kenny g your neighbours. a no basement is deep enough special: joe murray on kito mizukumi rouber, ho turner, bart de paepe and bleek

February 21, 2017 at 3:23 pm | Posted in no audience underground, not bloody music | Leave a comment
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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!

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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.

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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?

Best grab this one now as Entr’ acte have a brace of Ho. tapes (also mastered by digital-druid Marc Behrens like this offering) out there too so it’s only time before tape war begins.

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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?

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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.

No Basement is Deep Enough

-ooOOOoo-

kerry king’s amp fizz: joe murray on stuart chalmers, karl m v waugh, grey guides and cam

February 17, 2017 at 7:24 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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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)

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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.

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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!

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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!

cam

CAM – Mirror Confrontations (Skrat Records) Vinyl LP and digital album

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.

 

Constellation Tatsu

Emblems of Cosmic Disorder

Crow Versus Crow Universe

SKRAT Records

-ooOOOoo-

a crooner and a loomer, st valentine’s day special: joe murray on id m theft able

February 14, 2017 at 11:04 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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spooky-theft

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.

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ID M THEFT ABLE & Flandrew Fleisenberg – Paying $10/an Hour to Dig a Hole in Monroe (Bandcamp Download and cassette on Mang Disc)

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!

Muuurrrrr…WAH!

theft

 

Mang Disc

Theft Able Bandcamp

-ooOOOoo-

Memories reworked and remembered again: Sophie Cooper on Anla Courtis and Vollar/Murray Tag Team on Culver versus Fordell Research Unit

February 6, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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anla_courtis__antofagasta_cdAnla 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.

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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.”

Nuff said.

 

Beartown Records

Know Your Enemy

-ooOOoo-

the 2016 zellaby awards

January 27, 2017 at 1:46 pm | Posted in blog info, musings, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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zellaby award envelope

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.]

—ooOoo—

Firstly, RFM’s new recruit Joe Henderson takes the opportunity to introduce herself:

capsules

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. 

—ooOoo—

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.

for-marlo

3. #pizzagate

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

—ooOoo—

Luke Vollar now joins us via the open window to bellow about the stuff he likes:

junk-seance

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.

xx

—ooOoo—

Next, Chrissie Caulfield with the trademark thoughtful enthusiasm that always has me clicking through:

furchick

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.

—ooOoo—

Joe Murray himself takes a bullet-pointed turn:

five-mile

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?

—ooOoo—

sofs-video

…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?

—ooOoo—

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.

vol-5

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.

—ooOoo—

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?]

jbnc

Bronze: Julian Bradley and Neil Campbell – FOR LILA O

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.

hqef

Silver: Helicopter Quartet – Electric Fence

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.

eotvb

Gold: East of the Valley Blues – EOVTB

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:

So… can I play this next to Ry Cooder & Vishwa Mohan Bhatt’s sublime A Meeting by the River?  Does it hold its own beans compared to Phil Tyler’s exquisite banjo snaffle?

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.

—ooOoo—

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.

—ooOoo—

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.

—ooOoo—

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

100_4233

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!!!

—ooOoo—

leather duck, baklava bullet, wrecked snail: joe murray on tapes from tutore burlato

November 23, 2016 at 4:26 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Triple Heater – Aurochs (tape, Tutore Burlato, #15)

Tom White – Commemoratives (tape, Tutore Burlato, #14)

TR/ – Amici di Filippo (tape, Tutore Burlato, #13)

The Custodians – Moribund Mules and Musket Fire (tape, Tutore Burlato, #12)

Usurper with Alex Drool, Maya Dunietz, Eran Sachs and Ilan Volkov – untitled (tape, Tutore Burlato, #16)

tb15

Triple Heater – Aurochs

Not a three-o but a two-oh!  This new pairing from Tutore Burlato High Priest, Ezio Piermattei and the supple-limbed-totem-pole F Ampism flaps at the ears like a leather duck.

Students of the WTF scene can already imagine the smooth Tiki-delic jungle vibes and Red City grit yeah?  But what this charming tape does so well is place the scribble-scrabble gently in a perfumed mango’s peppery slickness.

So a bagpipe meshes seamlessly with egg-slicer, a warped tape workout wetly dribbles into a pink sponge.  Those robot-voice toys are underpinned with a twisted groaning and wrenched knot work.

Voices; children’s voices, male and female voices are a recurring warble that change the emotional resonance of every rattle and honk.  Each piece remains human as a result, the occasional frenetic crackle an umlaut or other such punctuation.  YEAH… I’m picking up a master’s hand in the edit suite ensuring each piece is a perfect mix of wet and dry, organic and man-made.

But it’s not all high-octane, fingers-on-triggers yucks.  These gents are not afraid to whip out a haunting beauty-jam.  ‘Telamoni Curiosi’ has a rich drawn-out slowness; the kind that floods through your body like hot opium immediately before you have an accident.  You’re powerless to stop the door crunch the finger, the heel slip on the banana peel but in that moment of submission you taste the bitter tang of true happiness.

The perfect music to accompany images of Oscar Niemeyer’s Brasilia dream.

tb14

Tom White – Commemoratives

As 2016 continues to be that damn Tom White’s year this cassette might just be the best one yet readers.

The nosey will know the drill already; a reel-to-reel tape recorder is used to manually manipulate a loop of innocent brown tape; possibly a few pedals get pressed.  Sounds easy enough, eh?

But on Commemoratives Tom’s gritty palms are transferring some kind of magnetic-manna to the slowly looping sound resulting in remarkable acrobatic leaps and whorls absolutely RIPPING out of the speakers like a sweet baklava bullet.

There’s a depth, a real colon-churning depth, to how these sounds roll bilious and tight.  And just when you’re feeling fit to burst a cow-bell ‘K-LUNG’ bouncing between the speakers rattles you back into the world of flat stomachs and healthy greens.

The excellent side-long ‘Evoke a Yes’ drives Alpine cattle from their lush pasture through granular hair-pin bends; a single brassy ‘donk’ becomes the repeated motif lurching drunkenly on the local firewater until a chrome trebuchet hurls great gassy grenades into the steaming tar pits . But at the same time I’m minded of an early tape music boffin, wrapped up in labcoat and thick Clark Kents, dancing to this in his cluttered broom cupboard.

Performance-wise there is nothing held back and at times I’m pretty sure a block of particularly hectic loopery has sent me back in time a couple of seconds… a couple of seconds… a…

A powerful and heady brew that even when it’s doing nothing in particular is re-calibrating your brain-pod with subtly shifting patterns – a sly parquet interlocking those lazy synapses.

tb13

TR/ – Amici di Filippo

A right beanfeast this one – comforting and creamy.

‘Sabato’ starts with thick slapback-echo riffles over electronic-sand, creating waves of

wuhhuhuhuuhu…

Pietro La Rocca’s lumpy canvas to paint up with Patrycja Stefaneck’s wonderful smeared voices.

Things progress at a wrecked snail’s pace: the canvas becomes laced ribbons of liquorice empowered with a mystic charge; the voice gobbles and mutters, wriggles and stutters slathered like golden butter.

Side two opens with something akin to a song but in this instance the campfire we are sitting around has been built of oleander creating choking, hallucinogenic fumes.  Urgently strummed guitars stretch their steel strings to the horizon, shimmering like a Fripp-mirage while gentle disembodied voices float overhead.

