human knotty complexity : joe murray on katz mulk, daniel carter/george lyle/fritz welch, downer canada and brb>voicecoilMarch 27, 2017 at 6:04 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: andrea kearney, ben knight, ben morris, brb>voicecoil, daniel carter, dictaphone, downer canada, drone, fritz welch, george lyle, graphic score, improv, iorram records, jazz, joe murray, katz mulk, muza muza, noise, power moves library, sacred tapes
Katz Mulk – Katzenungen (Sacred Tapes)
Daniel Carter, George Lyle, Fritz Welch – So Long Farewell Repair live at The Glad Cafe (Iorram Records)
Downer Canada – Snarl like a Poem (Power Moves Library)
brb>voicecoil – Cloth White Skin (Muza Muza)
Katz Mulk – Katzenungen (Sacred Tapes) C30 Cassette
A new project from N-AU stalwarts Ben Knight, Ben Morris and Andrea Kearney* should make the most cynical of listeners burp – but I can report back from my comfortable trench that Pepto Bismol is not, repeat not needed. This Mulk slips down easy as sherry trifle.
Knight continues his imagineer work for a darker-Disney building a domestic palace of half-song and chant. He adds delicate plonks with increasing grace and moves the air with a palm, then a knee. And Morris knits these materials into a thread-bare tapestry that celebrates the tiny, the small and the microscopic. Kearney provides the graphic score…
Side one: truth bandits, engaging rumble of an outboard motor, the squished goose honk of decaying electronics and wet hiss of traffic. A voice says ‘squeal, squeal’, a bell rings and tinfoil gets crushed underfoot, a plate spins. Alligator goodbyes!
Side two: roar of a space heater, hectic metallic scrape, a voice battles sense against ripped rubber electronics, taped blister pack wrench overlaid by gentle footsteps. The plumber’s mate fouls up the pipes leading to complex knocking (at the7 min 30 second mark) that is both wet and dry, hard and soft, immediate yet attached to memory.
The end is heralded with the kind of repetition pin-ball/gong-strike/marble rolling I could listen to forever.
(iv)Outcome & Impact
The rare art of listening is engaged in this most rewarding of tapes. I’m guessing this is a patchwork of ‘live’ and ‘studio’ jamz with the idea of sparse pushed through a nozzle, so the language bacteria grows in a dish; the rattles of accompaniment become as real as altitude ear-pop.
One to catch in a butterfly net no matter what!
*a most fortuitous bumping into Andrea enlightens me that her presence on this tape is purely graphic score construction rather than future-ghost player. But FFW to the planned Katz Mulk disc on Singing Knives coz itsa trio of all-three-players-playing!
Daniel Carter, George Lyle, Fritz Welch – So Long Farewell Repair live at The Glad Cafe (Iorram Records) CD
Real-proper JAZZ chips from this sax/piano, double bass, percussion trio and sadly the last ever recording from Glasgow bass-face George Lyle.
The dials are set for human knotty complexity rather than eviscerating fire and that is all super-smashing-great for me.
It’s like this. My simple mind is pulled in several directions at once. George saws an undercurrent of resin-soaked wood so it glows like a fire biding its time. Fritz supplies the sizzle of gentle rain on the griddle – a liquid bada-bing! Sax sings for the brassy siren then Daniel moves to a dusty piano playing all the in-notes outwards.
But each piece tightens the jewels further, like when you find the bite on an old socket set and each bolt and nut clicks an extra few revolutions. This is true open-jaw music that plays the lush valleys between the craggy peaks.
Even the most casual listen reveals ear-gems and brain worms: the guilt marimba, felt ravioli all come seeping out a blowhole and begin rolling around my feet.
But weirdest of all, the closing minutes of ‘News Loom’ seem to suck god-save-the-queen backwards over all the rippled sonic scree. That can’t be right eh?
Shit! What more do you want me to say? This threesome are impressive enough as lone gadgies but the sum is most definitely more when all those ears and fingers (and feet) get warm and busy.
Downer Canada – Snarl like a Poem (Power Moves Library) CD-r in classy envelope and free digital download
This slim CD-r is packaged between two pieces of thick card and makes me think that the music is being coddled in some way – like it’s a delicate thing that needs protection from my fat, greasy fingers.
But when played ‘Snarl like a Poem’ is surprisingly robust – a full frequency exploration of brushed steel flux and hissing radiators. It knocks like the ancient plumbing attached to your old head (a gaseous ghost in the pipes, hurtling through copper joints , whipping right and left) until you are not quite sure what’s going on.
And then…a feedback suite; a feeble keening smooth as marble. Limp Morse that rolls as a cylinder would over a deep ice puddle yet fuzzy at the edges like someone just smeared my glasses with Vaseline – most agreeable!
Tones on the edge of collapse send oily ripples through my ear canal, a lo-tech Eliane Radigue, until things blister, bubble and pop.
Dry mouth sounds… ‘kah’ and ‘schah’ and ‘khow’ reveal dusty language roots. Is this the lost speech of the sand-encrusted pharaohs? Or perhaps a sound poet’s secret library hiss?
What was once ultra-minimal collects the grit of a classic Dictaphone approach with each surface filled and smoothed-over with fizzing huss.
It fills my head with sweet drizzle!
brb>voicecoil – Cloth White Skin (Muza Muza) C25 Cassette and digital download
The perfectly dank sound that joins the dots between classic long-form drone, field recording and musique concrete.
Kev Wilkinson’s bands Drill, Big Road Breaker and the more recent brb>voicecoil, have been stalwarts of the Newcastle noise/drone scene for as long as I can remember. After years of steady, underground activity his brb>voicecoil delighted a whole new generation in a triumphant performance at last year’s TUSK festival.
This cool-looking tape is the next instalment in an epic story.
Using source material recorded over an 8 year period the side-long title track ‘Cloth White Skin’ weaves an arcane industrial process (cast-iron rollers flattening bone fragments / blast furnace being stoked with terrible energy / huge tumbling spikes) with the spluttering of cold liquid metal and the distant thunder of Xipe Totec .
But it’s not all spitting-bluster. The final short movement is an introspective shudder, a ‘someone’s-just-walked-over-my-grave’ uneasiness of rusty tin slowly coming to rest.
The itchy rhythm of ‘Crack Vessel’ mimics exactly the enamel rattling of a child’s tooth in a jam jar. The accompanying offset, slopped-shunts of sound remind me of dancers limping after brutal rehearsals, all sore toes, ripped calves and swollen ankles.
The closer, an aptly named ‘Vent 2’ treats us to a Heath-Robinson industrial scene. Grey gas escapes under enormous pressure from cracked terracotta pipes. The hullabaloo flips a series of leather coated buttons to perform an organic, irregular beat. The surrounding soundscape is crisp with busy electric crackles and fades into one lone drummer drumming.
A taste of the grim future? Automation gone loco?
Regard the prophetic warnings of brb>voicecoil!
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.
pick-up truck vocabulary: joe murray on crow versus crow, faniel dord, stefan jaworzyn/dylan nyoukis/seymour glass, the tenses & bren’t lewiis ensemble and the viperMarch 17, 2017 at 8:37 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: bren't lewiis ensemble, bufms, chocolate monk, crow versus crow, crow versus crow editions, dante's ashtray, donk, dylan nyoukis, faniel dord, fonk, joe murray, seymour glass, skronk, stefan jaworzyn, the tenses, the viper
Crow Versus Crow – States (Crow Versus Crow Editions)
Faniel Dord – Faniel Dord (Dante’s Ashtray)
Stefan Jaworzyn, Dylan Nyoukis, Seymour Glass – My Disgusting Heart (Chocolate Monk)
The Tenses & Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble – Daughter of the Boot (Chocolate Monk)
The Viper – Art for Pain’s Sake (BUFMS)
Crow Versus Crow – States (Crow Versus Crow Editions) 3 inch CD and 20 page art-zine photo booklet
This beautiful package comes sandwiched between plain grey heavystock card; the sombre plainness a reaction to the vibrant colour inside perhaps?
