disinfectant: wrest, culver, joined by wire

April 21, 2016 at 8:22 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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wrest – dark green (tape, Matching Head, mh212)

Culver – Seven Eyes (3” CD-r in DVD jewel case, self-released)

Culver – It Bleeds (CD-r, Inyrdisk, iyd126, edition of 30)

Joined By Wire – Two Thousand & Fifteen (self-released download)

wrest - dark green

Recent experience settles in drifts, in piles – like folded blankets in a cupboard, like books angled into inadequate shelving.  It fills space, imperfectly.

Some is good: the chocolate buzz of my son Thomas’s third birthday celebrations, the marathon runner’s pride felt when my wife Anne’s hard earned promotion was confirmed.  Some is tough: a journey diagonally down and to the West for the funeral of my Grandmother.  No tragedy: she died aged 96, in her sleep, well looked after.  On the train back up I stared at sodden countryside and thought about what I’d heard.

Imagine a little girl, the legs of her bed sat in jam jars full of disinfectant.  A forlorn attempt to stop creatures crawling up into the mattress.  Imagine sleeping with that smell, imagine rinsing out the drowned and poisoned in the morning.

Details like that lead me to reassess what is ‘consequential’.  Aside from my family and my health (to which it seems inextricably linked) my relationship with fringe music is the most important thing in my life.  Yet the numbers are statistically indistinguishable from zero: 20 people came to the show, 40 people bought a tape, 80 people read a blog post.  Almost literally no-one cares but despite this – and because of it – when the pilot light is extinguished it can be really fucking hard to get it going again.  I press the boiler’s red button and panic because all I can hear is the hiss of gas and the impotent tang, tang, tang of the ignition mechanism.

Nothing for it is there?  The only choice is to chuck everything off the single bed onto the floor (that isn’t another metaphor – the tape deck is in the spare room), open the window and start with something reliable.  I wonder what Stokoe is up to?


wrestdark green

You can’t blame me for being surprised – I’d assumed that this shortish, single sided offering from Jamie Wrest on Lee Stokoe’s ever-reliable Matching Head tape label would be balls-out noise-metal of a North-Eastern variety.  It’s not.  Instead we hear a recording of a rainstorm outside accompanied by a simple, evocative, melancholy guitar and… that’s it.  I was moved.

Imagine standing in the kitchen of an elderly relative – it’s curling up at the edges, it smells of its corners.  In the back garden is an overgrown castor oil plant, its leaves a brilliant dark green in the rain.  As your relative – half the size he used to be, hands shaking, absolutely delighted to see you – pours two mugs of tea you remember digging the hole for that plant with him when you were a child.  You take your tea and turn back to the window so he can’t see you crying.

Aye, thanks,

you say,

I’ll be with you in a minute, you go sit down.

culver - seven eyes cover

Culver – Seven Eyes, It Bleeds

To Lee himself.  Seven Eyes appears not (at the time of writing) to be ‘officially’ released but rather is being distributed under the counter to those addicted to his particular brand of Mugwump juice.  Submit yourself to the same humiliating rituals that Scott McKeating and I have done and maybe you’ll get on the list.  It runs to 22 minutes or so, is indistinguishable from previous offerings to all but the most attentive acolyte, and is completely obliterating.  This rumbling conflagration cancels thought – its bloody-minded nihilism makes any kind of higher function irrelevant.  To comment further would be like engaging in polite philosophical discussion whilst attempting to escape the choking smoke of a factory fire.

culver - seven eyes inner

It Bleeds, released on CD-r in a tiny edition by the excellent Inyrdisk (I’ll say nowt about the cover art.  My prudishness at Lee’s prurience is well documented and he clearly doesn’t give a shit anyway), runs to around 37 minutes in two parts.  The first follows a typical Culveresque structure: contemplative intro swallowed by entropy, lengthy panic-inducing roar, initial theme resurfacing drained by the experience.  It is a time-lapse film of an abandoned, decaying cabin in the woods, played in reverse until it almost appears habitable again.  The dried blood on the axe left on the porch deliquesces, glistens.  The second part is harder, brittle.  ‘Melancholy’ isn’t a strong enough word to describe the vibe – here we have someone wet-eyed, jaw-clenched, about to make a tough decision as they listen to their neighbours play black metal at abusive volume and police helicopters throb low overhead.

Yeah, compelling stuff.  Now what else is there on the review pile?