The closer, ‘Digitale Terrestre’ pulls all these elements together in a light sketch, an open doodle of huffing and mithering.  Innocent squeaks escape and fly between the massed mouth-chunter. This time it’s the guitar that floats overhead, darting in and out of the weft like a stickleback – silvery but sharp enough to draw blood.  These enhanced throat and lips have a Residents-style quality and I’m half expecting to launch into an Infant Tango before long.

You want some sweet to go with that gravy?  Look no further than duo TR/.

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The Custodians – Moribund Mules and Musket Fire

Radio 4.

Radio-o-o fo-o-or.

R’aid-eeeeee-oh oh oh oh oh            fuh, fuh, fuh                          Or?

Forgive my brief extrapolation but these Custodians (just plain Custodians on this tape – not ‘of the Realm’ as on the previous outings I’ve heard) serve up a classy dish that breaks apart that British institution of cosy improv and spoken word like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, leaving 12 dense segments splayed and easily snackable.

Their M.O. involves occasional multi-tracked speaking parts weaving between Adam Bohman’s carefully curated sonic-detritus, Adrian Northover’s saxes and synth and Sue Lynch’s tenor sax and lyrical reeds.

It’s a truly wonderful listen; light, airy and unhurried.  You just can’t fake the love and respect in this playing.  It’s clearly defined yet ego-less, economical but happy to gild the occasional corner.

Each player, a standout in their own right, dons the collective cap with aplomb so shimmering brass sings and croons, often swooping in the wake of a wagtail’s gentle undulations.  The ‘objects’ (large glasses bowed and combs teeth pinged with a thumb for example) add just exactly the right level of clutter and stroking to keep things tasty.

The text pieces seem to follow Adam Bohman’s ‘instructional/institutional’ approach with medical terms dropping from three mouths like ripe plumbs.

It couldn’t be more English if it wore a bowler hat.

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Usurper with Alex Drool, Maya Dunietz, Eran Sachs and Ilan Volkov – untitled

Here the brothers Duff & Robertson are joined by Tel Aviv’s finest for some surprisingly tender hap, grapple and schooshh.

I guess the temptation with such a big-band is go the full Ellington and honk it up outta each loud hole.  But on this occasion, and I’m not sure if it’s the brothers instructions or our host’s impeccable manners, these side-long pieces balloon like parachute silk and float with nowt but a gentle ripple.

Side one.  I’m getting a tingle in my loins that suggests method.  Old bronze coins dropped with arthritic fingers, cold marbles rolled across the wooden floor, straw flutes blown listlessly, burbling electric soup (sans batteries), rocking chairs rough squall, soft mouths chanting under flannel vests and knitting needles wrapped in sellotape tapped against the kitchen table.  These bare-bones are constantly reinvented and realigned.

I’m getting signals in my lugs that indicate structure.  A gentle moraine, its gritty interconnectedness based on Turkish carpet patterns.  Twelve hands reaching out and six brains sparking with damp electricity.   A bustling village of gossip coming to rest at the end of a particularly busy day.

The nervous rustle of bodies and fingers has an ingrained tension, of course, because (SPOILER ALERT) the moneyshot never arrives!  If you’re waiting to see who’s going to crack first and ‘blah’ out forget it Bub, this is one saucy tease yeah?

Side two is hardly any more physical but wears its influences proudly in a collective throat-jam.

Dry coughs and sighs and huffs are double-bubbled to form a bivalve experience: left and right unite in slurpy kisses on stubbly cheeks.  I picture our sacred six stretched out on roman loungers dripping sweet grape cheek-parps and wet gonzo hawks.  The odd spare hand languorously rattling a tin fig or ripping off an elastoplast completes a decadent sound-image.

I riff on the chorus of grunts.  I goof on the collective harmonic gasp. We follow the da-dada-dada-da-da conversation; until ‘uh uh errr…’ it descends into laugher as a Pangolin snuffles for truffles.

The real true joy yeah!

—ooOoo—

Tutore Burlato

tin apples: joe murray on kiko c. esseiva, sisto rossi, dale cornish, phil julian, murray royston-ward

November 10, 2016 at 1:29 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Kiko C. Esseiva – Zenith Larsen/Nadir Larsen (tape, SPAM, spam20, edition of 50)

Sisto Rossi – Soundtrack To A Nailed Shut Coffin (tape, SPAM, spam19, edition of 40)

Dale Cornish and Phil Julian – Laughing Out (7″ vinyl, The Wormhole, WHO#07, edition of 123 or download)

Murray Royston-Ward – My Neighbour Who Lives in the City of Mirrors near My House (2 x 32 page booklets and CD-r, edition of 80, privately published)

Murray Royston-Ward – Language is a Virus (16 page booklet and CD-r, edition of 30, privately published)

Murray Royston-Ward – Improvisations 2014 (28 page booklet, edition of 50, privately published)

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Cologne’s SPAM tapes introduces me, yet again, to a bunch of whacked-out sound-goats who’ve been chugging on at this lark for ages.  I’m blind and I’m humbled!

Kiko C. Esseiva, a Swiss/Spanish electro-acoustic artist is first out of the traps with a mysterious pot of gunk inlaid with grease, buzz and tin apples.

The two sidelong pieces (‘Zenith Larsen’ and ‘Nadir Larsen’) crackle with a fairly dark energy, juggling taped grot with live (or live sounding) interventions on cracked gongs and bicycle wheel.

Like eavesdropping on a light machinery workshop the sounds move to their own logic, cutting out and starting up when the unseen controller sees fit.  You’ve just got to keep your fingers clear of the whirling blades eh?  But this never sounds grim… almost at the end of side one there’s a glorious smear of ant-noise and cyborg humming that makes me click my fingers like I’ve remembered an old magic trick.

Side two (‘Nadir…’) is a thoughtful huff on brass pipe and fingernail tap until some unholy voice-jugger/vibrating clam starts a magnetic earthquake in my stomach. Gosh!  This is warped and holy.  Magnificent and almighty! I’m having a bit of an experience here as I dash about looking for my headphones to inject this straight into my hungry holes.

Of course, the unseen hand turns a dial and we are left in a land of shingle, mournful keys and wretched whirring. Hey… there are worse ways to spend an afternoon right?

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Harsh Noise thinker and instrument builder Sisto Rossi (AKA Wallkeeper) wins today’s prize for evocative tape title with his Soundtrack To A Nailed Shut Coffin.

What would you expect from a tape like this reader?  Claustrophobic screams? Stiff-armed wriggles and cramped-leg stomps? Bloodied fingernail scratch?  Yeah… me too.  But I have to report this tape, while stunningly intense and full-on, is almost nihilistically detached in its approach.

Sure the buffering roar of noise is filtered into your skull along with the odd broken-crockery rattle but it’s all constructed with a feeling of impotent dread, a slackness, a ‘lost cause’ lassitude that’s strangely affecting.

While occasional electronic squalls add a high-end to the relentless churning and asphalt-grazing thunder the base-note is those personal dark thoughts; those repetitive nightmares made so real you can smell the damp earth.

The closing moments capture the last fleeting thoughts of expiration – part relief and part regret; bright as 1000 fires but burning out to dead ash in micro-seconds.

The sound of lying broken, six feet under and simply giving up.

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From grimy analogue hopelessness to bright digital cleanliness with Dale Cornish and Phil Julian on their super snappy li’l seven-incher Laughing Out.

The title side absolutely crackles with the sort of power and energy that winds up in a filthy-dirty joke told in the Vatican.