I’ll start with the sound. The disc contains 17 minutes of the real Americana collected by Andy Crow on his 2016 road trip to southern states of the USA (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia – fact fans). As you’d imagine there is a rejection of any field recording cliché – this is pure extraction music with no toothless fiddle or Grand Ole Opry in sight.
It’s a subtle and slow movement for sure: the opening static crackles makes way for a woven pattern of cicada’s rhythmic rustle and the liquid whoosh of passing cars. An occasional maraca-shake could be a deadly rattlesnake. The ‘tich-th’ of the owl a hi-hat sizzle that reeks of baked desert heat and sonic shimmer. But rather then present this slack-jawed and unexamined the mix builds a hidden momentum through increasing the thread count and rippling the fabric with a deft thumb.
The final movement drags lazy ears into unapologetic high-performance mode. A lonely buzzard calls out across the valley – the sound of the air around the recorder fizzes with unknowable purpose. An excitable preacher (my guess is via battered radio rather than a gaudy TV) adds the sort of paranoid verbals African Head Charge favoured era Songs of Praise.
It is of course a suggestion piece – with no literals to hang your baseball cap on the imagination picks up tiny clues and builds a personal narrative from the crumbs. My reality is not Mr Crow’s but what we now share is a gas station dream, a pick-up truck vocabulary.
But as well as his ears he’s brought his eyes. Eyes that spy detail in the trash and the unloved, beauty in the unused and plain old decrepit.
It’s almost impossible to look at the booklet without adding today’s awful political charge and context but a deep breath helps to remember a time before this extra ladle of madness soup soured what was the American dream.
People are absent, but the hands of the hardworking and decent, the just making do, are all over these gorgeous images.
As Crow’s lens is drawn to the weather-beaten and well used the inference is communal – we are joined by the codes of work and play. And even when the work has gone and the players drifted home the traces we leave are still good. Not necessarily grand or initially impressive but honest and modest and well-intentioned.
Railway tracks vanish to a point, exposed brickwork bakes in the sun and corrugated metal rusts like soft brown blooms. A single word ‘sorry’ is inked onto a door frame.
States shows a land waiting for interpretation, a mythology waiting to be written.
Faniel Dord – Faniel Dord (Dante’s Ashtray) CD-R
The Scouser Sun City Girl deals us a full-deck of deranged approaches on this tasty self-titled release.
Micro-songs are played on dodgy keyboard, beer-stained piano and battered guitar then dripped though a lo-fi studio set up that adds a delightful scruffy edge to these enigmatic pieces.
Some arrive fully-formed; dripping with sarcasm and uncomfortable political questions like a Mersybeat Porest.
Others riff –out a tune that has always seemed to exist somewhere behind my ear until the mighty Faniel has just shucked it out with a blunt knife (for evidence see My Bowl of Skulls).
The shadow of Edward Lear inhabits Dord’s world in both word and deed. A lover of scatological shock and the innocently odd – both ends of the stick are jammed in the jellyfish mouth until the protoplasm pops.
But of course it’s not all yuks, ‘Zaidida’ concludes in deep Rembetika sorrow after a frantic three minutes and ‘Medusa’s gone Digital’ warns the Gorgons and their ilk the dangers of modern life – something I don’t think we do quite enough of.
Fans of Derek and Clive take note and click.
Stefan Jaworzyn, Dylan Nyoukis, Seymour Glass – My Disgusting Heart (Chocolate Monk) CD-R
I never expected Jaworzyn, that long-haired, six-string Ascension/Skullflower wire-wrangler on this kinda gob-jaxx (see Nyoukis) / tape-huss (see Glass) melange. But more fool me eh? The iron banjo adds some rich, metallic DNA to this most lovable of three-ways.
Opener ‘Frozen Tombs of Siberia’ is a medium-sized panic attack; part elephant seal growl, part rattling coffin nails, but all Skippy the Kangaroo incidental music. As you’d expect from these experienced heads the pace is stately, elements of bubbling vowel or chopped-to-john-o-groats guitar placed in a sonic Battenberg with a similar marzipan roughness. The closing seconds of this jam re-imagine a Tardis’ asthmatic ‘whump-whump’. Calling all BBC commissioning editors – get these lads in – you’ve been warned!
Song title of the week is well and truly won by ‘Dirty Owl Teat’ and works like one of them Scandinavian open sandwiches.
- (rye cracker base) slow-mould guitar wrench, harmonic pimples and drumlins, a yeast of amp hum…
- (smoked herring topping) an expression of joy hissed through side-mouth bibbles, coughs and spaniel-like panting. Occasional v-words are the glace cherry.
And the Smorgasbord analogy still holds for ‘Slowest Emergency Team’ with oodles more tape-frot.
But it’s the closer ‘Gang-related Sneezing’ that really quivers my liver. This modest track is a stop-start-stop-start wrecking ball of un-sense tape-slivers. Neatly delivered in finely measured bursts that defy any conventional rhythm; pretty soon my arms and legs are tied up in Twister-esque contortions.
A test-card for the mind or an essential document of new solutions?
Whisper your answer in my hot pink shell.
The Tenses & Bren’t Lewiis Ensemble – Daughter of the Boot (Chocolate Monk) CD-R
Two long, long, long pieces of near psychic jam make up this extra-value 60 min disc.
A whole platform of players (note ‘em: Oblivia, Ju Suk Reet Meate, Lucian Tielens, Sylvia Kastel, Leroy Tick & Gnarlos) strike bowls, press buttons, crank up turntables and rattle cutlery in an infinite variety of ways. The label says…
‘spontaneous sound collage, bent improv, non-musical weirdness’
…and who am I to argue?
Of course it’s the group-think that makes this disc hover in an unnatural manner. The linkage of brown ideas and soupy ingredients interweave in an effortless stew.
And where ‘Authentication of Ancient Chinese Bronzes’ is a pointillist pin-prick on tightly ruled graph paper ‘Heroic Armor of the Italian renaissance’ is more of a flexible lake or a fake puddle. The difference is startling yet understated, like putting sugar in the salt cellar.
As I lay back and let ‘the music take me’ I picture several conflicting images: emoji torture, dry goods being bagged, the gritty feel of a military mess kit. But that’s just me! You may picture the red stone of Bologna or the broad green leaves of Portland but that’s the point innit? From a base of gentle tinkles and sound-scurf we make our own reality.
And at this point I start to doubt the sanity of reviewing such a subjective sound environment and ask you to point your finger here to listen to an extract and write your own damn review.
But, dear reader that wouldn’t be the RFM way eh?
Another couple of spins in different environments (making dinner, jogging through the park) reveal the onion layers. The surface complexity is really a carefully constructed chicken-wire framework to hang the softer, more feather-light sounds.
So…the clear-edged ‘clonks’ and ‘smaks’ punctuate the more ghostly ‘heshhh’ and ‘vumpf’ until, before you realise it a thousand bicycle bells are ringing you through The Arc De Triomphe.
The Viper – Art for Pain’s Sake (BUFMS) CD
Vintage tape experiments from one Mr Richard Sterling Streeter and his long-suffering family and friends.
What strikes me first is the application of the universal language of mucking about. You know what I’m talking about; that finger heavy on the play/pause button, that snotty ‘la la’, the classic chopstick-on-margarine-tub click.
