but largely just turns its back to it and cracks on with the work. The belief that DIY culture needs to be antagonistic to popular culture is a quaint stained-glass window surviving in the Church of Punk – very pretty, but I can’t help thinking it is orders of magnitude more radical to not engage with popular culture at all. I’ve rehearsed these arguments several times over several years (starting here) so I needn’t say any more right now.
I also have absolutely no time for the argument that Facebook, or any other form of social media, ‘makes it easy’ or ‘lumps it all together’ as if that were a bad thing. I’d be delighted if access to everything we do was made as easy as possible so that anyone who is interested could find it at their fingertips. When I think of the golden age we live in now and compare it to the time and resources I had to spend as a teenager getting even part-way sound-literate I could cry at the waste.
For example: I grew up in a small seaside town called Littlehampton on the South Coast of England, near enough to Brighton for me to misspend much of my youth there. As a teenage fan of Spacemen 3 and Loop, Can loomed large in legend. My fellow heads and I did what we could to track down stuff from libraries, second hand shops and borrowed stuff from the rich kid whose dad bought him the first batch of CD reissues. In that way we built up a patchy knowledge of the band and their context. Contrast this to the situation in January of this year when Jaki Liebezeit sadly passed away. In celebration of the man and his unique achievements links to YouTube clips went flying around twitter and anyone could listen to hours of the band’s music for free whilst reading exhaustive accounts of its history and influence via Wikipedia and innumerable blogs. May I respectfully suggest that anyone who thinks the former situation is preferable to the latter (not with regard to Jaki’s passing, of course, I’m talking about access to the material) is, at best, misguided. There is a tendency, especially amongst middle aged beardies, to cry-wank over their box-sets and pristine collection of Melody Makers from the late 1980s whilst whimpering nostalgically about finding a copy of Fun House under a hedge and ‘discovering’ The Stooges. Jesus wept. I could go on but I presume my feelings about anything that could be perceived as ‘gatekeeping’, or the raising of artificial barriers, are perfectly clear.
But what about RFM? Reading through the above I see much of what I’ve written is fairly abstract or from the perspective of gig promotion. Does it help answer the question as to whether a blog dedicated to documenting weird music produced by a fiercely independent d.i.y. scene should have a presence on Facebook? Well, much as I understand Sof’s frustrations, Joe H’s reticence and the personally negative feelings shared by me, Chrissie and others I’d hesitate to say, as Joe H does, that Facebook drains the magic from everything it touches. I don’t find it fun, for sure, but I’d like to think that the magic of the art we cover (and, let’s not be too modest, our descriptions of it – we are part of all this) shines through the murkiness of the medium. If we proceed with caution then …nnnnggghhh… OK.
We are camped way uphill from the floodgates, a few signposts can’t hurt.
Tags: bowditch, dtub, fractal meat cuts, joe henderson, marlo eggplant, post-valentine
Marlo Eggplant – Callosity (Fractal Meat Cuts)
Dtub – Midi-Drum Compositions-1 (Fractal Meat Cuts)
Bowditch – Southend Objectified (Fractal Meat Cuts)
(Ed’s mumble…buckle up, buckle up readers for this first dizzying and deconstructed ear-report from our new bean Joe Henderson.)
FRACTAL MEAT POST-VALENTINE SPECIAL/Jan-March Streets Edition (Marlo Eggplant, Dtub & Bowditch)
First post. It’s a cold & drizzly Sunday afternoon. Listening to the radio.
The industrious Graham Dunning, head-honcho of Fractal Meat Cuts label, delivers a small-packaged bomb of audio pleasures (including his own limited edition, custom made, generation-loss cassette – which exists in another Universe as of now, and to be reviewed when time catches up with me – but can be perused via his catalogue).
First up, Marlo Eggplant. Baltimore-born, Midwich reporter & SPA. Title: Callosity. Edition of 40 cassettes.
The world turns in the right direction. Valentines Day. The most fucked up day of the year. It’s grim. It’s cold. It’s loveless. I’m dialing in Dr. Eggplant.