Shared electronics spit goat fat.  It’s dripping wetly on hot coals while Dale sneers it out.

It’s a guffaw in cuisine

he snarls, leading the dear listener on a hectic goose-chase around slack-littered city streets and the hidden canyon of dreams we project onto whatever our reality is right now.

But this is in no way ‘dream-y’ readers.  The poise and shimmer is as solid as a beard trim and ultra-sarcastic like the very best Glam Rock.  There’s still a pair of hobnail boots beneath all that glitter, eh?

The ‘b’ side offers us two shorter ham-slaps.  ‘For Vocal’ mimics the shattering of optic nerves, made of bruised ice, against a brass pitchfork.  Yeah!  Very brittle, incredibly sharp and super-cold.

The closer, ‘Palazzo’, starts with a dark pulse but soon morphs into a mini mystery play for baritone voice and tight crime-beats.

Can you hear? Can you hear?

The whole thing, sides ‘a’ and ‘b’, clock in at under 6 minutes; the perfect brevity of a paper cut or punk gob.

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Taken as a piece of found-sound-art-off-the-pile Murray Royston-Ward’s My Neighbour Who Lives in the City of Mirrors near My House is an impressive enough document.

It shudders and ripples, it pops and whines in all the right places.  But add to this the rich Bangladeshi field recordings data in the accompanying booklets, outlining Murray’s journey from leafy Nottingham to the other side of the world, and you’re adding another peppering of intention and understanding.

On ‘A Very Small Guernica Facing a Rather Large Mona Lisa’ these augmented recordings (a rethinking of what silence actually is) feature the constant urban horn section of tuk-tuks and taxi cabs punctuating Murray’s iron-coated dragnet like exploding garlands.

Let’s be clear, Murray’s a master of the clink and rattle: on ‘Topos of Intrusive Sound’ the carefully placed metallic object, dropped shoe or Pringles tube shuffle in and out of your earhole with a customary jolliness.  Murray’s top trump has always been his inclusion of careful humour into this sometimes stuffy improv world.

But the mood darkens (unsurprisingly) at the ‘Slaughter Livestock Festival’; excited crowds chatter while suspicious cows gingerly cotton on.  Every sound becomes pregnant with meaning. A quite innocent washing makes me think of thick red blood sluuushing down the dusty street, a metallic ‘shing-g-g’ the sharpening of a blade.  At twelve minutes this is an unbearably tense listen.

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Language is a Virus, a 28 minute spoken word/reportage collage, concerns the myths, prejudices and reality of Ebola; not only the disease itself but its socio-political impact.  What makes this hit even harder is the fact source material was gathered by Holly Royston-Ward, Murray’s wife, during her work as a nurse in Sierra Leone.  Harrowing, thought-provoking and informative.  No smart Alec remarks from me (for once), all I’m going to say is check this out here.

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Finally, an honourable mention goes out to Improvisations 2014, an artist book of photographs, locations, timings and instrumentation for imagined improvisations.  An interesting experiment, it invites the ‘listener’ to imagine combinations: spring, metal chain, cassette player, prayer cymbal, bait packaging (for example) with no recorded sound to back it up.  I’m getting a plink/boing/screee/crackle from this list.  What about you?

Take a trip with Murray but be sure to flick through images of a 70’s Alan Whicker to get the dislocation vibe spot on.

—ooOoo—

SPAM

The Wormhole

Murray Royston-Ward

chasing the unnatural: joe murray on graham stewart, brendan mcgeever, 21st century band, downer canada, graham dunning, tom white

November 4, 2016 at 1:26 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Graham Stewart & Brendan McGeever – Larsson Sessions (tape, Piped-in From Head Office Records, pifho007, edition of 41 or download)

21st Century Band – Dinner Free (tape, no label – or not, see editor’s note below)

Downer Canada – Hieronsong (microcassette, tape, Power Moves Library, PMLibrary 010, edition of 5, edition of 11 or download)

Graham Dunning & Tom White – You Are a New Creature (tape or download, Fractal Meat Cuts, initial edition of 10 with hand-printed lasagne sheet)

larsson

Graham Stewart & Brendan McGeever – Larsson Sessions

It’s the tradition for hacks like me to drop them Blade Runner references coz it’s such an N-AU universal [Editor’s note: as a life-long PKD fan and former PKD obsessive, I think Blade Runner is shite, not a patch on the existential masterpiece it is ‘inspired’ by].  Blah, blah, blah – Replicants and Vangelis yeah!  But for once I want to tweak the paradigm and re-imagine the rainy streets and heavy manners for a pastel-smeared over-the-rainbow, Studio Ghibli version.  In my imagining folk are retired with a big hug, the noodles come with a side order of foam bananas and the massive Greek gets turfed out the studio to allow Stewart and McGeever to tinkle on the slack plastic keys [Editor’s note: that would be better, f’sure].

What we gets here is a set of micro-songs and themes all played lightly on the Roland System 100 Model 101 and Korg Poly 800 exactly in the middle of 2004; predating Oneohtrix and his goons by 8 seasons at least (by my cheesy reckoning).

Soft and delightful.  The wobble floats upwards, the digital purring of a cat shifts into a light sprinkle of icing sugar dusting your cheeks.  A brave world is glimpsed through the cotton candy fug, orange and pink and red, the colour melts onto your tongue chasing the unnatural.  A most gentle voice, tones almost under the threshold of my hearing, instantly turning the instrumental studies into something approaching the Scottish Air!

Zoinks!  It’s rare I listen to anything so self-consciously pretty.  Sure, there is rough and fragile beauty a-plenty in ‘da scene’ but these deliberate constructions of a blunted, golden sunlight chimes perfectly with me on a cold autumn morning.  My word!  These warm pools of analogue colour splodge with a tranquillity rare in this day and age; the hopscotch skipping makes my toes jolly ranchers.

While critics goof on that arch Stranger Things parade… the coolest boys in school have been digging out the archive and pulling out the real thing.

Get lucky.

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21st Century Band – Dinner Free

[Editor’s note: as this tape was chucked directly into the rabbit warren where Family Posset live I have never actually seen it.  The discogs listing gives that name and title and says it is without label.  However, almost every picture the internet associates with it suggests it could also be called ‘Masochism’ and be released by Vitrine with the catalogue number VT18 in an edition of 100.  As we are diligent journos here at RFM I demanded photos from Joe and received the above.  Unused J-cards being recycled?  In-joke?  ‘Art’?  Who knows, eh?  Those scamps!]

I’m guessing you sound-sorcerers ken THE VOICE OF THE MYSTERONS yeah?  All that booming echo that explodes outta nowhere yet still casts a circular shadow?  Ever imagined THE MYSTERONS washing up, fixing a bicycle tyre or rattling around just for the jaxx of it?

21st Century Band (or perhaps it’s Masochism, also mentioned on the tape sleeve) taps right into this Martian telekinetic vibe and sets up a broadcast of damp clanging and the glug-glug-glug of a jug-band decanting their tear-stained blues.

Events are fractured from their reality belt.  Without an eye we are left rather loose in our understanding and this, my dearest reader, is what makes Dinner Free so gloriously slack and comfy.

I can project any sordid thoughts onto this soft creamy expanse of recorded fuh.  So much so, when the one-note keyboard pads like the soft foot of a toddler I’m so deep, I’m so immersed it all sounds natural and right.  The plastic flute – natural and right.  The brief Hawaiian TV snappet – natural and right  (Side A – ‘New Sensations’).