Are these early tape experiments (made between the years 1978 to 1982 according to my terrible maths) any less worthy for that? Well of course not. As a listener I’m humbled to be let in to this world and nostalgerise my own (now thankfully lost) juvenilia.
But before I get too comfortable and misty-eyed our old friend progress rears its head and the later tracks (for all are arranged chronologically) dig deeper into the heart of echo, reverse reel-to-reel wonk and real-live violin scraping.
Music Concrete is an old maid on ‘Ollidarma’ an infectious riot of bright stereo blossoms. Raw sound becomes the source itself as it whips though the tape heads smeared by speed or plummets down a wormhole of creepy reverb. I’m treated to a whole dossier of tape wonk with added ‘accidentals’ that seem to come from the 1940’s via a haunted dancehall and a coffee-jinxed auctioneer until the white-coated engineers start pulling chunks out the Revox machine creating whirring thrums and empty pings while George Harrison wheedles away his yolk-less omelette in the main studio.
The almost traditional instrumentation of ‘In a Garden’ makes be bark like a dog. Piano, bass, shuffling snare and lonely violin tug on those melancholic heartstrings like a Midnight Doctors jam. Pure longing and loss gets bowed out across the cat-gut until hot tears snake down my cheek. Crikey!
‘Dreams of Glipnorf’ the energetic closer starts rough-hewn like a callous but ends up boogieing like that Canned Heat out-take where Blind Owl really starts to lose his mustard.
Don’t fear the Viper!
similarly introverted/greasy feathers: joe murray on final seed, troy schafer, termite acropolis, michael barthel, kent tankred, body morph, matt krefting, jon collin, f ampism and final seed again!March 14, 2017 at 2:04 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: beartown records, body morph, chocolate monk, f. ampism, final seed, joe murray, jon collin, kent tankred, matt krefting, micahel barthel, round bale recordings, soundholes, termite acropolis, troy schafer
Final Seed – S/T (Round Bale Recordings)
Troy Schafer – Untitled No4 (Round Bale Recordings)
Termite Acropolis – Dedication in Vinegar (Round Bale Recordings)
Michael Barthel – Randradau (Chocolate Monk)
Kent Tankred – Organ 1 (Chocolate Monk)
Body Morph – Keep Still and be Devoured (Soundholes)
Matt Krefting – Danger (Chocolate Monk)
Jon Collin – Sky Writings (Early Music)
F Ampism – The Resolution Phase (Beartown Records)
Final Seed – Untitled (Chocolate Monk)
Final Seed – S/T (Round Bale Recordings) Very rare tape or download
Rejoice in this super-subtle tape nothingness.
Side A is a perfectly timed 10 minutes that weaves the sound of background hiss-radiation with brief leather-necked gulpings and pre-language garrotte. The sound of the sound of the recorder whirring dumbly is captured in startling clarity. A round off in the cavern of the delay bounces a single blank tone off the squash court wall.
Side B is similarly introverted. What was once a throaty wolf-man roar is pitched right down and super low into a substratum of broken sea-foam. It warbles quietly, paying no mind and, like pouring thick glue over an uneven floor, the sound pools in places making deep ripples, skims the surface in others as light as a pond skipper.
The sense of purpose and dedication to a dream makes this a supremely confident release and an important exercise in listening to the sort of chuff we often ignore, gloss over and palm off.
Read no further and click here for evidence.
Troy Schafer – Untitled No4 (Round Bale Recordings) Ultra rare lathe cut 7inch or download
Round Bale describe this as a ‘brain-scrambler’. After listening I’m feeling poached and fried to boot!
Side A. Sepia piano recordings run through a wood-chipper.
Troy’s fingers may nudge the occasional keys gently but his feet hit the pedals with force sending those white and black notes ricocheting through tin and bronze filters that wreak the pretty and gasp with giant violence. What else am I getting (like a wine taster – that’s me!) a lung-rattling wheeze, half-song and memory. You know what? I’m just a sucker for a solo piano. The final 11 seconds promise a new beginning with that build up of blocked, harried notes that rudely snip off. Oh yeah…distinctly classy.
Side B starts with a grunt and then something orchestral is wrenched back and forth through a pinhole. The dry wooden click of a cello (perhaps) mimics a poultry convention; angry clucks and gobbles, that red wattle vibrating with the rough string attack. I hear a woman’s laughter and then Troy launches into more grappling with the horsehair. A dramatic friction. Like looking down a sound-microscope that magnifies each textured sound-bundle a thousand times until it bursts like a turgid cell – spouting information into your lucky earhole.
Termite Acropolis – Dedication in Vinegar (Round Bale Recordings) sold out tape and download
What an apt name for this ant-city investigation. Miniature tunnels are bored through the hard red earth and filled with dark cardboard clunks and billiard hall knockings.
Powerfully restrained recordings of process with little ornamentation. This is: a bell, a dropped coin, a handful of pocket fluff.
But that’s not to say these are overly simple. Sounds are doused with a gentle condiment (or indeed pickled) until they slush about like a rotting medical exhibit (see: Caricature of the garden) in the bottom of a demijohn.
While massive machines are imagined in ‘Lardworks’, brass pistons pumping and levers floundering in a polished wooden way, it is left to ‘Extinguish the light’ to hurl us into the modern age; a symphony of gates opening and shutting to the beat of the Bontempi.
Title tracks often tell us a little about the intention and drive behind a record or artist. In this case I’m guessing the closer, a nine-minute brining, is a powerful psychic calling card. It’s subtle and refined, relaxed but with a steady guiding hand on the reigns. Delicate and simple tones and clunks rattle around the bagatelle that mirrors your own dainty cochlear. It’s easy to get lost in such dwarf loops as they occur again and again, melting over each other in polite collapse. At around the four-minute mark a constant high-lonely-moan is redoubled turning that sweet milk into smoked cheese marking the start of a watery, pale beauty.
Waiting room music for the hep, hep cats.
Michael Barthel – Randradau (Chocolate Monk) C20 Cassette
Insider bone scrapings and economic scribble.
Side A runs for about 9 minutes and places micro-pieces of clean and energetic German-sounding spoken goof with psychotic milkman-whistle and hissy-Dictaphone-grottage. Oh yes! Michael barks stern his instructions. These blocks of meaning lock as tight as Duplo bricks but instead of the obvious primary colours this is an altogether mistier proposal.
So…rather than tan the glitches Mr Barthel exercises all the edges of his palette. The lion indeed lies down with the lamb with the final few minutes mimicking aching layers of lazy sediment.
Side B starts with off-radio, wrong-phonics and some glorious sepia glossolalia. A hum and whirr of the taping device is left to whittle away adding a tambour-like drone for an amateur age. Gloriously smeared sound leaks like straw-coloured plasma from a bad burn. Oily as balm; dressings are changed for the finale of woollen moans and an almost vaudeville reading of sparse and strangulated word blooms.
It’s a hectic world for sure, but listening to this made me dawdle like a child. Damn…listening to this tape made me a better person. You NEED some!
Kent Tankred – Organ 1 (Chocolate Monk) C40 Cassette
These ultra-heavy organ manipulations weigh as much a chubby whale loafing about in the viscous and dark brine.
A presence piece that you can, and should, project your reality on to: this is perfect travelling music.
Each organ foldback-loop and full –throated gas-roar is like a cold sun flickering through autumn leaves or watching the savage juxtaposition of a ripped billboard layered with contrasting messages.
- Large pumice boulders skin your elbows and the dead skin falls like dry sleet.
- A microphone is lowered into a crimson oubliette.
- Running into the wind with your mouth open wide until your breath gets caught behind chilly teeth.