The ashy clearing; she strums it whilst the birds go low. Animals pitch in. Marked by their slow heavy breathing. Unseen but heard. It’s always cold, but in her warm cocoon. I get so introverted, listening to music like this. Opening drawers in corners of my psyche. I’m in a stupor. Dusty softly done. Expanse throbbing. Ray-gun echoes. Like a solemn hymn to a mutant future generation (what’s wrong with X-Men?). Moving the man-hole cover away. The street lamps are a way to see at night – don’t ever forget that. She snores from another life. The quality of being led with ones hands tied behind their backs down a corridor of gloom. Footsteps all around you. Music flickering in your memories, all around you – like crowds. Fake ghosts turned off and on. Hounding by a beated rhythm. Iron curtains coming down, repeatedly. Running into the horizon without a care in the world. A white bag flapping around you. You’ve lost your memories. You riffle thru them. Like old car tapes. Chewed and sticky. But enchanted. You just never quite know for sure what the Universe says of you. It’s your little old self and the entire realm of possibility. The end coming again, and again, and again. Dusting off a little time piece, found in the dirt. A microcosm of tiny delights. Ticking down the days. Moving the man hole again. Those adverts played on me. The ones for ghost writers. Lulling those. It’s fake news. Make you question your reality. Backwards rolling tongue thru two rolling pins. Imagine waking up to a forest. All the world is twisting like a rope. Glitching small primates handle mechanized wooden mallets. “Is it normal to lie there and cry?”
What’s your favourite brand of light bulb?
Fake candle bulbs
How often do you regret your future?
Constantly and with insistence
What’s black and blue & red all over?
I believe the answer is a newspaper but arguably several tropical fish
Helicopter drifting with a broken wing thru the jungle
Love is not a tomb
The sky has been that torn yellow colour
For so long now, like alleys that never change
What burns hotter than the sun?
Where do the birds go?
To the moon and back
What is your favourite colour blue?
What’s your favourite penny-sweet?
Format: Cassette & Download SOLD OUT
Want some more? Click on this beautiful beauty to watch Joe’s stunning video interpretation of Marlo’s track Embers.
And then, Dtub. Electric drummer. Live album. Title: Midi-Drum Compositions-1. Edition of 60 tapes
Love this. I was lucky to see Dtub play at the Cowley Club in February on tour with Dunning & Eggplant. A self-contained motorized human-man, riding the unstoppable cycles of his beats, focussed on propelling the rhythms. Snippets of vocals samples woven into wooden timbre. A man engulfed in his unfolding creation. A train. Can’t stop, Can’t get off. Was reminded a week later of standing in the middle of London Road with Tom Roberts of Bolide & Aeolipile – cars driving ‘round us. The bar-maid offering me the choice of a pint or a jug of Cowley beer. Missed work again the next morning. Can’t remember what was on the news that day..
- 2. Newbark
- Faucet Dub
- Bubble Freak
- Hi-Tec House
- Warehouse Jam
- Music By Numbers
- 16-Bit Funk Machine
Format: Cassette & Download SOLD OUT
Bowditch. Likes to explore the mysterious and conflate it to highlight our cognition of place, experience, space. Prolific human. Title: Southend Objectified. Edition of 60 cassettes.
Sounds like thumbing a live cable. Juttery, jongery, galloping horses disintegrating, distinctly metallic in regions.
Stuart Bowditch appears inside his website wearing his field recording gear, in front of some stately home. There is horse, a man in armour and a man who has thrown his arms in the air and is hollering, dressed in medieval garb.
I begin to tap my fingers in time to ‘Bear pit’, unaware of myself doing this until I begin to write about it: “found some different tools and got to work on objects and recordings from my home town.”
What’s your favourite breed of pig?
1. Town Crier’s Bell
2. The Railway Hotel Gents’ Toilet Hand Dryer (Broken)
3. Kenco Coffee Tub
4. Flooded House
5. Bear Pit (Point B)
(Sewage Outlet Under Thames Hides Even Nastier Discharge)
Format: Cassette & Download
Jan- Mars Streets Mix is as follows:
Ndolwane Super sounds ‘Umph’ahambe’, Steely Dan ‘Steely Dan God’, Amr Diab ‘Tamally Maak’, Radical Dance Faction ‘Borderline Cases’, The Fall ‘I am Kurious Oranj’.
Put yer listening devices here
Egyptian Dream Book says: “It is the duty of the kidneys to see that the blood keeps pure. Not to make pure blood – the food we do not eat does that – but to remove from the blood all the impurities it has gathered up during its circuit of the body”
“I know, Ben mumbled. “But I didn’t have a motive” – Pg. 17. Mystery Detective.