Side B – ‘Kyoko on Yoko’, makes even less sense.  Someone is reading a Dennis Wheatley novel and acting out the opening ritual scene which would be scary if the Satanists weren’t so damn posh.  Who’s ever been spooked by a dandy Satanist?

But, I have to admit, the squeal of the wheel has a swing like Jaki Liebezeit – even the tugboat horn solo could be a cowbell.  Even the juddering machine soundz could be floor toms slapped with rubber teats.

A real tickler (‘Hidden Tracks’) rigs up the exact sound of an English back-bedroom; cracked pipes (laid out on a wooden chair) and Woolworths guitar with that distinctive watery treble. It fair takes me back to the smell of fanzine ink  – Grim Humour and the Kent massive!

hieronsong

Downer Canada – Hieronsong

Hyper-real tape pieces from the multi-limbed Kev Cahill that came out on a damn micro-cassette! It’s sold out now, in this rarest of formats, but there’s no excuse not to point a squeaky mouse at the download option.

We’re talking 30 minutes of delicious hiss and human breath here.

Part one sounds like a lo-fi take on Steve Reich classic ‘Come Out’ recorded on a cross channel ferry.  The

speaking, dreaming, lucid, vision

refrain loops incessantly, folding back on itself, building up layers of meaning then squeezing them flat like word toothpaste out from a tube.  The listening experience is strangely comforting, your mind wanting a rhythm to settle but edgily excited by each new juxtaposition thrown up the wonderful (dis)symmetry of loop-music.

Part two fuzzes deliciously for a third of its lifespan; there’s nothing much happening apart from the busy fizz of magnetic tape buffering across the simple mechanics of dual tape players and the sound of a real live room.  But as I’m getting settled into a Jazzfinger frame-of-mind multiple wooden flutes parp with jittery menace across the landscape. These ‘pipes of pan’ induce a real panic, a loss of control and feeling of unease that’s hard to shake.  Not sure if it’s the tone or the collapsing logic that is so unsettling here but I breathe out again only when a firm finger presses ‘stop’ and the ritual clicks off.

File under shipping-forecast-peyote-trip music.

new-creature

Graham Dunning & Tom White – You Are a New Creature

A magpie-eyed borrower and reel-to-reel druid are joined by saucy neophytes on both ‘crisps’ and ‘rice spill’ for ‘Battle Overall Perspectives’, a lengthy vexation that takes up all of side one.

Rattle-hula and rimple-roll eh?

That’s right!  Simple crackle and rippage is run across slack mag-heads while CO2 is bubbled through warm milk (blub,blub,blub) making the edge of it smell suspiciously fruity.  There’s a pet lip protruding as the nimble fingers tackle crispy potato snacks and mash sticky rice with gummy mouths.

The sound-scape runs between ‘impossibly busy’ to ‘sparse and spooky’ like an inner city carpark over the course of its stale concrete day.  And it’s these movements; the transitions that make me roll over and cry ‘Uncle!’  Such plastic crackles are not uncommon in the N-AU (see Robert Ridley’s latest Tupperwave ) but the damn languor of the knuckle pops is glorious.  Glorious ya hear?

Interlaced: stray moments of crowd noise, a piano, more crisps and knotty knocks… then an ill wind blows.  We’ve moved to a very different terrain.  The ‘fi’ is shoved up high into your face and the dry and brittle becomes sleek and oil-filmed.  I’m seabird drowning in black gold.

If there’s not an ecological message I’m damn well chalking one up.  My slow-brain ruminates on nasty packaging and unnecessary filling, those string bags for oranges, tin pie dishes and the grot you have to wrench off a jar of Dolmio before you can douse your pasta in that crimson gloop.

The gummy mouths strike back in ‘Raking Leaves on Black Top’ (side B) with a filthy nosh of sloshing, rushing and warped crotchets.

A studio piece, this revels in heavy echo and thick textures creating a sly narcotic effect potent as Scientist’s Space Invaders dunked into a frothing burn, brook or beck.

And while I’m typing away, the increasingly unhinged ‘flup, flupp, puppp… whirrrrrrr, flup,pup, pup’ of mangled tape really starts to fidget at the edges of my vision.  I get audio hallucinations; I see a tunnel and my lips tremble.  A wheelbarrow of melons trundles by, scarlet ivy grows up my trouser leg.  This really is some Live at the Filmore East joint.  My gosh!

But this psychedelic vibe is well and truly bummed on closer ‘Reville Bugle Call’ by pitting those ‘Sounds of Death and Horror’ sound effects el-pees against the incidental Foley from an episode of Space 1999 with all their sexy catsuits and leotards.  I’m sat up straight and paying strict attention as the vortex of shrieks and damp piano sustains my crystal plumage.

Dunning & White.  Jokers maybe, explorers for sure – but watch out for the sharpened key hidden between the fingers.  I said watch it!

—ooOoo—

21st Century Band / Vitrine – Be resourceful.

Piped-in From Head Office Records

Power Moves Library

Fractal Meat Cuts

radiofreemidwich goes to tusk festival 2016

October 23, 2016 at 8:22 pm | Posted in live music, midwich, musings, new music, no audience underground | 8 Comments
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TUSK Festival 2016, Sage Gateshead, October 14 – 16

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Hmmm… ‘Long, Authoritative List Of Everything That Happened’? Nah, not really my style. How about ‘Epic Musing On Life, Music And What It All Means’? Oof, maybe later.

Let’s just start with the car.

Dan(iel Thomas – well known in this parish) kindly agreed to drive me, Sarah and Lisa to our digs in Newcastle. Here we are setting off:

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Dan looking handsome, a vision in stubble, Sarah in holiday mode, Lisa appalled at Sarah’s story about someone whose retina fell out and me giving it some cheek. What could go wrong, eh? Well, Dan’s back is crook and went into spasm on the A19. At one point I had to shift gears for him because he couldn’t reach down to the stick. Given that I only hold a license to drive an automatic this was a fraught moment that I had to be talked through. Still, my slight embarrassment was as nothing to the agony Dan was clearly suffering. After gliding into some grim services so Dan could walk it off, Sarah drove the rest of the way.

Luckily, when we arrived a retinue of servants rushed to carry Dan into the fluffy opulence of Malmaison and I was roughly directed to Premier Inn, where I would be KEEPING IT REAL. As I trundled the wheelie case containing my band and my clothes along Quayside the air started to crackle. I looked up and saw – fuck me! – the trio of Mike ‘Xazzaz’ Simpson, Lee ‘Culver’ Stokoe and MIGUEL ‘SKULL MASK’ PEREZ walking towards me (all in black, natch).

Is this Rob? This is Rob!

Miguel said, lunging in for the bear hug.  Mike, who refuses to be photographed despite being a strikingly handsome guy, helpfully took this soon-to-be-iconic picture. Left to right: Miguel, me, Lee.  Tyne Bridge in the background.  Cool, eh?

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I’ve already written something about how important Miguel’s visit is to me and will return to the theme later so for now I’ll keep to the narrative.  Suffice to say I have rarely, if ever, seen anyone so pleased to be somewhere.  The huddle broke up so Miguel could soundcheck and I could settle into my (actually very pleasant) hotel room.