This hissing bustle plays well obnoxiously loud and pasty-necked quiet.
Body Morph- Keep Still and be Devoured (Soundholes) C60 cassette
This tape is an exercise in long-form rustage.
True! Tones from a dying crab get hoofed through the murky, mystic mix at points but mostly it’s a 1000 yard stare of slowly crashing gears.
On side one I’m picking up cheap-casio keys gummed down under years of tape-varnish & mould-hiss. I’m hearing a smeared gossamer touch akin to greasy feathers.
Side two gets all lo-maxxed on a horn of some sort; mournful and cool as the night air. Armenian Jazz Sorrow? The sound of occasional suffocation?
A true listeners tape, this is no ‘slap it on and do the ironing’ cassette. It demands full attention and for this thorough investment you are amply rewarded with layer upon layer of ear –silt clogging yr golden wax deposits.
Matt Krefting – Danger (Chocolate Monk) C15 Cassette
Ultra-core tape jaxx.
Super-indefinite and lost imaginings.
It’s the softest breath kissing carbon paper; that most delicate and faint purple image as tender as an early morning bruise.
Memory slides smooth as a trombone made of smog and brass fittings.
Half-formed but fully realised. The magic happens in that grey blancmange as you use natural electricity to link the un-linkable, paint the un-paintable.
Matt leaves us mortals a few clues – popping candy in a giant’s gob and infrared tinfoil. Apart from that you’re on your own pal!
Polite yet essential.
Jon Collin – Sky Writings (Early Music) C15 Tape
If I’d got my finger out this tape would have made the 2016 ‘best of’ lists for sure and will no doubt be top 10 material in sunny 2017.
Fahey, Rose and Nugent fan boys/girls must listen…this tape is so charming I coughed up a cream tea and a cheeky goodnight kiss. This tape made me a damn loving fool!
In the old definition this is a fucking splendid tape (shine, be bright) that warms up my cold heart and makes me smile like reading Nicholson Baker details and footnotes.
A real human-sounding solo acoustic guitar probe the damn nostalgia nodes to conjure up an imagined picnic in a cornfield. The colours are vivid. The corn is the creamiest yellow, the sky the brightest blue. Our blanket the deepest red.
The melodies trip some switch that bursts crisp cornflowers out my chest and replace my blood with silver helium bubbles.
Spiritualised? Do me a favour eh? I’m really floating in space here mate. The strums and pickles are complex as spiderwebs but simple as nursery rhymes. The untitled tunes are as familiar as pins and needles and get under my skin in a similar restless and itchy way; it’s like I’ve always known them as they slip out of reach skidding like a deer on ice.
Oh my! Such elegance with chipped nails and calloused hands. The perfect beautiful happiness of aching heart.
F Ampism – The Resolution Phase (Beartown Records) CD
A tasty CD that I’m now re-imagining as a vinyl EP pressed onto seven inches.
“But why format transfer boy? You may ask.”
Because this is a disc of two halves, that’s why doubter. An ‘A’ and a ‘B’. My ‘This Side’ twinned to your ‘That Side’ is strongly suggested to my oatmeal mind.
Let me explain…
A jungle lushness drips through the recent work of Mr F Ampism. Thick and green, waxy and water-resistant each micro-collage is rich beyond our feeble senses; ethnic percussive loops wobbly like belly fat, environmental recordings gurgle as algae-thick rivers, electronic squirts gush tessellated digital foof. It’s a sound you can smell and that smell is pregnant and full.
The first three tracks, ‘Monaestry and Math’ to ‘Straight Brains’ are alive with exotic Toucan ‘caws’ and Howler hoots. The middler ‘The Joint Capsule’ replays Balinese rhythms among the creaking boats, the lapping waves and call of villagers selling shrimp-based snacks. Gradually a soft tone bubbling erupts in my pocket. Copper pans are dropped overboard and ‘boaab’ drunkenly in the mud-coloured water as they slowly fill, sway, and sink beneath the waves.
All of a piece these three realised constructions suggest organic life with a face tilted towards a red, red sun.
‘Shabada Transmission’ bucks the trend by laying down heavily in the rumpled bed belonging to Detroit Techno – the synthetic strings and xylophone tones as future facing as jet boots and holidays on Mars. And in doing so Ampism revels a new destination and we are already deep in ‘Side Two’ territory.
‘Inner Eyelid’ is made up of spare parts, a lone creak, a dropped calliope yet is patched up in the most un-Frankenstein manner. No flat head no sir! Bolts through the neck? Forget-about-it. Think more like a slim ankle glimpsed or thick auburn curls just begging to be tousled.
The jazz, in all its hot boiling majesty, infests ‘Thrown Jam 1 and 2 ‘ with Pazuzu sitting in on traps while Regan hams on the vintage synth. This duo/solo gets ripe!
And, as all things must, this disc ends. But with a juddering, flustering loop so perfectly placed those plunderphonic dingbats blush crimson and sweat.
Final Seed – Untitled (Chocolate Monk) C30 Cassette
Witness the drunken bowling alley vibe on this damp-chiller from Final Seed.
Like a diary opened at random one passage might reveal children squeaking, another, the fumbling fingers of a defective chord-organ.
Dark percussive knocks form a rhythm interuptus ladled on thick like broth. Slack-mouthed and slurry, a voice gnarls on with steaming feet. Wonked-out keyboard extrapolations all bothered with hot-electric butter. Broken cassette ghost-capture.
Neat eh? But all the while this is undoubtedly gush from the same mush. Oh my!
This is serious stuff…like the abstract soundtrack to the sound of making a soundtrack each perfect formula of tones, field recordings and manipulations delight by being both utterly novel and head-scratchingly familiar. So while the diary analogy still holds I’m darting from love-sick boy-teen to worried mother to toddler rocking on their plump heels. It’s got charm in punnets, invention in spades!
The best album that chump Eno never made. DEMAND A RESSIUE!!!
the sweet jelly is in the deft cut: joe murray on david birchall/nicolas dobson/javier saso, dylan nyoukis & friends, plastic hooligans and acrid lactations & gwilly edmondezMarch 3, 2017 at 6:00 am | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
Tags: acrid lactations, chocolate monk, david birchall, drugs, dylan nyoukis, fae ma bit tae ur bit, gwilly edmondez, javier saso, joe murray, nicolas dobson, plastic hooligans, skronk, soundholes
David Birchall/Nicolas Dobson/Javier Saso – XZ ::::::::: Brazil (Soundholes)
Dylan Nyoukis & Friends – Mind Yon Time? (Chocolate Monk)
Plastic Hooligans – Untitled (Chocolate Monk)
Acrid Lactations & Gwilly Edmondez – You Have Not Learned To Play & Mock in The Psychic System (Chocolate Monk)
David Birchall/Nicolas Dobson/Javier Saso – XZ ::::::::: Brazil (Soundholes) C30 cassette
Super-charged scrimple-skriffle improv coming at you mixed in, depending on your view, (almost) mono or 3-way stereo.
But what’s going on?
Dave Birchall plays granite-flecked guitar in the left speaker, Javier Saso spills slippery, silvery lapsteel in the right speaker and Nicolas Dobson sprays wild, wild violin all over the place.
Side one is a string piece for three players and it waxes happily, darting in and out of focus like a lazy eye would. Contributions are in part clotted and meshed (like a scab) and independently driven. Imagine walking three energetic hounds, each with their own digging, burying, pissing mission. Their colourful leads are soon a wrapped-up maypole binding your arms and hands. Got it?
Now replace the noble hounds with these three improv-dudes and the dog-specific missions with group-mind blankness and collective musical mischief and you’ve got the perfect picture!