Joined By Wire – Two Thousand & Fifteen

Ah, Stephen Woolley’s Joined By Wire (or ‘joined by wire’, or ‘joinedbywire’, or ‘JBW’ depending on typographical whim) project has always been a favourite nephew here at RFM. Albeit it an emotionally intense nephew with a worrying glue habit. Stephen himself may be as calm as a zen cow of course, but this racket brings to mind the mutant stepchild of Ashtray Navigations and a fax machine, fidgeting at dinner all moon-eyed and gabbling about how green the peas are. Here’s an extract from the notes accompanying this release:

./You (sing.) survival or caution or ghost house Mr Robot brains 100% on off. On Monday reach a peak of the highest level of the lowest level of between … and … to …, two million warning warning, you are here. 1 2 3 4 5 6 I’m sorry, I’m sorry, but, We can’t. CALL 0800-MAGIC PORTAL. Great Galaxalaxies, immense as the space through “light-years” stop this way 15 000 000 15 million million tons Pulsed light ellipse intense. Default energy x Actual energy JxBxW -re -length zzz soft places our solar system. The central plane of the galaxy, the myriads of stars, vast formations of cosmic dust, Ace ace I use the power and authority I have to make others comply, y My enthusiasm is contagious 49 00,59,01 duet turbine-harp cooool. Our solar system is somewhere here. Road captain X riders 1% riders biker Take some!!! Yes Touch Here view even if I told you I can’t see anything here No Touch Here RRRR 1000 1000 TRAX trax…

Bracing stuff, eh? Anyway, 2015 is an album of two halves. The first six months are full-on thug-psych, a gloriously exuberant over-clocked riot and possibly the noisiest JBW so far recorded. Percussive elements hidden under piles of splintered mirror suggest that these were once songs, now shredded beyond recognition by Cenobites driving agricultural machinery. The second six months are a change of pace. I raised an eyebrow at the relatively sedate ‘Midsomer Titan’ but soon swooned over its epic scope and irresistible charm. I listened sitting on a bench, back against a cool stone wall, sunglasses on and challenged myself to remain absolutely still and do nothing but watch the clouds and absorb every detail of these liquid fireworks.

What a privilege, I thought, as the pilot light in my head relit with a satisfying ptouf.


Matching Head (no official online presence, contact details via Discogs)


Joined By Wire

scrap(p)ing the barrel (nut)

February 8, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Posted in art, blog info, no audience underground, not bloody music | Leave a comment
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14 - 1 - cover - small - Rob H

Oh well,

[Editor sighs, picks at bits of glu-stik and newsprint stuck to his palms, sucks blood from site of paper cut]

…that was fun, eh?

It is with sadness that I announce that the new, long delayed, issue #14 of The Barrel Nut will be the last and, aside from a handful of paper copies for contributors, will be distributed in digital formats only. This is a drag but a triple whammy death blow has been dealt by a) time poverty b) my access to ‘free’ photocopying being curtailed by, *ahem*, circumstances and c) silly postal charges.

Regarding this final point, it is profoundly depressing to see the offline world of mail art, zine culture and other barter economies being constricted by the prohibitive cost of shifting physical objects. Plenty of fun remains to be had, of course, and I salute those still at it, but I am joining the retreat. Living with a privatised postal service sucks major donkey balls and if you reside in a country where your national service is being run down/softened up to make its flesh palatable to those vultures then I suggest you fight against it.

OK, freed from the obligations of its usual microzine format this issue is presented as a series of full page pdfs/jpegs to be downloaded and/or printed out by the reader. Featured artwork is a representative sample of remaining submissions and the names will be familiar to regular readers – I hope you are entertained. This, and all previous issues, will be available via the The Barrel Nut page (tabbed above) until the coming alien invasion unleashes its server-destroying electro-magnetic pulse. Roll call:

  • The cover is by me,
  • page two is more scanner/photocopier EVP phenomena filtered by Michael Clough,
  • Dex Wright, a.k.a. Tape Noise, mauls ferric oxide on page three,
  • weird symmetries by Zanntone’s Paul Walsh slide across page four,
  • page five presents the collaged thoughts of Gary Simmons and Mark Ritchie of the print-only Hiroshima Yeah! zine (donbirnam@hotmail.com),
  • Stephen Woolley of Joined By Wire leaves tire tracks across page six,
  • deep-fried brainwaves crackle up and down page seven, courtesy of Adolf Steg
  • …and lastly we have typographical and cut-up dada from Julian Bradley and RFM’s own Joe Murray to play over the credits.