Soon I was trotting back over the Millennium Bridge to Gateshead and up the fuckloads of steps you need to climb to get to Sage:

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My feelings about Sage were fluid and contradictory.  On some levels it is profoundly impressive – an arts-for-all enterprise on a huge scale, proudly publicly funded, run by friendly and enthusiastic staff – but at other times it felt like a vast airport lounge from a Ballardian near-future dystopia.  From across the river it looks like a reclining figure from the title sequence of a cheapo James Bond knock-off (‘Silverfinger’?), on the inside it’s a Duplo play set, lit in sugary, boiled sweet colours.  For a structure so enormous it has little heft.  I could easily imagine the giant struts (one is cutting across the corner of the first picture below) hauling back the whole silver facade on a sunny day, like opening a roll-top bread-bin.  I did get pretty comfortable (institutionalised?) over the three days but there was definitely culture shock to contend with.

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An example: as I entered Hall 2, the main TUSK venue (middle picture above), for the first time on Friday an usher used a torch to show me down the stairs.  The room was dark aside from the stage lights illuminating the band currently playing.  Oh, I thought, it’s going to be like that is it?  Theatre.

Feeling discombobulated and out of my element I leaned myself up against a tousle-haired giant and enjoyed the crunktronik drama of Bad@Maths.  When the house lights went up at the end of their set I realised I was clutching onto:

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…Joe ‘Posset’ Murray – my RFM comrade-in-arms!  Always a delight to be in his company, likewise:

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yol!  Another who fears photography will remove biopsy snippets from his soul but I was NOT TO BE DENIED.  We soon became festival buds and hung out throughout proceedings.  Now though, I was so excited about seeing Miguel play that all I could do was babble and take photos of my new boots.  I’m not joking:

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[Editor’s note: at this point, after I’ve started introducing people but before I start rhapsodising about Skull Mask etc., I’m going to apologise in advance for not mentioning everyone I spoke to. This is partly because my notes are sketchy (and my memory worse) but mainly because I’m uncomfortable assigning some conversations to this ‘highlights package’ and some not. The social aspect of this trip was a thrill – from meeting people for the first time, to catching up with rarely seen friends, to chewing the fat with the regular crowd but outside of our normal context. It was all very inspiring. In short: if we talked, rest assured that I enjoyed our conversation and want to talk to you again.  Likewise I’m not busting a gut to account for every band, nor provide comprehensive links and tags – that isn’t the purpose of the exercise.  A quick net search should fill in any gaps.  There will be one Get Carter joke.]

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Next up it was Miguel Perez, playing as Skull Mask (apologies for crappy picture, I still had the flash on my camera from the boot pics and once he got started I didn’t think to try again). 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. I’ve had a hard time with music this year. I’ve not listened to much and have been in denial about how burnt out I’d got keeping this blog afloat whilst juggling the demands of ‘real life’. I’d been hoping that this event would prove to be a big purge and cleanse and that I’d be returned to music rinsed clean and ready to GO. That didn’t happen, but something better did.

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!!!

At the end of the set I felt myself tearing up.

Outside, shortly after, Miguel was holding court talking ten-to-the-dozen.  I’ve never seen anyone more stoked – his heart must have been beating like a sparrow’s.  He explained his philosophy of life, about living in the moment but appreciating the steps that have brought you to it, about the Mexican relationship with the dead, about the music he had just played.  I couldn’t keep up – my mind had been blown – but luckily it didn’t matter that I couldn’t say anything, as Miguel, beer can in hand, couldn’t quiet down.  And why the hell should he?  It had been a triumph.

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A short time later I found myself stood next to Miguel watching Guttersnipe (how wonderful to be able to type that sentence).  I had predicted that their set would be amongst the most talked about at TUSK and they certainly left the crowd open mouthed, wide eyed, ears ringing.  I feel like I could write reams about this band, scribble profane codices, letterpress manifestos, paint placards to be carried in protest or celebration but when I actually sit down to type… it’s confounding.  The strength of Gretchen’s personality – gentle, thoughtful, keenly intelligent, enabled by a seemingly (to this fat, middle aged man) unbounded energy explodes on stage into a writhing conduit for, what?  Rage?  Despair?  Whatever it is, it feels like unmediated access to the same rooms that Miguel opened doors to.  Likewise, Rob’s unassuming, cheerful manner translates into the most glorious, life-affirming, pushing-a-shopping-trolley-down-the-concrete-stairs-of-a-car-park, free-punk drumming I’ve ever heard.  Afterwards, Paul Margree, of the We Need No Swords blog, tried to praise his technique and, in typical self-deprecating fashion, Rob disagreed:

My technique is shit, there is just a lot of it, and fast.

Love it.  This pair are unique, the band are important and you have to check them out.

Wandering in a daze after this I was collared by the very lovely Jen Parry who wanted to show me the exhibition of Matching Head artwork that she had put together, which was hidden under a staircase around the corner from the main entrances to Hall 2:

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I really dug this and thought Jen had captured the vibe of Lee’s cut-and-paste aesthetic very cleverly.  The exhibit was interactive in that you could make yourself comfortable and listen to Matching Head releases on the tape recorders provided.  On the leather sofa (bottom picture) there was a hammer (and some goggles – health and safety!) which I assumed was also there for punters so I used it to whale on some of the tapes and tape cases that were artfully scattered about.  It seemed appropriate at the time, though I’ve noticed a disapproving tweet from Andy Wood about the smashed cases since.  In my defence the artist was there egging me on and taking photos of me doing it!  My apologies if I got the art wrong – difficult to tell nowadays <winking emoji>…

About this time I realised I was shot for the day and silently drifted away.  Back at the hotel I half-watched Dredd on Film4 whilst sorting out stuff for the next day’s gig.  In my pants.

—ooOoo—

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On Saturday I woke from from the dream-free sleep of the righteous and padded downstairs to gorge on obscene amounts of breakfast in a room with a view of the underside of Tyne Bridge.  Glorious.  As I was tucking into my second plateful, I noticed that I had been name checked by Dawn Bothwell in the introduction to the festival programme.  Blimey!  I nearly spat out my bubble and squeak.  It all added to a cheerful, woozy calm, a kind of blown-out relaxation that I hadn’t felt since sitting on Low Newton beach in Northumberland with my wife Anne and son Thomas back in May:

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Aside from feeling sheepish about instigating a complicated, 6-way conversation about how we were all getting there (the more tired I am the more insistent I am about knowing WHAT HAPPENS NEXT), I was also relaxed about performing.  My band was packed (see picture above, midwich fits in a rucksack), I was sweet smelling, fully medicated and my cheek pouches were bulging with spare breakfast.  LET’S GO!

Well, let’s all see Wolfgang Voigt first.  This involved sitting in the Northern Rock Foundation Hall, feeling like I was in a dream version of a school assembly, with the headmaster replaced by an anonymous, unannounced middle-aged man giving a wordless, non-performance whilst illuminated by his laptop screen.  The sound – an ambient, computer-musicish drone, augmented by airy and/or brittle vibes familiar to those who know his work as, say, Gas – was perfectly lovely but I doubt it would have held my attention without Rachel Lancaster’s terrific visuals.

Rachel’s film was perfectly measured to draw out the best in the music.  We were reminded that there is nothing more sublimely beautiful than smoke rising in still air (‘Patrons are requested to smoke only on the right hand side of the auditorium’ – remember that?), unless the smoke is thick enough to resemble glaciers calving, or liquids of different densities spiralling into each other, or the pearlescent quality of crocodile scales as the creature lies semi-submerged and glistening…

Right then, NOW let’s go.