While the pace is athletic there’s always room for a ruminative cul-de-sac, a wet sniff about a single tone or blunt-thumbed technique. And as I listen I pass through several phases myself: chin-stroking on the non-idiomatic tip but also horn-throwing on the sexy electric eruption.
On side two I briefly land in a thoughtful strung-out lake but get distracted by amp-pops and bright lead-crackle. The tension mounts as our three players riff on the giant nothingness that exists right at the point of the horizon; saw, saw, sawing away, whipping up a gentle typhoon that bursts with bloated rain. It doesn’t take long to plinkety-plonk and things end with that ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ intro-played inside out and over ice.
This is what it sounds like when Slash cries.
Dylan Nyoukis & Friends – Mind Yon Time? (Chocolate Monk) CD-R
Popular wisdom suggests that there is nothing more boring than other people’s drug tales.
Ha! Popular wisdom is a duff grey lie.
On this re-imagining of Dylan Nyoukis’ Fae Ma Bit Tae Ur Bit radio show various sub-underground lads and lasses ‘fess up their first or otherwise notable drug experiences. Imagine Radio 4 has been snorting and huffing all night long (or something) with Dub Naughty on the controls.
They talk, in soft mumbles and gentle whispers; ‘it was like this…’, ‘we took a taxi…’, ‘I started to feel strange…’
Recorded up close it’s an intimate listen. Breathy and in your ear(s) – you sense the memories being dragged from that grey-matter prison and forced out into the open (in some case decades later) with all the added memory moss and drama a bit of distance provides.
D-Nyoukis works like a psychedelic Foley artist, twisting the background. Adding an addled ‘whuff’ or stoned ‘skofff’ to the voices that are dropping cautionary, ecstatic and, in some cases heart-warming tales of sweet, sweet intoxication. Subtle it is, in the way a shimmering hallucination first grabs you and makes you say “wha?” But it’s a flanger-free zone yeah?
So…anyone want to split this bottle of Cherry Lambrini? I’m thinking about getting it on now anyhow.
See ya on the other side travellers! YEAH!
Plastic Hooligans – Untitled (Chocolate Monk) CD-R
The aptly named Plastic Hooligans are gentle souls wrapped up in retro Adidas and Fila.
But an obsession with the Arabic world introduces ritualistic field recordings in a primitive electronic cloak. With a sparse, shady touch, loops are played via old reverb units and malfunctioning oscillators ramping up the potency of these already fairly ‘loaded’ sounds.
The shivers come in four waves.
- A xylophone tinkles in a French-speaking colony. Delicate as a music box found among boiled chicken’s feet.
- Moroccan tapes get fed through the mincer. The ‘boing’ of the overdriven hand-drum and voice pinched sonically to release only the most important tones.
- Rubberised machinery clunks away as a giant horn is blown roughly but slowly. Deep reparative hums.
- A hiccough bounced across eleven cryptic reverb-drenched minutes. The sort of mind-loop you feel on waking from a cumin-scented dream.
Acrid Lactations & Gwilly Edmondez – You Have Not Learned To Play & Mock in The Psychic System (Chocolate Monk) CD-R
The exact Reuleaux triangle-shaped intersection between modern classical, goofy wonk and hardcore improv. Oh yes!
History Lesson #1: The Acrid Lactations have been humble key-players of the untranslatable wonk scene. Really, really, really free players smiffy that non-idiomatic improv by adding an indefinable ‘something’. I’ve pondered this conundrum long and hard and the best I can come up with is that ‘something’ might be their slight unhinged quality; a willingness to go the extra mile, wherever that trek will take them.
History Lesson #2: Gwilly Edmondez has ploughed a similarly deep furrow. A Dictaphone high-priest, instant composition stalwart and one half of those rising stars YEAH YOU! [The UK’s only father/daughter slack-hop duo pop-pickers.] Gwilly, the tallest man alive, is a selfless player, an encourager, a persuader whose full-frontal yet ego-less schtick seems to be able to connect with that artistic blank space where anything becomes possible.
Taking this babycake as a whole I’m shocked by the time-shifting quality to these suckered gobbles, hazy trumpets and clogged electronics.
The lumps are bigger yeah! For 20, possibly 30 seconds you could be listening to Pharaoh Sanders (Impulse Era), or Morton Subotnick and then it could be nothing other than the good ole AL & GE. Things are so precarious I’m on a mental zip-wire sporting a psychic g-string baby.
But readers, it’s the edit that’s the thing here. In a similar way to the exceptional Hardworking Families latest disc the sweet jelly is in the deft cut taking these pretty much wonderful recordings and carefully layering, stripping and selecting the ripest cheese.
And this editors ear not only multiplies this trio but forges new links and allegiances between sound-nodes. Put simply; a ‘clunk’ recorded one day now spoons a sexy sigh recorded another and lo! A whole new thing starts a’going on.
The sounds? A dignified sniffle and pre-language burrs make up a respectable percentage but add to that bamboo pipes that ape the breath hissing down a human neck, disturb-o-moans and high-octane heffer on brass and tin. We’re talking “Seriously munged magic” (Nyoukis 2016)
But I’m throwing in a deep balloon-rubber ripping, a damp Dictaphone squelch and a goff-keyboard going electronically slow & low. Not only but also, the relaxing humming of social insects (ants probably) discuss their complex legal system.
To sum up I’ve got (consults notes, adjusts spectacles and frowns) three quarters goat-legged- spry and muscular, one quarter lazy liquid. So that’s something for everyone then; time for dreamers to collect themselves and activists to get-up-offa-that-thing.
Right-o. Discussion proposition? Dub opened a new door for Reggae. Teo Macero projected Jazz into an alternate future state. What about this N-AU versioning then readers?
Like…whoa man. Makes you think and shout “welcome to the world Keir J Arnot.”
kenny g your neighbours. a no basement is deep enough special: joe murray on kito mizukumi rouber, ho turner, bart de paepe and bleekFebruary 21, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Posted in no audience underground, not bloody music | Leave a comment
Tags: bart de paepe, belgian waffles, bleek, ho turner, joe murray, kenny g, kito mizukumi rouber, nbide, no basement is deep enough, wolf eyes
Kito Mizukumi Rouber – Savatia Calvi ni KMR (No Basement is Deep Enough)
Ho. Turner – T.V. Tapes Mix (No Basement is Deep Enough)
Bart De Paepe – Twistkapel (No Basement is Deep Enough)
Bleek- Lay your Skull upon the Groundz of the Bleek Godz (No Basement is Deep Enough)
The No Basement tapes always cause a commotion in our house when they slam indignantly on the door mat.
“Oh Daddy…what are those Belgian/Serbian hash-leprechauns up to now?” cry my tear-streaked children.
Coz the kidz…they dig the NBIDE big-style. It’s like snapchat or YOLO or dabbing or something. So for the sake of all our pre-teen readers I’ll make a real effort to big-up the packaging that you so covet. Let’s go young people!
Kito Mizukumi Rouber – Savatia Calvi ni KMR (No Basement is Deep Enough) C40 Cassette
~tape wrapped in a hand-sewn fabric ribcage daubed with fake blood~
Bonkers art-skronk from a real-life band sporting the odd dreadlock and jean jacket I’ll wager.
Squat down long enough and your feet go wobbly. Listen to Kito Mizukumi Rouber long enough and that sticky pin-prick-wobble travels from sole to head.
At times this drifts into territory mapped out by the fairly obscure Gibson Brothers. There’s no shame in the ‘a-hella, hella’ rock and roll and reel and rawk and rask and wrark…
…but any quiff is flattened by the shambolic looseness. Like – SHAGGS loose baby. A sax bleats over sox-string wrangling and the tubs thumped by the delightfully named ‘Papa Big Papa’.