It’s a belting finale, that’s for sure. Here’s the files – individual page scans are of better quality but the ‘whole thing as one pdf file’ is handier for those busy zine readers on the go:

Individual pages as jpegs:

14 - 1 - cover - Rob H14 - 2 - Clough14 - 3 - Dex14 - 4 - Paul W14 - 5 - Gary and Mark14 - 6 - Stephen W14 - 7 - Steg14 - 8 - Julian, Joe, credits

Individual pages as pdfs:

14 – 1 – Rob Hayler

14 – 2 – Michael Clough

14 – 3 – Dex Wright

14 – 4 – Paul Walsh

14 – 5 – Gary Simmons and Mark Ritchie

14 – 6 – Stephen Woolley

14 – 7 – Dr Adolf Steg

14 – 8 – Julian Bradley and Joe Murray, credits

The whole thing as a pdf:

The Barrel Nut #14

Many thanks to all those who have been involved – it’s been a right laugh.


the 2015 zellaby awards

January 8, 2016 at 11:24 am | Posted in blog info, musings, new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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zellaby award envelope

Hello friends and welcome to the 2015 Zellaby Awards and Radio Free Midwich end-of-year round-up.  I’m very glad to see you.  My apologies in advance to those long term readers expecting the usual introduction full of whimsical nonsense.  There will be some of that, of course, but this year needs to be taken seriously and I’m going to start dark.  Don’t worry though – spoiler alert – there will be joy and life-affirming redemption by the end: this piece is my It’s a Wonderful Life.

Firstly, it is not the job of this blog to comment on the wider world but aside from the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, our glorious future prime minister, 2015 was largely without hope. I wish you all good luck in navigating the coming End Times.

Personally, away from music, my year can be split into three four month long segments.  For the first of these I was ill with non-stop, run-of-the-mill viruses.  Nowt serious on its own but the cumulative effect of so many strung together – a necklace of snot – left me in a parlous state.  My depression played cards with its fidgety cousin anxiety, waited until I was defenceless and then kicked in the door.  The second four months were spent off work attempting to shift these unwelcome guests whilst maintaining a functioning family life.  I’ve written about this debilitating effort elsewhere, no need for further details here.  The final four months of 2015 were the tale of my recuperation and slow recovery following a change in medication and a breakthrough in both the treatment of my illness and my attitude towards it.  After much grief, I left 2015 exhausted and resentful but hopeful that new ways of muzzling the black dog will allow me a lengthy period of peace and sanity.

When I was down in it, days, weeks even, passed when music seemed more trouble than it was worth.  The list of releases submitted to RFM for review, plus other stuff that caught my bloodshot eye, became an untended vine cracking the panes of its greenhouse and desiccating the soil in its giant terracotta pot. I’d try to ignore it, slumped in my deckchair, but would be tickled awake by a tendril and look up to see something like Audrey II grinning down at me:

Fleshtone Aura

Or maybe one my colleagues – Joe, Chrissie, Sof, Luke, marlo – would arrive with a ladder, new glass, plant food, exotic orchids or intricate alpines to distract me, gawd bless ‘em. Looking back, I’m surprised at how often I actually did pick up the trowel – if only to wave hello, or whack Luke on the nose with it when I found him digging in the flower beds – and I’m quietly proud of maintaining this garden despite the inclement mental weather. During 2015 radiofreemidwich received approximately 32,000 visits – a new record. 93 posts were published, including the blog’s 500th, by half a dozen different authors. The most popular of which were last year’s Zellaby Awards and my no-audience underground ‘state of the notion’ address – most gratifying as both are heartfelt celebrations of the scene. Not bad, eh?

Now, at this point in the introduction I was going to get catty about my usual scratching posts, hit a few sacred cow arses with a banjo etc. but, looking down at the silted pavement and up at the grey sky, it’s clear that what the world needs now is love, sweet love – not smart alec remarks and passive-aggressive score settling. So let’s get the party started instead.

Here’s the rules: to be eligible in one of the following five categories this music needs to have been heard by one of us for the first time in 2015.  It does not need to have been released in 2015.  As the purpose of these awards is to spread the good news about as many quality releases as possible, should an artist win in one category they will not be placed in any of the others.  I do not vote for my own stuff as midwich, nor any releases that I had a hand in (thus no Aqua Dentata on fencing flatworm – sorry Eddie). The team will avoid touting each others’ projects too – not because we care about conflict of interest (there isn’t any down here) but we do like to maintain at least a veneer of decorum. Aside from marlo, who has been nostril deep in PhD crap all year and thus didn’t feel qualified to contribute, the whole team has chipped in and I will be pasting their responses below. This year I am at least nodding in the direction of democracy when compiling the lists but, as editor, I am reserving final say.  Don’t worry though – my dictatorship is benevolent and progressive.