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‘Dark Tusk’ was set up by Lee Stokoe as a fringe event to help make the most of Miguel’s visit.  Here’s the blurb:

With the arrival of Miguel Perez in the UK to perform as Skull Mask at TUSK, it would be unthinkable to let him escape back to Mexico without congregating with some of his closest conspirators from the Northern noise void.

Culver & La Mancha del Pecado: with six collaborations to date and numerous splits and joints amassed, a live collaboration between these 2 horror drone obsessives was inevitable…

Midwich: one of Miguel’s most ardent advocates via his Radio Free Midwich blog, this is a mega-rare live performance from Rob Hayler’s solo electronic machine-dream.

NeckvsThroat: an ongoing postal duo of Miguel and Yol, binding guitar and voice with barbed wire and discarded steel.

Xazzaz: sinkhole drones, guitar fog and harsh dives from darkest Northumberland.

Plus sound installation by MP Wood.

2pm till 5pm at the Soundroom, Cuthbert Street, Gateshead, NE8 1PH. 15 min walk from Sage Gateshead.

Free with Tusk pass, £3 without.

The Soundroom

Cool, eh?  I love a matinee performance, me.  Miguel, yol and I met up with Jamie (if you don’t know his recordings as ‘Wrest’ you should check them out immediately) and his pal Steve who had kindly offered to drive us to the venue from Sage.  Miguel spent the journey telling us about how he had fended off two shitfaced Glaswegians in the hotel bar the night before.  They had offered him drugs (‘the hardest in Glasgow!’) in full view of two coppers who also happened to be there.  He wanted no part of it, fearing he was being set up, but Jamie assured him:

Nah, that kind of thing just happens around here…

…and expanded on similar topics whilst Steve forlornly tried to get him to concentrate on the journey and offer directions.  Never mind, we got there.

The Soundroom is a community centre/rehearsal space/gig venue sat in isolation in Gateshead.  I suspect most of us scuzzball, dog-eared, D.I.Y., no-audience underground types found it much easier to breath there than in the airy atrium of Sage and it is well equipped with a very decent PA.

Turn out was good, including – fuck me! – is that…

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…erstwhile RFM colleague, Discogs obsessive and near-hermit Scott McKeating?  Yes, it is!  Just one of many hands from the pantheon of the righteous I shook during proceedings.  You know who you are.

Once underway, the gig proved a joy.  First up was Neck vs Throat, the duo of Miguel and yol, playing with the lights on for full kid’s-birthday-party-at-local-church-hall effect:

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I needn’t say too much about this one as, amazingly, a video exists of the performance – filmed by Pete Cann (who, being an absolute darling, had come up from Leeds just for the afternoon) on his ‘phone.  Sound quality is hardly crystal but fuck that – it’s a document.

What truly boggled the noggin was how fluid and natural the partnership appeared.  Prior to that very afternoon the project had only existed as a transatlantic file swap.  Now it felt like a psychic connection, the product of long hours of rehearsal.  Miguel’s fingers-in-the-soundhole grappling, like a wheelbarrow of gravel being dropped into molasses, perfectly in sync with yol’s clattering, guttural retching and bleakly comic exhortations.

Next was Xazzaz and Mike treated us to the best set-that-wasn’t-Skull-Mask of the weekend.  As has already been noted, he forbids photography so all I have is this snap of his set-up, snatched prior to the show beginning:

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Mike used two (maybe three?) guitars and three (maybe four? Five?) amplifiers to create a drone/roar of ego-obliterating purity and intensity.  All the Xazzaz recordings I’ve heard have been exceptional but actually being there as it unfolds live was a shortcut to… I dunno?  Enlightenment?  For something as heavy as watching a gigantic dinosaur thrash its last and slowly sink into a tar pit it was a strangely life-affirming, awe-inspiring experience.  North-Eastern drone-metal of this quality is pretty much my favourite thing in all the world.  Fucking hell, I thought, I’ve got to follow that…

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…and so it came to pass.  I thanked all who were there and those involved in setting it up, had a quick word about the two tracks I was about to play – one inspired by a dismissal of our music by Miguel’s daughter, one a version of my track from a split CD-r I shared with Miguel, dedicated the set to him and… faded up a recording of my son snoring.  The rest was thick, chewy, throbbing drone at pleasingly high volume that would have gone entirely to plan if I could have stopped myself fiddling with the cut-off.  Anyway, it seemed to go down well and I was rubbery with relief once all was packed away.  Enjoyed the opportunity to bounce about on my seat too.

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Finally then: Culver and La Mancha Del Pecado.  Another unique opportunity to see a transatlantic tape-swap project in the flesh and this time the one that kicked it all off.  Miguel later told me that, like so many of us who end up in noise, he found himself looking for something without knowing exactly what that something was.  He discovered Skullflower, read up about it, saw Culver mentioned, found a rip of a CD-r in a shady spot on the internet, listened to it and heard the contents of his own head reflected back at him.  Soon they were collaborating on a series of beautifully sustained, utterly nihilistic, implacably menacing ‘horror drones’ and the rest is willpower and logistics.  This set was an absolute masterclass.

…and it wasn’t even 5pm.

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I have to admit that the evening programme back at Sage was something of a blur after that.  My highlights were the early doors sets from Usurper (above above) and Ashtray Navigations (above).

Surprising myself, I realised that this was the first time I had seen Ali and Malcy go at it live despite having heard many of their releases and eyeballing numerous zines and comics over the years (indeed, one of my collages can be found in Giant Tank Offline #4).  My usual reaction to their work – amused bewilderment – was swept away by a far more concrete admiration for the Dada lunacy of the performance.

For example: crouched under a table, each took a turn deliberately and repeatedly banging their head as if trying to get up and forgetting the obstacle above them.  I thought that the yellow objects taped to their heads were something like washing-up sponges to soften the blow but was later informed by Stuart Arnot (of Acrid Lactations, who was roped in to their gig at the last minute) that it was butter and that the stink in their hair afterwards was rank.  Idiocy or commitment to the art?  Or both?  Oh, you decide.

After the first few minutes of Ashtray Navigations starting, Miguel, who had been leaning on the stage, came over to shout in my ear…

Now I know why everyone loves them!

…and I had to grin because he was right: it was, from the off, a performance full of heart that encouraged a reciprocal response from an eager, affectionate crowd.  Phil pulled out one heart-stoppingly preposterous solo after another whilst Mel – resplendent in glittered Converse – held down the electronics and laughed at the site of Gretchen Guttersnipe and RFM’s own marlo eggplant wigging out front and centre.  Much as I enjoyed the bubbletroniks and nostril-flaring bombast I think my favourite track was a lengthy ambient piece halfway through during which Phil folded himself up and sat on the floor.  It was spacious and woozy but had a crisp brittleness to it that kept it fresh and engaging throughout.  Have I heard this before?  Probably, but I couldn’t name it.  Shameful, I know, considering my placing in the AshNav fan club.  What can I say?  I’m a big man, but I’m out of shape.

The evening culminated with me, Dan, Lisa and Sarah reconvening and rolling up to my second fringe event of the day.  This time at The Old Police Station (a venue I was told is ‘borrowed’ from the council?), a ten minute walk up the hill behind Sage.  The place was already full when we got there at about 1am and there was a great squat gig vibe with people spilling out into the street, sat on the pavement talking loudly, drinking and smoking.  For me it felt like travelling back in time 25+ years to my misspent youth in Brighton, a bittersweet feeling I was reluctant to embrace until someone appeared, like Scooter in the Muppet Show, shouted…

C’mon Miguel you’re on!