Over an’ Out Com’s xx
Tags: chrissie caulfield, death is not the end, east of the valley blues, helicopter quartet, joe henderson, joe murray, julian bradley, kevin cahill, luke vollar, marlo de lara, miguel perez, neil campbell, patrick cahill, power moves label, power moves library, skull mask, sophie cooper, tusk festival, zellaby awards
Ugh, those canapés must be really stale by now…
…I murmur, lying spread-eagled on the floor of the ballroom in Midwich Mansions. I look up at the tragically withered balloons, still held by the net hung from the chandeliers. I idly pick at the broken glass within reach and wonder if dry-cleaning can remove blood stains. The banging and rattling of the locked double doors has stopped, mercifully, as the neglected guests have given up and gone home (although I suspect a few recorded the racket and I’ll be invited to download versions from Bandcamp soon enough). When my beautiful Turkish servant boy climbed in a window left ajar and tried to rouse me I ordered him to flog himself for his insolence – I was too full of ennui and despair to raise the rod myself. A wave of nausea washes over me again as I think back to the utterly foolish reason for this gathering:
Who on Earth would want to celebrate 2016?
Last year was a time when everything from the largest of world situations (American Election, Syria, Brexit, Climate Change) to the tiniest, most personal events (a red spot on the tip of my nose became a cancer scare) seemed unrelentingly hostile. People important to me died including my Nan, my last remaining grandparent, aged 94. People important to all of us died. An anonymous tweet drifted past:
We cry when famous people die not because we knew them but because they helped us know ourselves.
…which I dismissed as trite, then was forced to concede the truth of it when I found myself reduced to a heaving, tear-drenched wretch by a pop song on the radio. There is more, a lot more – life has been tiring and complicated – but it’s stuff that even a hopelessly indiscreet blabbermouth like me recognises would be unwise to talk about in public.
What about music and this blog? In many ways it was a gala, firecracking year for the ideas behind this endeavour. Some examples: the notion of the ‘no-audience underground’ was the subject of a paper by Susan Fitzpatrick and Stuart Arnot (cultural heavyweights best known round these parts as Acrid Lactations) at a conference at Goldsmiths and was mentioned by conference organiser Stephen Graham in his book about underground music, my writing provided some context and inspiration for the Extraction Music all-dayer in Cardiff, organised by Ian Watson, which raised a grand for refugee charities, I was name-checked in the TUSK festival programme (more on that later) and interviewed at that event by Paul Margree for his We Need No Swords podcast. I could go on. All very flattering and inspiring, but much of my own writing from 2016 begins with an apology or contains a paragraph admitting I’ve been having trouble keeping up, maintaining enthusiasm.
I’ve been in denial about how burnt out I’ve been feeling and unrealistic about how much time I could commit due to work and, more importantly, family having to come first. Things need to change, at least temporarily. I’ll come back to this at the end of the post…
…because now, my reverie has been interrupted by a rustling noise! I turn to see Joe ‘Posset’ Murray, chief staff writer here at RFM, crawling towards me. I’m amazed that he still looks so sharp in his borrowed tuxedo despite his injuries. He slumps nearby clutching a handful of papers.
End of year pieces from everyone, boss…
…he whispers and passes them over before collapsing. Ah, excellent, I think – just the tonic! Let’s see what my RFM comrades have to say about it.
[Editor’s note: due to the weirdness of 2016, and a desire to shake things up a bit, I’ve abandoned the usual categories of the Zellaby Awards and allowed my contributors free reign. I’ve also cut down the number of links, tags and illustrations included to streamline matters – just keep your preferred search engine open in a nearby window. There will still be an album of the year though, so don’t fret.]