Right then, time to pop some fucking corks…

sof's pina colada


Radio Free Midwich presents the 2015 Zellaby Awards

5. The “I’d never heard of you 10 minutes ago but now desperately need your whole back catalogue” New-to-RFM Award

Chrissie expresses doubts about the whole process then nails a perfect nomination:

I’m not much of a one for end of year retrospectives, forward is my preferred direction. Also I find it hard to compare music and place it in any sort of order. One day a particular piece or artist will be exactly what I need, another day it will have me screaming for the STOP button.  Add to which I haven’t actually reviewed very much this year. Even when I found a (rather large, rich) niche to occupy I still take longer to complete a review than I’d really like.  Still, I hate to disappoint, and I never miss a deadline so…

Sabrina Peña Young

Even while reviewing one album, I couldn’t help mentioning tracks on other albums!

[Editor’s note: an extract from Chrissie’s review of Science Fiction & Horror Movie Soundtrack Collection: Strange Films of Sabrina Peña Young:]

‘Singularity’ is a whole Star Trek episode in miniature. It opens as an almost conventional, if nicely constructed piece of theme music, and gradually becomes something very much more. Going from the journey out, discovery of a possibly inhabited planet, then meeting an alien, trying to escape and the closing theme music again – a novella in seven minutes forty-three seconds! To be honest I’m pretty sure that that isn’t the actual narrative of ‘Singularity’ but I like to make things up as I’m listening and that idea seemed plausible at the time [Editor’s note: it’s the RFM way…]. What it’s really about is the rise of machine intelligence, of course; which is equally scary, possibly.


Joe speaks in italics:

Not for the first time, Serbia’s No Basement is Deep Enough label has pinned my lugs back and hotly tongued my ear.  But this time it slipped a note in my pocket that read ‘G.J de Rook’ (but no phone number I notice!). 

Gerrit’s considered gobble-de-gook on a and bla is the metallic-gravy I’m craving right now.  The calm and pleasant gibber hits that sweet-spot of babies gurgling, a hummingbird’s gaudy thrum and the plastic pop of wrenched bubble-wrap.  These are universal sounds; sounds enjoyed from the Mongolian deserts to the Seattle coffee-house scene. These are the sort of sounds we need to send into space – gaffer tape a CD-r to Voyager or something- for them bug-eyed overlords to ponder.    

Although Gerrit’s wider discography is relatively thin and achingly expensive don’t worry readers, I have a plan in place to slurp slowly in discreet ‘o,o,o,o,o,oa,oa,oa,oa,eh,eh,eh,o,ooo,o-like’ sips.  Think on.


Sof’s joy in discovery:

I heard and reviewed the album 3 by Sonotanotanpenz at the start of my Midwich employment and have since heard everything I can by them because, for me, they just tick all the right boxes. Cheers to Kirigirisu Records for pointing me in the right direction finding this stuff!

sonotanotanpenz - 3

Luke forward/slashes:

Ben Hallatt – Kay Hill, scke//, KIKS/GFR – the sinister/minimal man, eerie urban horror with muted synth/tape work.


…and I say:

…that I haven’t had the wherewithal for the obsessive curiosity that usually makes it so easy and obvious to decide the winner of this category.  I have a few interests bubbling under – that lovely, young Graham Dunning seems like an intriguing chap so maybe I’ll stalk him once I have the energy – but in the meantime I’m happy to to go along with Chrissie’s nomination of Sabrina Peña Young.


4. 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

Sof ponders:

I don’t think I have an answer for this one, I can only think of Delphine Dora who released four albums this year which to me seems a huge amount! I’m not really into musicians who put out so much stuff that I can’t keep up. It puts me off if I’m honest, I like small and considered bodies of work. [Editor’s note: a very practical attitude – and Delphine should definitely be on everyone’s list anyway.]


Chrissie scratches her head too:

I’ve not really reviewed enough to come up with a suitable nomination for this. Similarly for the label award. I was tempted to nominate Steve Lawson for the Stokoe cup but he might be rather too ‘big’ for that to be sensible now and also I don’t believe he’s ever been reviewed here [Editor’s note: he is and he hasn’t but, hey, s’up to you – it’s an indication of where you are coming from too]. However he does release a considerable amount of material and it is of quite an amazingly high standard.