(or something like that) and we all piled in to a tiny front room to see Oppenheimer play.  Seriously, there must have been 30-40 people plus a four piece band in a space more suited to two sofas and a telly.  Once over the initial crush panic, it was awesome.

Oppenheimer are the aforementioned Jamie (drums), Lee (bass) and Mike (guitar), this night augmented with Miguel (also on bass) and they play, Christ, how to describe it?  Super-basic, long-form, thug-punk, primal-metal.  Whatever it is, it had the packed crowd bent at the waist, rocking in unison.  It is a crying shame that Mike doesn’t allow photos because when he was stepped on by a drunken and oblivious punter the look of lupine ferocity he threw was fucking terrifying.  I did get this pic of Jamie, Miguel and Lee though, which, as a piece of reportage, is my favourite of all the photos I took over the weekend.

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After the set I waved goodbye to my sweaty comrades and walked back to the hotel.  I put a music channel on the TV as I got ready for bed.  Every video looked like a film by Matthew Barney.  Lights out: 3am.

—ooOoo—

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On Sunday morning I felt exhilarated after the remarkable day before but old and tired after the late night.  Oof, I don’t intentionally go to bed at 3am ever nowadays.  Thus another war-on-the-buffet, gargantuan breakfast was warranted before I stumbled to Sage in order to meet Paul ‘Pops’ Margree, still of the We Need No Swords blog, who wished to interview me for his podcast.  I’d met Paul for the first time this weekend, we’d hit it off and were already chatting in a free and easy fashion.  However, when the tape recorder was switched on something stamped on a fuzz pedal between what I was thinking and what I was saying.  Oh well, here’s hoping he can salvage something coherent.

We adjourned upstairs to the Northern Rock Foundation Hall (where Voigt played) to see yol at midday.  This was easily the weirdest programming kink of the festival – both venue and timing – but a fair few people had turned up to see yol take his turn as headmaster-gone-wrong at the front of assembly.  The gig was intense, muscular, poised.  The venue adding a unusual theatricality to the bulging veins and growling stutters.  I always look around at the audience during a yol show, relishing the expressions of appalled fascination, but the stage lighting made it difficult to gauge reactions.  His comic timing was faultless though, plenty of half-laughs as we appreciated him diffusing the tension with a funny line then realising that what he had just said was easily as bleak, nihilistic even, as the rest of the performance.  To describe his total commitment to expressing his vision I need to reclaim a debased word and re-inflate it with meaning:  yol is an artist.

Feeling some trepidation about lasting the day I decided to accompany the men in black (Jamie, Mike, Lee, Miguel) back over the river and had a laugh walking with them through the Quayside market as far as my hotel.  I cocooned myself there until it was time to go see Tony Conrad: Completely In The Present.  Cuddling up with Joe Murray in the back row, this turned out to be a beautifully measured and life-affirming documentary about a charming and fascinating artist, surpassing all my (fairly high) expectations.  I loved it, and can only praise the transparency of the film-making – the director Tyler Hubby does an excellent job of standing back and allowing the story to be told by Conrad himself, a wise decision when your subject is such an intriguing raconteur.  With a voice and demeanour like a cross between William Burroughs and John Waters, Conrad chuckles through a life of iconoclasm, innovation and determination in a way that can’t help but be awe-inspiring.  There is also an hilarious section about what a total bell-end La Monte Young is.  I don’t want to get into any more detail about the content as you really should track this down – you’ll be rewarded.  The film was clearly a hit with Tuskers and provoked much discussion afterwards.  I was lucky enough to see Conrad live twice and boasted of it many times during the rest of the night.

During the evening programme I made the effort to give every act a fair shake, a decision made easier by the fact that my brain was shot and I found myself in a state of happy bewilderment wherever I was standing.  Highlights for me were probably Silent Servant and the final act Senyawa.

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Tall table for a short guy, eh?  Must share Dan’s back problems.  Silent Servant – American producer Juan Mendez – was notable for changing the atmosphere in Hall 2.  Suddenly all the middle-aged beardies (like myself) found themselves at a club night.  Advertised in the programme as ‘grinding, irresistible techno’ I actually best enjoyed the bits where he veered into Electronic Body Music territory – the kind of high camp, leather bound pounding that our Belgian friends were so good at in the late 80s.  yol was tempted in, amused by the prospect of seeing me dance, and guarded my handbag and coat whilst I stomped and flailed in tragic approximation of my twenty-something self.  The ‘pit’ of Hall 2 was soon lined with middle-aged beardies (like myself) leaning on the wall, sweating and clutching at their chests.  Whoo boy, haven’t danced for any length of time in a while.  The young and beautiful looked on in amusement.

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The last act on Sunday, and thus of the festival as a whole, was the Indonesian duo Senyawa.  Vocalist Rully Herman powered through a scouring range of timbres and techniques, hands grasping the mic stand or raised up in Black Metal claws.  Fuck me, the swagger on this dude.  Wukir Suryadi held his own playing an apparently hand-made instrument called the bambuwukir which resembled a giant phallus, stringed and pegged, which he could pick or bow to create anything from the most delicately augmented silence to brutal shredding.  I suspect they personify exactly the type of high-quality, cross-cultural, what-the-fuckery that TUSK wishes to promote and that their place on the bill was no accident.  Having them headline the whole shebang was programming genius.  After their set, under the cruel house lights, Lee Stokoe and I exchanged the kind of blasted/delighted look that Lee Etherington, creative director of TUSK, must design the festival to provoke.  Congratulations, mate – mission accomplished.

All that was left to do was say goodbye.  Handshakes were exchanged, gratitude expressed, Miguel was hugged, wished well, hugged again, wished well again but now with a distinct wobble in my voice.  I nearly fell down the stairs in my hurry to get into the fresh air.

We’ll see each other again sometime, right?

Yes.  We will.

—ooOoo—

Postscript:

a) We got home safely, as did Miguel.  Dan recovers.

b) Two Skull Mask tapes were made available to coincide with Miguel’s visit, one released by Invisible City Records (hello Craig) and one on Lee Stokoe’s Matching Head.  I’ve been listening to them as I typed this article and I reckon you should buy both.  Lee also has some rad Skull Mask t-shirts for sale.  Hit him up via the contact details on the Matching Head Discogs page.  All the discerning blog editors are wearing ’em – an Autumn wardrobe essential.

c) Last year the live-streamed sets from TUSK were made available after the event via the Archive page of the TUSK website.  I shall be keeping an eye on this, and on Lee Etherington’s Twitter feed (@tusk_music), in the hope of similar generosity with this year’s recordings.

—ooOoo—

TUSK Festival

the science of dropping things: joe murray on 23 minutes, mudguts, hardworking families

October 18, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , ,

Various Artists – 23 Minutes – 23 Tracks – 23 Artists (3″ CD-r, Eastville Vending, edition of 60 or download)

Mudguts – Locque Atmir Kodai (3″ CD-r, Bells Hill, BH 013, edition of 30)

Hardworking Families – BA/LS/BN (CD-r, Beartown Records, edition of 50)

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Various Artists – 23 Minutes – 23 Tracks – 23 Artists

How I love a micro-compilation.  Those labours of love that gather together large numbers of wonky artists and put them in a restrictive jacket.  They say,

Do your thing… but keep it quick.