I’m not getting any Memphis on me but this certainly straightens my trousers as I pop a steel comb in the back pocket.
Like Easy Rider never happened.
Ho. Turner – T.V. Tapes Mix (No Basement is Deep Enough) C60 Cassette
~tape encased in toxic yellow foam stuck on the back of a large ceramic ear (sprouting wires from the ear drum)~
Short-form synth gurgles that make like a bath emptying slowly, leaving a ring of creamy residue.
Originally recorded in the early 1980’s for deaf folk Ho. gets his hands dirty grabbing large puddles of ‘groof’ and ‘schhhappp’ moulding it with fingers, mouth and elbows. A handy paper leaflet tells us the electronics Ho uses have names: the saucy Kawai-synthesiser 100f and legendary Fricke MFB-501 drum machine – so get busy fan boys and fan girls – wreck those second-hand market prices!
The resultant mix is seemingly timeless and swoops like a lazy bat in that skittering, only just viable way. Themes and ideas move quickly with an ancient logic. This resultant mist flows from abstract cloud-based longing to strict-military (like The Normal) or something. Parps and squelches may be damp as a used towel but are as far from a Tangerine Dream as you can imagine.
At times I feel John Carpenter’s corridors closing in on me…running from an unseen enemy going ‘blop, blop, blop’. Later on (on side two to be precise) the mud-bubbling wouldn’t be out of place at some seaside rave (circa ’94) but with the BPM’s seriously mogged out.
To add some ass-grit Ho makes sure we have a regular reference point; be it a rhythm or thin- recordings – a school choir, a black box recorder all nattering away in ever reliable German. This anchoring stops the tape floating away like analogue bubblebath but still leaves me delicious and squeaky clean.
As this cheeky tape clicks off I’m left with a very vivid visual after-image: steeped terraces, only a metre wide, but circling the fresh green mountain. Weird but exactly right eh?
Bart De Paepe – Twistkapel (No Basement is Deep Enough) C40 Tape x 2
~resplendent in a winged lung-shaped wallet that transforms into a lady’s face~
Totally zoned-out Space Rock/Kosmische as gentle as a cough syrup from the Sloow Tapes shagger.
Suitable for: fans of Japanese Psych, long winter evenings in front of the fire, daytime drinkers, foreign exchange students, light sleepers, bikers on a tea break, tree guardians, squat wizards and basically anyone else with a bit of time on their hands and the desire to break free and dig deep into the negative zone.
De Paepe is, I believe, responsible for all the guitars going ‘wah wah’ like an infant holding out a greasy palm. Some other jokers are ‘Tuckering’ the drums and tinkering on the occasional breathy and sizzling keyboard mung. Together, with the wide stereo sound and measured, almost agricultural, pace I’m thrust deep in the heart of the Euro-prog. I’m whiffing on the barley husks of Sylvester Anfang II, Parson Sound and International Harvester.
Each tune/piece/movement seems to get progressively more inward-focused until I’m lying, eyes closed tight, brain cogs spiralling in decreasing circles letting out a clear snake of drool.
Even without the double tape aspect this is l-o-n-g music to be lived in. Long in vision and scope, in length and near-constant solo…
What more is there to say? You wanna rock or you wanna die?
Bleek- Lay your Skull upon the Groundz of the Bleek Godz (No Basement is Deep Enough) C60 Cassette
~ avocado green tape in silky black purse, finger the slit and a bloodshot eye stares back at you ~
Two side-long jams of J-A-Z-Z from some Wolf-dong side-project. Oh yeah daddy!
If, like me, you like your fusion lumpy this will up-end ya, will flip ya. Caveman-primitive electronics wheeze and ralf in an asthmatic fashion but soaring above, proud like dope-stallions horn some horny horning. It’s all spraffed thru a limp echo box so that all important swing is multiplied again and again bouncing round my book-lined study as I nibble on a peanut.
Remember the time rock goons like MC5 and The Stooges really, really dug the free jazz? It’s got that same electric-jizz burning pure white in its veins but with one foot on the monitor. Let’s go!
Side one focuses on the distant horizon, eyes squeezed shut to keep out the wind. The horn wheels and keens while a rubber foot stomps out segments of time divided by soul-math. There’s a nobility and savagery to lengthy jams (30 mins or something) marking an endurance that’s damn shamanic. Drop the ‘shrooms and p-a-r-t-y.
Side two is altogether neater in a button-down shirt and braces with two guitars (Jared Left & Adam Right) strumming out spidery chords and brief ringing chimes. Wot…no sax? Be calm. Olson still blows his brass-stick while electronics sprout and climb like poison ivy.
Remarkably smooth – but tight enough to Kenny G your neighbours into submission.
Tags: amateur shoegaze, cam, constellation tatsu, crow versus crow, dictaphonics, emblems of cosmic disorder, feedback, grey guides, improvisation, joe murray, karl mv waugh, noise, skrat records, slayer, stuart chalmers, tape loops
Stuart Chalmers – In the Heart of Solitude (Constellation Tatsu)
Karl M V Waugh – Future Glows (Emblems of Cosmic Disorder)
Grey Guides – Beast Mask Supremacist (Crow versus Crow)
CAM – Mirror Confrontations (Skrat Records)
Stuart Chalmers – In the Heart of Solitude (Constellation Tatsu) cassette and Bandcamp download
Don’t know if it’s just me but this appears to be the perfect winter cassette of glum collisions. Imagine bad thoughts reverberating inside your skull; the sounds bounce and amplify and leave a sooty fingerprint. You shake your head but the dust remains however low and mellow the sun.
Regular readers will know Stuart manipulates tapes and tape loops with a sparse pedal set-up, mighty fists, secret knowledge and magical skill. But this time it’s not just the loopology that takes the starring role, it’s the singular tape content that snaps like an arrowroot biscuit.
Here Stuart uses Indian Swarmandal tapes pretty much exclusively for his palette adding a layer of glittering resonance and magnetic space to each gentle track.
The dulcimer-like tones vibrate and twang, sour as brass but with an unmistakable air of mystery. “Just what is behind those beaded curtains?” They seem to whisper, while a be-jewelled finger beckons you through a hidden door into a room heavy with musk.
I’m transported (can’t you tell?) but you need facts eh reader? The killer stand-out, the magnum opus has to be ‘reflection’. It shimmers like a Bagpuss episode viewed through sepia-specs. It builds slowly and metallically, fine interlocking coils spiralling ever tighter and tighter until sonic shrapnel bursts rudely from the shell.
There’s a slight panic, a speeding edge that propels each track into momentary discomfort. And it’s that intersection between mystic enlightenment and dangerous toppling that makes me come back again and again to this wonderful little tape.
OH YEAH…While we’re talking I’ve got to give an honourable mention to Tlon a fruity collaboration between Stuart Chalmers (cassette/pedals) and Liam McConaghy (synths). It’s now sold out in this realm but available for all you millennials on digital (e.g. not really there) editions. It’s boss alright but gone, gone, gone.
Karl M V Waugh – Future Glows (Emblems of Cosmic Disorder) Cassette and Bandcamp Download
Ultra atmospheric, lichen creeping from the South Coast’s very only K M V Waugh.
Lengthy opener ‘Fire snow (i), fire snow (ii), fresh grow’ stretches out as slow as bone growth. It starts slow and ends slow yet visits several distinct intervals on the journey: Meredith Monk on the Woodbines, bummed Didgeridoo guffs and the Electric Spanking (of war babies?).