Firstly, RFM’s new recruit Joe Henderson takes the opportunity to introduce herself:
Hi, I’m new here and quite discerning with music and also a bit stingy with writing about music. Nevertheless, I’m writing this sat next to a set of homing pigeons who have just given birth to a pair of tiny weirdo’s on New Year’s Eve. The father, Moriarty, has taken over parental duties now. This set of birds were ‘rescued’ from Birling Gap having failed their mission. Homing birds are supposed to fly somewhere. These birds ain’t going no-where and correct me if I’m wrong, but are we not also foreseeing the long-term preparations for the death of The Queen? It’s been a strange year…
In the blurred Hyperreality of 2017, where Halloween is celebrated three days before the fact – in this post-truth-information-environment, people have been watching David Attenborough’s final rainforest. Well, seems like here’s some of the creatures and microcosms that were found, discovered and captured…
The Balustrade Ensemble – Capsules (Ominous Recordings, 2007)
Jessy Lanza – Pull my hair back (Hyperdub, 2013)
Dangerous Visions radio series (BBC Radio4, 2016)
Blanck Mass – Dumb Flesh (Sacred Bones Records, 2015)
Pimsleur’s audio language lessons (German, Polish & Norwegian)
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Rhymesayers Entertainment, 2016)
The Chris Morris Music Show (BBC Radio One, 1994)
6Music & Jarvis Cocker’s Sunday Service (NOW)
Time just doesn’t count anymore. It doesn’t. I doubt any of this could be pigeonholed as ‘no audience underground’. But none of this matters anymore, and you all know it. You see, it’s fallen, it’s all tilted. It’s 2017, and it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s gonna be a long come down, like George Michael’s ‘Faster Love’ playing whilst more than a hundred divers scour the sea. Crews of immunity-freaks lumbering thru the Waste-Waters of Brighton. Across the ocean an assassin throws down his hand of cards as the world is watching. That Christmas trucker sounds like sleigh-bells. Or an Air-raid siren. Pulsing. It’s missing airman hums ‘The Missing Persons Boogie’ in a cul-de-sac. In the Upside-Down land. Miles away from Brian Eno’s caste system, attached to the moon. With a Selfie-stick. Low down and shifty. Only those with energy begin to reclaim The Playground. And cordon it off. And pave over it. Eno still stumbling flamboyantly thru the withered fronds of his iEgo. Framed by the Sistine Chapel recreated in an Old Woman’s second bathroom.
“In this post-truth-information-environment” – do you know what we look like? From a distance, it looks like we have lost control, and are swaying almost like dancing to it all…
Blimey, eh? “You see, it’s fallen, it’s all tilted.” Brilliant. Quite some calling card. I shall look forward to her future contributions with great interest.
Next up, marlo de lara reminds us that the more personal it is, the more political it is:
as previously noted by my rfm family, 2016 was a doozy, a head spin, and a heartache. so without further ado, my 2016 moments of note:
1. death of heroes
there has already been a ton of writing about this and a lot of needless controversy over the mourning of musicians. to me, role models and inspiration are hard to come by and even harder to preserve as we watch these humans be human. prince and pauline olivieros were both highly influential in my life. prince’s ongoing, groundbreaking lived fusion of musical genres and his highly charged expression of androgyny and sexual desire was always intoxicating, all while self-identifying as a black musician. totally inspiring for me as a marginalized musician growing up in racialized america. pauline olivieros pushed me to reassess what I defined as sound, sound making, and intention. my spirituality and the ability to breathe through the making of music is completely attributed to this amazing woman. thank you for the inspiration.
2. ghost ship tragedy
despite living across an ocean from the noise family that helped me develop my sounds, i am constantly aware of the ongoing community struggles of those artists/musicians/promoters/supporters whose events and festivals create solidarity. on december 2nd, the oakland diy live/art space ghost ship went ablaze, killing 36 people. well-loved individuals who made, created, and supported the scene. as the noise community wept at the loss of our kin, america attacked warehouse/diy venues with a crackdown based on ‘safety’ whilst never addressing the underlying issue that those artists/musicians tolerate living spaces/venues like these because as a society we do not prioritize living wages and conditions for musicians to thrive. so we endure, infiltrate society and emotionally thrive despite the lack of funds.
on a personal note I want to mention joey casio and jsun adrian mccarty, both of whom were deeply loved in my community for their music and their spirit. joey casio was a mainstay of the pacific northwest electronic/weird music scene and i have always had a fondness for jsun’s art/music, particularly the live performance noise project styrofoam sanchez. i wish i had gotten to know joey since he was so well spoken of and jsun’s kind smile at noise festivals is deeply missed. love and respect always.
the absurdity of politics reached an all-time high with the nonsense my dear friend arrington de dionyso (of malaikat dan singa and old time relijun) had to endure due to a mural he painted in a dc pizza parlour. his aesthetic and artistic style were misconstrued while he and his family were targeted by clinton conspiracy theorists and trump supporting nobheads. arrington survived by painting and creating sounds. but let’s all have a think about the ramifications of art and the volatile, inflammatory, conservative hot mess that we could all be victim too. arrington, you are a champion for dealing with it and blessings to you always.
stay awake. stay aware. make noise. xo, marlo
Luke Vollar now joins us via the open window to bellow about the stuff he likes:
Here is my end of year list, sticking only to what was released this year – mostly ‘no audience’ with a couple of ‘some audience’ releases thrown in and in no particular order. The low lights of 2016 were fairly obvious: the rise of the idiots and global face palm moments reaching new levels of guuh?! On a personal note I’ve been through some ghastly work related gubbins so I’m hoping 2017 picks up considerably. Music, as always, has offered a soothing balm and kept me (nearly) sane so here we go peeps I’ve probably forgotten some glaringly obvious choices as I often do. Such is the life of the discaholik.