No doubts from Joe:

We’re all renaissance men and women now eh?  Fingers in various pies yeah?  You’re a composer/performer, a curator, a thinker, an archivist, a broadcaster, a hard-assed critic and goofy listener, a publisher and promoter?  Scratch the N-AU and we bleed like colourful skittles. 

This is all vital and impressive for sure.  But the real trick is to weave all those various roles together with a broader sense of ‘who you are’, a central-unifying-theme and aesthetic that’s as real as Westeros fantasy shizzle. So with the powers invested in me by the fabled ‘Stokoe Cup’ I hereby recommend Andy Wild, the Crow versus Crow guy guy, as an upstanding exemplar of unified vision, industry and purpose.

Not only is Andy releasing beautifully packaged CDs on the CvC label, he’s keeping us up-to-date with a set of paintings and photography.  He’s had a one-man exhibition, “You’re Gonna Need That Pure Religion, Halleloo” in his native Halifax.  He’s researched, presented and broadcast almost 100 radio shows and curated a bunch of special one-off sessions (like John Peel yeah).  And all this strikes me with a look and a feel that’s unmistakably CvC and unified.  Here’s an example: as Andy dug deeper into old blues records spindly hiss and burr appeared on the paintings (and in the exhibition title).  The smeared photos mirrored the abstract sound of worn vinyl.  The shows became looser, the voice deeper and the mood darker.  Do people still do mission statements?  If so, is ‘be beautiful’ taken?


Luke starts on a theme:

A tough one this year with the above mentioned Ben Hallatt and the incredible Stuart Chalmers.  My vote, however, has to go to Robert Ridley-Shackleton: the Oxfam prince, the cardboard king.  He keeps on peaking, inhabiting his own corner. In a just universe he would be on the X Factor panel: he IS pop.


…and I say:

Well, Joe makes a compelling case for Andy Crow there and since being born from an egg on a mountaintop the nature of Shackleton is irrepressible, but I’m handing the trophy to a familiar name and previous Zellaby award winner: Kev Sanders.

Whilst not quite reaching the Stakhanovite release rate displayed in 2014, his productivity remains alarming high, as does the quality of his work. I’ve not reviewed a great deal of it, nor much else released on his label hairdryer excommunication (this collection of haiku from September being my main engagement) but it has been an ever-present background radiation.

If you picture the year as an autobahn, one which I have been stalled beside, hood up, engine steaming, then Kev’s music is a series of electricity pylons running alongside carrying cables buzzing with an intensity that is somehow both bleak and comforting. I wish him well with his coming move to that London and look forward to a chance to catch up whilst he is otherwise engaged. Now, like a casino bouncer chucking out a professional gambler, I’m banning him from winning anything else for a while. House rules.


3. The Special Contribution to Radio Free Midwich Award

Sof and Chrissie have a playground tussle over who gets to be teacher’s pet:

SofIt’s no secret that Rob Hayler has had a rough year with his depression but his drive and passion for underground music has meant he’s kept up with this blog which I’m sure a lot of folks wouldn’t do under the same circumstances – fair play and respect to you!

Chrissie: At the risk of sounding like a spoilt kid sucking up to the boss, I’d like to nominate Rob for this award. In what has been a difficult year for him he’s hired three new writers, no small risk in itself, trusting our ability to actually deliver readable prose (well, in my case anyway) in usable quantities, not to mention editing it onto the blog in good shape and good time. He’s also put up with my erratic writing schedule and lack of enthusiasm to take anything off the review pile – preferring to go off on my own in a crusade to bring more female artists to the notice of our good and loyal readers.

[Editor’s note: it might appear shameless to include the above, and I admit it kinda is, but, as I’ve pointed out, it has been a tough year and I was touched.  Let me have a little sugar, yeah?]

Luke picks an outlier:

Sorry gonna have to be Robert Ridley-Shackleton again [sings: “Return of the Shack!  Here it is…!”].  A little quote from Robbie following a chat about tedious porn/bondage themes in noise:

To me noise is a positive thing, it fills my brain full of the joys. I don’t understand all the negative themes presented, to me it’s life affirming

Yeah baby!!!

[Editor’s note: R-Shack’s physical contribution to RFM is indeed notable as he sent copies of all his releases plus extra examples of his womble-on-ketamine junk art not just to RFMHQ but also personally to Joe and Luke too – a Knight of the Post.]