Things grow darker on the even lengthier ‘Future glow (ii), final gravity’ that matches John Carpenter’s percussive judders over Space Odyssey’s floating-backwards-through-the-monolith-with-rainbow-brite-whurrrring . The disembodied voice offers no comfort.
Designed for the sort of snitchy mediation we can expect in today’s topsy-turvy world.
A statement? Perhaps. A coping mechanism? Very much so.
Plug in and remain alert!
Grey Guides – Beast Mask Supremacist (Crow versus Crow) Tape and bandcamp download
Encased in a top-notch Andy Wild photo-collage-art-piece (slate grey of course) this tape just fucking drips quality.
The Grey Guides hail from Morley outta Leeds and concentrate that satellite town dislocation that those city slickers just can’t replicate. The exquisite weirdness of the suburbs runs through this tape like mould in a stinky cheese.
The instrumentation is sparse. A gentle roaring (sounding rather like The Cramp’s Poison Ivy practising over in the next parish) becomes a backdrop over which indistinct keys, fetid tape grot and soft Dictaphone squelches hover on opener ‘One Eye Lower Than the Other’
The next two tracks, ‘Millipede in a Doll’s House’ and ‘Mushroom Heads are Turning’ are surely designed to spook; they come across like a Yorkshire Dead C with their sound-on-sound fullness, their squished-sonic wrongness. Black reverb ripples across backmasked guitar and throb in a fair approximation of a tape player actually throwing up; brown ribbons spiralling out, collecting in sticky ferric pools. It all ends in a grim repetition which baffles against broken ancient machinery. A woven howl (now sounding like a 16th generation tape of Kerry King’s amp fizz) smears as Gerhard Richter, using only charcoal tones and coal dust, comes up with his next masterpiece.
‘Just Burned Down a Care Home’ starts with some s-w-e-e-t tape-juggling, thumb on the soft pause squealing out fractured speech while that dude out the Cocteau Twins wonders why all his pedals now sound like elephant seals huffing petrol fumes.
Massed tape séance-traps are forced open on ‘Van Hoogstraten’s Big Pay Back: Gorton Poltergeist Revisited’ leaking thick magnetic ectoplasm with a “whurrr, whhorrr, whurrrr” rattling like an unsteady wind. It’s heady like good brandy.
Several ghostly interruptions later we happen upon the rarest of beasts, a No-Audience Underground cover version of a real-live tune (x2). The Grey Guides join the dots, reversed of course, between The Can and The Fall from a barely perceptible start; the faintest of pulses through to a garage-rock-recorded-through-codeine-infused-marshmallow finale.
I finally collapse to the unruly jaxx of ‘The Unlovely Acolyte Anointed at Last’ – Sidney Bechet clarinet played on Satan’s mouthparts and wonder. “Is this what passes for entertainment in Morley right now? “
Yeah it is?
Book me on the Mega bus boys…I’m coming down to jam!
These long-timers, Denmark’s enigmatic CAM, share six electronic improvisations with us on this classy vinyl offering.
It’s a noble three-piece set-up with Claus Poulsen, Anders Borup and Mads Bech Paluszewski-Hau on an encyclopaedic array of tapes, synth, processing, objects, things, toys, electronics and improbable occult practices.
Keen RFM-spotters will recognise the name Claus Poulsen from his work with Star Turbine (a duo with Sindre Bjerga – on tour in the UK late Feb/early March) but this is a very different animal to their ion-drive grit. CAM specialise in fast-moving tripod dialogue, texture and split-tooth wrangles ya’ hear.
The spirit of Northern Europe Improv is strong with strains of cold-dark hiss, low-frequency gloop and singular vocal hummings woven together in pan of steaming mind-think.
The six tracks on this el-pee make these impressions on my Swiss-cheese mind.
- Squiffy beats ba-da-bump like Saaaaalllllt n’ Peppppper over a humpin’ vox (heavy on a delay). Snatches of field-recorded atmosphere are tucked up nice with an analogue-warm wave; reverse-hissing seems to be become a new Olympic discipline as breath gets sucked out a puckered pair of lips.
- More moaning: a creaky bridge caught up in high wind. The cables sing sorrow in a thousand different voices. The damp thump of workboots crossing the swollen planks adds a steady beat. But what’s that I hear? The dreams of the factory workers hoping for sunnier Spring days.
- Uncertain hymns via Robert Wyatt’s fractured, dust-dry larynx. There’s a real Rockbottom vibe with that watery keyboard (a gift from Julie Christie) lapping gently at your stubby toes. The oyster grit comes in the form of treble-heavy child chatter and bubbling electronic slime.
- Primary tones/chalk sliding over wet slate/Babbit-bobble/wrenched petroleum
- Confrontations in the afternoon, seeping prose and dramatic static ripples – don’t go chasing waterfalls.
- Mind-over-matter becomes a group practice. Three individual voices hum the theme from ‘The Bridge’ in different timezones, accents and languages so voice two arrives before voice one and voice three has an acidic hangover. Deep as an oil well and twice as sticky.
OK Travellers…a reliable signpost might say Supersilent but I reckon these dudes are looser and, without doubt, DIY to the core.
Tags: Dating sites, Flandrew Fleisenberg, id m theft able, joe murray, Mang Disc, skot spear, Valentine's day
ID M THEFT ABLE – A Heart Named Spooky (Download from Skot’s profile on the OK Cupid Dating Site /or/ limited cassette available from (Mang Disc))
“Love! I can’t get enough of it” says that Jay-Z fella in Kanye’s Monster (2010) and I have a feeling that this THEFT ABLE, a similar giant of a man for sure, is of the same fluffy opinion.
He’s both crooner and loomer on ‘A Heart Named Spooky’, an album of piano-led ballads (yes really) released as a download on a genuine dating site – OK Cupid.
Gosh…that’s the facts ma’am. But what about all this damn lovin’ and a kissin’?
Skot-ABLE’s world has always been fluid and this collection is as hard to pin down as cherry vape smoke. It’s as diverse as love is broad so forgive me if I skip between warm hugs and a little gentle spanking.
The drift of ‘Blue and Yellow and Different Blue’ pitches a Burberry-soft voice over rolling piano, aching like Phil Collins always wanted you to. ‘Faded Sign’ a lamentation on memory is exactly halfway to becoming a player-piano tune in a Western brothel but with the clipped diction of Human Head’s Ben Knight.
The pieces ‘My Clothes They Never Fit Right’ and ‘A Heart That’s Gasp GASPING for Blood’ could be the middle-sections from vintage THEFT ABLE jams with goof-goof-grub schlurps and snickers; super wet and inviting. It’s stretching at the very limits of understanding and attention ya’hear!
A thin drone sets the tone for ABLE to practice his keening castrato over digital rubble making ‘I’ll Bet’ a bridge of a track. The ideal entry point for THEFT-watchers I’d wager; but slippery? You bet!
But it’s ‘A Bit of Trash, An Unspilled Flower’ that makes me mist-up and blub. This is a truly handsome nonsense, as forgiving as true love and therefore as blind as a bat. Each slurp and tinkle, each howl and arpeggio takes me make to a very, very specific stolen glance; an imperceptible nod from beneath sharp dark bangs that made my heart go ‘pop-pop-popeye’ back, way back, when I was loveable. (Sigh!)
Things end on the very damn poignant ‘A Valentine Late’, one minute fifty eight seconds of pure piano, guff-less, and concentrating on fingers totally. Beautiful anxiety.
With THEF_T on voice-moan, snap-judgments and sloppers only, a clear space is marked out for percussionist FLANDRE_W on collected steel detritus and novelty plastic beaters. I’m listening out for a regular trap set but just keep getting these junk-mechanic flowcharts appearing before my eyes. So be it.