Wormrot – Voices
Dead In The Dirt – The Blind Hole
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
Lovely Honkey – Completely Wastes Your Time
Dylan Nyoukis & Friends – Mind Yon Time?
Shurayuki-Hime – In the Beginning, Woman Was the Sun
Pudern & Vomir – Split
Error Massage – Rooby
Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Tupperwave
Moon – Diseasing Rock Who
F. Ampism – The Resolution Phase
Posset – Cooperation Makes Us Wise
Posset – The Gratitude Vest
Stuart Chalmers and yol – Junk Seance
Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks vol. 5
Stuart Chalmers – In the Heart of the Wilderness
Usurper – The Big Five
Culver / Fordell Research Unit – Culver: Prisoner of F.R.U.
Clive Henry – Hymns
The Skull Mask – Walls of Convenience
Triple Heater – Aurochs
The Custodians – Moribund Mules and Musket Fire
Yume Hayashi – What The Summer Rain Knows
My highlight of the year was watching Ashtray Navigations support Dinosaur Jr.
Next, Chrissie Caulfield with the trademark thoughtful enthusiasm that always has me clicking through:
I’m quite glad that Rob decided to let us do a general review of the year rather than try and nominate several releases for awards. Looking back, I seem to have reviewed only three albums this year which would have made it merely a rehash of what I have already done. Sorry Rob. In my defence, I’ve had a busy year with gigs and filmmaking and several other things. Some of the gigs even had audiences, though they were usually the ones organised by other people, naturally. More on that later.
Of the three albums I reviewed it’s hard to pick a favourite because they were all quite different, and excellent in their own ways. But if pushed (and I was pushed, if only by myself, just now) I’d have to nominate Furchick’s “Trouble With a Capital T”. Its sheer joy and inventiveness, and joy of inventiveness is infectious and inspiring. If ever anyone wanted a masterclass on making music with found and/or mutilated objects, this was it.
My most memorable event of this year was a gig I played at, though that part is incidental, in Oxford. It was one of those authentic ‘no-audience underground’ gigs where the artists and their entourage outnumbered the paying audience by quite a large ratio. In fact the only paying audience was a relative of one of the artists and someone who rolled in off the streets half way through (He probably didn’t literally ‘roll in’ you understand, the street was cobbled, so that would be very uncomfortable). This lack of attendance was a huge shame because the gig itself featured two awesome acts – as well as ourselves, obviously. The great Lawrence Casserley was always expected to put on a fabulous show (in this instance with Martin Hackett) and certainly did so, but the act I got via the female:pressure mailing list exceeded expectations in a big way and I felt awful for not having delivered them an audience. TEARS|OV, led by Lori.E. Allen put on a great show of samples, synths and live played and sampled instruments that was just glorious, and I’m happy that at least I got to film it, even though I only had one decent camera and zero decent tripods with me. As almost nobody got to that gig I feel almost duty-bound to try and get as many people as possible to watch the video. You won’t regret it, it’s here.
Another special gig for me was also one I played at – and the fact that I did so was crucial to my understanding of what happened. This was “A Working Day of Drone”, put on by Dave Procter, eight hours of overlapping drone performances. I’ve never regarded myself as much of a drone fan to be honest but this event was a real eye opener. I think a lot (though not all, of course) of the drone acts I had seen in the past were of the ‘I’ve got some gear and it makes some noise’ type which, as a musician with years of practice and training, I find uninspiring and lacking in effort. Put like that it was odd, I suppose, for me to accept an offer to play at a long drone gig … but I did because I like to try new things and to challenge my own preconceptions.
And those preconceptions were not just challenged. They had a calfskin leather glove slapped in their face and a large sword whisked terrifyingly close to their ear by Cyrano de Bergerac himself. Those preconceptions are now lying sliced, diced and blood-soaked over a, slightly grubby, drain in LS2, just down the road from Shawarma. What I experienced that day was, for the most part, a lot of very high quality artistry and discipline and, yes, musicianship. There were guitarists, multi-instrumentalists, vocalists and laptop players with expertise, patience and discipline. And discipline is the word I really took away from that gig which is why I have already used it three times in this paragraph and will say it again it now in an attempt to make sure that Rob doesn’t sub-edit it out [Editor’s note: Why would I? Couldn’t agree more!]. Discipline, discipline, discipline. Playing for a whole hour while keeping the sense of a ‘drone’ requires intense concentration and a lot of improvisational forward planning that, to be honest, I felt inadequately prepared for when playing my set. For drone music as good as I heard that day, I am a convert.