Of course this is excellent advice – the forethought and discipline creating a series of unrelated but often complimentary micro-moments coughing and spluttering outta your earbuds.

As ever there is a bit of personal history here.  Homemade Grindcore tape-trades and the RRR-500 locked-groove monster (with its 500 individual artists) first alerted me to this fascinating stubby-nub of the ‘various artists’ family tree.  Then I found the slightly more breathy Martin Archer Network series with over 100 people playing short pieces over two discs.  More recently Sindre Bjerga took up the mantle with his Gold Soundz compilation of 99 international-gonks on the marvelous and irreverent Pissing in the Wind.

But this time the seed was planted by one Neil Campbell to use up all those old 3 inch CD-Rs out there.  He reckons 23 minutes is around the maximum amount of music you can cram on one of these little silver discs so 23 x 1 minute pieces makes perfect sense.  The Marketing and Research branch of the Eastville Vending Corporation agreed and ‘ta-dah!’ – a new micro-comp is born.

You can slice these things several ways but my favourite tactic is to dive straight in and dig this as a single piece; an ever-changing narrative of moods and themes.  Then I realise that it is actually presented as a single 23 min piece so that does help things somewhat and I settle back and l.i.s.t.e.n.

So, where did my 23 minute journey take me?

Laica – Electric dodgems collapse into magnetic tessellations // Kemper Norton – brass rubbing slowed down via architectural trauma // Concrete_Field – watching a séance from inside a wax piano // Revbjelde – slopped balloons, dry spaghetti cracks // Band of Holy Joy – machine code dirty-talk between distant servers // Farmer Glitch – scary news ident // Howlround – confessions from the bristles of a shoe-shine machine // Neil Campbell – the science of dropping things at various angles // Gusset – answerphone message melancholicx – the stilted delivery making this one of the 21st Century’s saddest sounds // IX Tab – no pussyfooting with high-vis jackets // Noise Research Institute – bumplestiltskin – hands in the air! // Runningonair – public enema dub : surprisingly relaxing // Graham Dunning – radiates as multi-coloured auras // Ekoplekz – “A rare moment of calm. The bombs fall on the Eastern District so all I can see is dust.” // Elisabeth Veldon – loop-tronics raid Esquivel to bring a new clarity to damp cardboard // Decadnids – serious bowed-metal-sax reverberations  border on the erotic // Xylitol – a clear autumn morning, alone in Kendal // Robin Foster – selective tones filtered by sympathetic shimmering feedback // Foldhead – mighty & dark theatrics // FM3V – chestnut seller hacks oven to play Bollywood themes // Tim Hill – tanned seabirds rejoice the new birth // Assembled Minds – I dropped my water pistol down an echo chamber (smeared surprise coda) // Sarah Angliss – Twins joint memories? Phantom limb pluck and solemn-compression electronics.

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Mudguts – Locque Atmir Kodai

The original Death Eater musik – as banned from the Slytherin Common Room!

Bilious clouds of distemper billow from his holiness Lee Culver and are muddied further by dark mistral Scott McKeating… that’s how Mudguts roll.  True believers take note – this cheeky 3 inch is a semi-official offering so even more occluded and forbidden than it’s dark predecessor.*

This disc gets down to business straight away so there is no reason for me not to either.

‘Widowvine’ crashed through a cloud of bad intention and night tremors to become a meditative prescription of bitter herbs and rancid smoke.  Parts are reversed Santana, parts are bar room pre-brawl.  As a map of psychic disturbances this marks the truly terrifying blank spots with an inky smear.

A one minute masterpiece ‘Split Gorgon’ re-lives the dispiriting experience of tuning into another person’s dream.  It’s all falling, falling, falling until the brain juice squirts a different solution and you find yourself becoming Leonard Cohen (or something).  Then ‘snap’ it’s over and you are awake.

Then finally, with the most evocative track title of the year, ‘First my Body, Now my Corpse’ sparkles and shudders with an almost glam-rock brightness.  But this spotlight is so harsh and revealing it blisters the skin and cooks soft rubbery eyes.  At times I’m minded of that Sonic Boom fella if he dug the Darkthrone.  But soon enough I shake my head hard enough for them scales to fall from my peepers and I realise I’m on my knees… Mudguts glory has laid waste to my corner of civilisation and rags and half bricks are all that remains.

Phew!  You dig it?

*What I’m saying is hit up Scott for a copy at the Bells Hill address!

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Hardworking Families – BA/LS/BN

HWF approaches this record in pieces: abstracted sauces, performance as code, gristle, electronic manipulation and tape glitch. Forgive me.  I’m gunna gush, but Tom (HWF) Bench is a master of the thought and edit school for sure.

This release solves sound problems like a damn dancer would; the old soft-shoe shuffle provides texture while clean accuracy is rustled from the percussive rudiments of tap.  All built on sexy muscles the accents are a silvery jet that slips between ear and frames.

This is what I hear…

  • Glutch & fromer! A displaced chord organ melts into black-flecked slush.  The distant whooping crane places his beak into the shellac grooves on the Victrola.
  • “Buff-uddle.” Microphone shuggle in a hair shirt. Constant motion gaffs like an okra bud over Velcro. The hobo orchestra ‘thwack’ old tins and wrestle an egg-slicer back and forth.  The ripple of thin metal dances right in my forehead – things coalesce – merge – re-form into steps cut out of bright paper – Matisse becomes instruction.  The code is to be cracked but a fair advantage is favoured on the light of ankle.  Un-led rhythms shuffle out of this desert storm, moving against each other like lovers, all slither and explore.  Tin & rin & rin & tin & tin pop-out plastic eardrums to faint electro influences?  The gradual sigh of a bus coming to rest and opening up the wheelchair ramp.   Dry energy – like plunging your hand into a bag of uncooked rice – each grain perfect, each cousin similar but individual.  Wheat echoes; a fork balances, it’s twines interlaced with a spoon’s surly lip.
  • Buttons of rubber depressed by pudgy fingers. They sing in harmonies un-dreamt by Clive Sinclair – each mercurial tone a slack-arsed fart. The washer vibe snips out via polo mint.
  • Wooden planks mumble as heavy hands slap until they find a resonant pitch/probing fingers dislodge the lid and keys (the white teeth of shame) are slackened with a tone-wrench/the taught strings are teased and top and sides rubbed with soft beads/a variety of fidelities, each proper in it’s own dissonance becomes partially embedded so rich echo-parlour switches between hi-fi buff and pre-teen noise goofball. I read Miles’ BIG FUN was cobbled together outta oddments.  Tom takes a similar stance but each floor-cutting here is as wonderful as an unexpected smooch.
  • The opening salvo of dysentery bombs that smoke over the battlefield! It clogs hair and exposed pores – the Angel of Mons offers scant sanctuary.
  • An ice-cream headache from Steve Albini’s brow. THAT THE THINK guitar sound shredded through electric fan in a pissing bad mood.  Shaking frozen peas out of a Tupperware box, drilling holes into broken glass.  Or, if you’d prefer, the barista’s revenge – hot milk battered through dirty filters.
  • Free-text box opened up and all the pixels clump together into vague geometric shapes with impudent languor.

All in all, this disc brings an essential vitality into my soft pampered life.  It’s wormed into my lugs now.  I’m saved ya’ll.

Can you afford to miss this one dear reader? Can your children?? Can your immortal soul???

—ooOoo—

Eastville Vending

Bells Hill

Beartown Records

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