From both gentlemen the watchword is reckless speed and demonic accuracy. ‘Beats’ are dropped like clumsy spoons going all ‘schlang-schalng’ as they wobble comically to rest on their fat bellies.
Rosy-cheeked squawks rumble like a rusty tenor blowing Fela Kuti horn charts deep in The Shrine! It’s a well-mixed match; a garment woven with care for sure but also a jittering confidence that puff-shoulders are making a dramatic comeback.
The pivotal track ‘My Life in a Bush of Ghosts. New Paltz. New York. 05.20.16’ made me really go ‘youk-youk’. I imagine ENO and that Talking Heads guy spraffing on about psychedelic Africa while THEFT and FLAND almost take off at the 4.23 mark paying homage to the Yoruba spirits. The skies open wide and safari fumes vibrate of the land in game-y crescents. For fans of the real here and now – don’t despair! This track is bookended with violent furniture-moving scrapes.
A student of DOUBLE DUTCH? Check out ‘The Lodge, Chester, New York 05.21.16’ for helix-skipping rhythms and rhymes hymned perfecto!
In fact the energy doesn’t even begin to drop until the thoughtful, melancholic closer ‘553 Warren Street, New York 05.22.16’. As benefits a final artistic statement it goes in heavy on the water-filled baking tray, mournful bell ring and asthmatic goose-honks. Perfectly balanced…light and shade innit?
But…whatever the political climate it’s worth checking out IDM’s bottom drawer for any junk you might have missed. You could do worse that HINT HINT, plant your feet on Babb’s Bridge, for example NUDGE NUDGE.
This communication ends baby!
Memories reworked and remembered again: Sophie Cooper on Anla Courtis and Vollar/Murray Tag Team on Culver versus Fordell Research UnitFebruary 6, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
Tags: alan courtis, anla courtis, argentina, culver, drone, field recording, fordell research unit, heavyness, joe murray, luke vollar, noise, sophie cooper
Anla Courtis – Antofagasta (Beartown Records) CD
I’ve wanted to listen to the music of Anla Courtis for ages after reading that big article about him in The Wire, so I was thrilled to see this new CD by him on the Midwich review pile released by Beartown Records.
And a bloody good job of it they’ve done too!
I know Beartown for their distinctively packaged tapes mostly; high contrast photography, photocopied in black and white sleeves and this packaging carries on this artistic precedent but takes it to a very pro looking level. The artwork features Courtis’ own blurry shots of scenic views, which I assume, are of the area of Argentina that the music is concerned with.
The CD comes with a sweet ‘cut out and keep’ style individual photograph and a nice reworking of one of Courtis’ images treated with the Beartown technique. Really great work, I’m surprised they only printed 50 of these but anyway…
The music contained within this lovely packaging has been created using Courtis’ cassette-made field recordings dating back to 1998. According to the sleevenotes these were then sat on for almost 10 years, made into something else, and then were left for almost another 10 years until Beartown released them. Lucky for us that they did.
Recorded in an area of Argentina called Antofagasta these 4 long tracks depict intricate and meditative recollections of place. I was thinking it must be really interesting to come back to recordings made of a place so long after the event and then try to rework them into something totally different. For me, sound evokes memory. If anything is going to transport you back it’ll be a sound (or a smell, I’ve experienced this once or twice) and I wondered how much of the original trip Courtis would have actually remembered aside from what he heard on these tapes.
After such a long time does memory have anything to do with it anymore? Can the sound just be treated as what it is, a sound, or would the memories come rushing back and be important enough again to inform the piece? The track titles are named after the area, 1, 2, 3 and 4 . Are we to imagine Antofagasta based on this music?
Don’t get me wrong though, these are not postcards, nor are they straight-up field recordings. Interesting elements of the recordings have been weeded out, changed and manipulated into retellings of events. On the 4th track Courtis has utilised every field recordist’s nightmare, wind, and transformed it into a whirling sound tornado, a windy nightmare!
It’s not all nightmarish however, scraps and pulls of objects layered up and played back repeatedly form lush sonic dreams, track 3, in particular, is beautiful. From an outsider’s perspective, the 1st track is the one most likely recognised as an original event. You can make out man made noises: vehicle sounds, revs of engines and distant voices.
As the CD progresses it feels as through you slowly lose a sense of reality as those first recordings become more fragmented and obscure.
Memories reworked and remembered again.
Culver: Prisoner of F.R.U (Know Your Enemy) Limited edition cassette and Bandcamp Download
My Word! This collaboration tape from Edinburgh’s Fordell Research Unit messing freely with and augmenting Gateshead’s Culver was always going to be a heavy example of neat sarcophagus music – but I wasn’t expecting 4AD-levels of such beautiful fullness.
It is not the first time that Culver and Fordell Research Unit have joined forces; indeed Fraser Burnett (FRU) has made no secret of his admiration of the deep influence that Culver has played in his own music. As someone who has followed both acts for some time now I would propose that this is (if it ever was) not an unequal balance, Lee is no longer sensei to Frasers clumsy roundhouses, more of an equal partner who can stand back, solemnly running his fingers through his beard as Fraser executes an impeccable routine of high kicks, deadly punches and overall karate Zen whilst illuminated in the copper glow of a setting sun.
Fraser is joined on this project by sometime member Grant Smith, another Edinburgh gonk serving times in Muscletusk (Yeah!) and Shareholder (Hell Yeah!). It has been told that the two pored over the encrypted texts from the North East whilst enshrouded in intoxicating vapours, being sure to keep their chalices full at all times.
And so as the mission was passed onto Fraser so must it now be passed onto Grant if he is ever to grasp the weight of this devotional music. Whether in collaboration with Fraser or by himself; what we hear is Fraser standing back in admiration as the young Jedi levitates a series of metal bowls and discs in a room of deep red velvet amidst shrouds of sandalwood incense.
Sowatchyahearin’ ‘Torch Needles’ is a ripe fig glistening with fragrant, sticky juice // OR // It’s the silvery snakes in Donny Darko plunging through an eggy Turner painting. With a slow rudeness they show off their blubbery muscles. What we left with? A very flexible riot!
‘Weak Will’ and ‘What Does She Watch?’ are touched by a delicate vapour trail petrified then doused in dark glitter. Light is reflected back for sure but at eccentric, unnatural angles illuminating the dusty corners and forgotten stairwells of a cross channel ferry: a periphery of sound construction as dangerous and inviting as the below deck engineering.
The grim maritime theme continues in ‘Telepathic Torture’. A creaking nameless ship cuts through a freezing fog, as vile oily water laps mockingly at the crumbled veneer of the battered vessel. What remains of the crew stare with haunted and stricken eyes. They are little more than walking carcasses starved and half mad from many sea-bound days of cold misery. As the yellow acrid fog starts to part they see land in the distance, strange and unfamiliar but land none the less, perhaps it is here that the crew will find salvation though they know not where they are and how they came to be there…
Yikes! My first ever drone raga is revealed in the backwards-metallic-skullfuck of ‘Shark’. Those bass-clouds are looming, heavy and pregnant and once again the epithet ‘devotional’ stands out clearly. A submission to the one true god of drone!
But the enveloping hiss of ‘Head Serpent’ is a gentle closer. Soft tape micro-scribbles pepper and voosh about the place; presently an aching tone is gingerly inserted like a steel cannula until, in the dying seconds, it’s rudely wrenched out and the claret starts to drip, drip, drip.
A wise man once said,
“To understand the sounds that nourish the mind is to study the true path, to know truly what it is that you need, and what you don’t need, and to shed off the layers that weigh you down.”
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!!!