And finally, my favourite thing of the year – which is something I invented though I take no credit for it – is Feminatronic Friday. On a Friday afternoon when I’m winding down from a busy week at work and want some new music to surprise, tickle and sometimes assault my ears, I point my browser at the feminatronic Soundcloud feed and just listen. Of course, not everything is to my taste, but there is a lot of high quality work being produced by talented women around the world that seems to be ignored by the most of the outlets for even alternative music. It’s also an excellent source of material that I should be reviewing and, as it’s Friday as I write this, that’s where I’m going now. Happy New Year.
Joe Murray himself takes a bullet-pointed turn:
Politically, economically and culturally 2016 has been a year of shocks, knocks and sickening lows. It’s hard to look forward and see anything resembling a ray of hope. Greater minds than mine will neatly package all this misery up into a bitter pill but me… I’m warming some delicate seeds in my palm.
Records and tapes of the year
Hardworking Families – BA/LS/BN (Beartown Records) Like tin-cans learned to talk: a sharp knife splices individual ‘instants’ to wrap new listenings head-ward.
Acrid Lactations & Gwilly Edmondez – You Have Not Learned To Play & Mock In The Psychic System (Chocolate Monk) Complex patterns and shifting sonic-sands from stalwarts and greats – a brave and ambitious concoction of Dixieland and pure munged goof. Instant calmer!
Oliver Di Placido & Fritz Welch – Untitled (Human Sacrifice) The most crash-bang-whalloping record of the year by far. Knockout energy like TroubleFunk playing in a ruined skip.
Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Tupperwave (Chocolate Monk) Effortless creative juice drips all over these dirty, dirty ditties from the Cardboard Prince… his Black Album?
Lea Bertucci – Light Silence, Dark Speech (I Dischi Del Barone) Perfect like fresh frosty ferns, each sporangia a moment of potential beauty and enlightenment – one for all DJs.
Lieutenant Caramel – Uberschallknall (Spam) For me the Lieutenant was an unknown. Now? A well-thumbed friend. Euro-collage/concrete that’s super classy and head-strainingly intense.
Faniel Dord –Valentino (Cardboard Club) Another dirty boy with song-y songs played with hearty gusto and a wide-eyed innocence not seen since McCartney II.
East of the Valley Blues – eotvb (Power Moves/No Label) Sun-bright double finger-picking that warmed up my cockles and fed miso soup to my rotten soul. Life affirming, beautiful and generous. No wonder it’s got a vinyl re-release for tomorrows people.
Acrid Lactations & Jointhee – Chest (Tutore Burlato) You ask me about the future of ‘the song’ and I point you to this little tape of huge invention and heart. Not afraid to mix yuks with the high-brow, dream-logic and academic rigour. Never been so charmed ‘ave I?
Tear Fet – Blabber (Chocolate Monk) Every single vocal-mung technique picked up and shaken like a snow-globe. One for all serious students of throat-guff.
Yol – This Item Has Little Or No Scrap Value (Beartown Records) The mighty Yol’s most swingingest record of the year (and they have been legion and they have been good) that almost broke my rib with its accurately focused violence. A symphony of cuts and bruises.
Shareholder – Five Mile Throwdowns (Know This) One of the few bands I get excited about. Blending the listless and freezing loch with espresso intensity; a pond-skipper balanced on the tricky meniscus – he’s not waving!
Tom White – Automated Evangelism (Vitrine) and Commemoratives (Tutore Burlato) Double-entry for Tom White’s peerless technique and wonderfully intelligent ears. This very physical tape manipulation is strong enough to move giant boulders yet freaky enough to warp space. Without a doubt Tom wears the blue jersey in Star Trek.
Grey Guides – Beast Mask Supremacists (Crow Versus Crow Editions) Taking skuzzy guitar and skunk-potent tape to some place indistinct; this ghost-memory of a record made me dream of Wuthering Heights oddly. The AR Kane of the NAU?
…and penultimately Sophie Cooper. Sof resigned her post on the RFM staff this year [Editor gnaws fist to hold back hot tears] but gamely agreed to contribute to the end of year jamboree anyway. Much to my delight she has submitted a 14 minute video of her chatting over some gubbins she reckons is cool. Watch it here. I think it is well charming and, if you agree, please contact her to say so – I’d like to butter her up to the point where this kind of video piece becomes a semi-regular feature. Hah! There is no escaping RFM! Gabba, gabba, we accept you! ONE OF US!
Oh, did I just type my evil plan out loud?
So that just leaves me. I’m going to mention one prolificist, give a top three albums of the year, lay some news on you, then end on a high. How’s that for showbiz? I may even haul myself to my feet and brush off the marie rose sauce that seems to have dried on the side of my face.
In previous years one of the Zellaby Award categories has been the Stokoe Cup, given for maintaining quality control over a huge body of work making it impossible to pick individual releases in an end of year round up. I know I said I’d ditched these honours but this year there is such a clear winner that I cannot help but unlock the trophy cabinet.
The music of collagist, tape scaffolder and atmosphere technician Stuart Chalmers has been admired by everyone with a trustworthy opinion. His recent catalogue – solo or in collaboration – is an avalanche of stylistically divergent, technically perfect, emotionally resonant work. I highly recommend that you settle gently onto his Bandcamp site, like a probe landing on an exotic comet, and start drilling. The dude recently moved to Leeds too, how cool is that? He wins.
OK, now onto the main event: low numbers in reverse order. This year, in a classy piece of statesmanship, I’m leaving the listing to my colleagues above and am going to focus on just my top three.
[Editor’s note: If I’m honest I love these three more or less equally but, y’know, drama innit?]
Flat out glorious from beginning to end. This album has the texture of pistachio flavoured Turkish delight. It is sweet, gelatinous, opaque, yielding to the bite but containing a satisfying savoury grit. If I were a betting man I’d wager Neil provided the caffeinated hyper-psych which was then slowed, burnished and blurred by Julian’s patented murkatronik obfuscator. Best to keep it mysterious though, eh? I’ve listened to this so frequently that I think now I’d have trouble remaining friends with anyone who didn’t groove on, say, the disco-for-writhing-foot-long-woodlice vibe of ‘giants in the electric nativity’.
Two non-musical reasons to be entertained too. Firstly, the Bandcamp photo is a nod to the cover illustration for an LP they recorded for American Tapes exactly one million years ago. The no-audience underground remembers. Secondly, it was released on 20th December, thus too late to be included on any of the ‘best of year’ lists published before the end of the year. Seeing as the premature way these lists are ejaculated has long annoyed me I was delighted to see JB & NC stitching ’em right up.
Yeah, yeah, one half of Helicopter Quartet is RFM staffer Chrissie Caulfield but, as I’ve said many times, there is no such thing as conflict of interest down here. If we didn’t blow our own trumpets sometimes there would be no fanfare at all and, whoo boy, Mike and Chrissie deserve it.
Continuing a seemingly impossible run of each release topping the last, this album takes their austere, mournful aesthetic in an explicitly dystopian direction. The bleakness described by previous releases has called to mind slate grey stone walls on ageless moor land but Electric Fence has a more Ballardian edge.
I listen to the thrilling, Tubeway Army-ish title track and imagine the strings of Chrissie’s violin animated by Ralph Steadman – whipping away from us to form the boundary fence of a desert Army base, or a mud-choked refugee camp, realities that we’d rather not contemplate. Or maybe the fence is personal, invisible, internalised – a tragic defence mechanism that provides the illusion of safety at the cost of constant loneliness?
Powerful and important music, as ever. That work of this quality is freely downloadable remains remarkable.
The Zellaby Award for best album of 2016, presented in conjunction with radiofreemidwich, goes to East of the Valley Blues for EOVTB. Joe Murray wrote about this one back in April:
Wonderful! Wonderful, wonderful!
This tape was playing when the first rays of Spring sunshine shot like misty timbers through my window and the jazzy daffodils belched out warm yellow hugs. And no, I don’t think that’s any coincidence brothers & sisters.
This tape is a truly innocent joy. Why? Firstly, it’s the simplicity. We’ve got two guys, two Power Moves brothers, sitting on that metaphorical back porch finger-picking like the late great Jack Rose, improvising with a sibling’s sensibility at that slightly ragged speed we all associate with the beating heart in love.
Secondly, we’ve got notes that shimmer in a cascade; I’m getting nylon waterfalls as things tumble and tremble, roil and buckle as ten calloused fingertips gentle rustle the strings. This is all about the movement, the restlessness of a leaf caught in an eddy, the churn of water spilling from a red hand pump.
Finally there’s that slight sense of anticipation, a yearning that’s probably something technical to do with the key it’s all played in. But for a goof like me it just tweaks my memory zone; this music looks backwards at endless summers and looks towards bouncing grandchildren on the knee. This is music of time, its passage and its baggage; the highs and lows, the dusty wrinkles and the fumble in the sheets.
And am I noticing a slight change in the way time is behaving around me? Not so much time stopping but stretching, those strict minutes becoming supple like a cat’s arching back. Maybe reader maybe.
Lovers of this plaintive guitar-pick often yell out a challenge:
Me? I’m lost in the buttery light right now, light-headed with Beat road dreams,
If you heard it you wouldn’t have to ask… click the god-damn link and get heavy in the valley.
…and he is right, of course.
The brothers Joe refers to are twins Kevin and Patrick Cahill (the former best known ’round here for running Power Moves Label/Library) and the album’s genesis is covered in an excellent interview with Tristan Bath for Bandcamp Daily which can be read here.
All I need to add is that given the divisive and miserable nature of the year just gone, an album so beautiful, so spacious, so forgiving, so grounded in love and family could not be less ‘2016’ and thus could not be a more worthy winner. Congratulations, fellas.
A discographical note: this album has now been reissued by the excellent UK label Death Is Not The End and can be had as a download, tape or – get this – vinyl album via their Bandcamp site. For those wanting to take a punt without risking any dough, free downloads of some live shows can also be had here.
The prize for winning remains the, *ahem*, ‘great honour’ of being the only release on the otherwise dormant fencing flatworm recordings in 2017, should the brothers be interested in taking me up on it. Nowt fancy – CD-r plus download would usually suffice given the absence of any budget. Negotiations can commence anytime.
Right, let me just drag Joe Murray up into a chair as he needs to wave and smile during this bit. OK: some news. As of whenever we can sort out the logistics, Joe is going to take over from me as editor/publisher of RFM whilst I take an indefinite sabbatical. No need to worry – I am not ill again – I just need a break to attend to the real life stuff away from music I’ve been alluding to throughout the year. I have to apologise to those people who have sent emails, invitations to download, physical objects and whatnot and are still waiting for substantial responses. I’ll slowly catch up with personal stuff, forward all the blog stuff and my colleagues will soldier on in my absence. I’ll still be wandering around twitter and attending shows (Leeds people – see you at the Fractal Meat showcase on Feb 3rd, eh?) just won’t be at the helm here. Feels weird to be saying this after seven years but I’m sure this will prove a healthy decision and I’ll be back before ya know it.
Finally then, my musical highlight of the year: Miguel Perez playing as Skull Mask at the TUSK festival. Here’s an extract from my account of the weekend. In particular, I want to finish with the word ‘fuck’ so I’ll say goodbye now – those who know me won’t be surprised to see me slope off before the end of the last set.
Best wishes for 2017, folks, keep yourselves and each other safe.
All is love, Rob H x
Next up it was Miguel Perez, playing as Skull Mask … This was what I was here to see and his set – just man and guitar – was astounding. Flamenco flourishes, desert folk, improv spikiness and metal hammering flowed, pressed and burst like a time-lapse film of jungle flowers opening, like lava flow, like clouds of starlings at dusk, like liquid mercury. Miguel is one of the most technically adept guitarists I have ever seen but all that virtuosity is in service of one thing: the truth. To say the music of Skull Mask is heartfelt or sincere is to understate the raw beauty of what it reveals: a soul. Miguel’s soul.
Stood at the front I found myself having an out of body experience. Part of me was enjoying it on an absolutely visceral level, unwaveringly engaged, but another part of me was floating above thinking about what the experience meant.
Watching the performance unfold, I started thinking about how beautiful life can be despite, sometimes because of, how hard it can be. I thought about the miraculous combination of factors – hard work, friendship, sheer bloody luck – that led to us all being in this room at this time. A strange, accepting calm enveloped me whilst at the same time the more present, grounded part of me was yelling (internally – I do have some control):
HOLY FUCKING CHRIST!! MIGUEL IS SAT RIGHT IN FUCKING FRONT OF ME PLAYING THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF THAT FUCKING GUITAR!! FUCK!!!