Joe rallies the troops:

As ever, I reckon this one belongs to everybody.  Anyone that sent in a tape, clicked on a link, wrote a review, listened with intent, left a comment or gave a god-damn fuck.  This one’s for you.  It’s all of us that make this: writers, readers, editors…even you cynics (coz debate is good, yeah?).  We’re all part of the oneness.  No one hears a tree fall in an empty forest right?

…and I say:

Tempting as it is to fall into step and punch the air, nostrils flaring, there is an objectively true answer to the question and that is: Anne, my wife.  Without her love, care and truly unbelievable strength this blog would not have continued to exist.

However, if we limit the word ‘contribution’ to meaning actual hands-on graft accounting for the endeavours of the no-audience underground then only one name can be engraved on this medal: Joe Murray.

Of the 93 posts published this year a huge proportion were by Joe and each of those usually contained reviews of numerous items sourced from far-flung corners of the outer reaches.  Despite his hep prose poetry being the best music writing currently available – Richard Youngs himself described Joe’s review of his epic No Fans seven CD box set as ‘the definitive account’ – he is completely selfless in his unpretentious enthusiasm.  He embodies the ethos of this blog.


[Editor’s note: hmmm… getting a bit lovey and self-congratulatory this isn’t it?  Maybe I’ll rethink this category for next year <takes deep breath, dabs corner of eye> OK, on with the big gongs!]

2. The Label of the Year Award

Sof sticks to the point:

I’ve really enjoyed every release I’ve heard from Fort Evil Fruit this year, and most years, I think we must have the same taste in music.


Luke whittles on the porch:

Another tough one with old favourites like Chocolate Monk continuing to deliver the goods.  However at a push it’d be Winebox Press, a fairly laid back work rate but always something to look forward to, can’t think of another label as aesthetically as well as sonically pleasing to me at least. Objects of cosmic power that’ll warm you from the inside out.


Joe’s takes a turn:

Let’s hear it for Cardboard Club.  Why?  For the dogged determination and other worldly logic of course.  I have no idea what is going on in the disco/noise shire of Robert Ridley-Shackleton.  All I know is that I like it, I like it a lot. 

Robert’s singular vision is not so much outsider as out-rigger; a ghost on the pillion.  The label spreads itself across media so the scrabbly zines, tape artwork and ‘pocket-jazz’ sound can only contain the RR-S, nothing else.  But what made me giggle, what made me really smile was the recent move to vinyl.  Some lame-o’s see the hallowed seven inch as a step up; a career move if you please!  With that kind of attitude the battle is already lost and all ideals get mushed in ‘rock school’ production.  None of this for our Cardboard Club… it sounds exactly the same!  A hero for our troubled times.


…and I say:

Yep, all excellent selections deserving of your attention but, with hairdryer excommunication out of the way, I’m going to use editor’s privilege to share this year’s prize between two exemplary catalogues: Invisible City Records and Power Moves Label.  Both are tape-plus-download labels based on Bandcamp, both have strong individual identities – in ethos and aesthetic – despite presenting diverse, intriguing rosters and both share impeccable no-audience underground credentials (PML’s slogan: ‘true bedroom recordings with delusions of grandeur’).  It don’t hurt that the gents running each – Craig and Kev respectively – are polite, efficient and enthusiastic in their correspondence too.  Anyone looking for a model as to how it should be done could do worse than sit at the front of their class and take careful notes.

[Editor’s note on the Editor’s note: yes, yes, I know that ICR re-released my epic masterpiece The Swift, thus making it the label of the year by default but I felt duty bound to mention it anyway.  Shame on Tabs Out Podcast, by the way, for filling the first 135 places of their 2015 Top 200 with hype and industry payola.  Glad to see sanity and integrity restored with #136.]


1. The Album of the Year Award

Chrissie kicks us off:

1. R.A.N

My first female:pressure review and the one I still listen to the most.

…not only are the individual tracks on this album good, but the ordering of them is exquisite. They follow on from each other in a wonderful, spooky narrative that runs smoothly and expertly from start to finish – the gaps between them allowing you to pause for breath before being dragged into the next hellmouth.


2. FAKE Mistress – entertainted

The opening track, ‘Appreciate the moment’s security’, will pull you in with its drama, heavy noise-based beats, spooky voicing and very punkish shouting but you’ll stay for the gentler opening of ‘You better trust’, intrigued by where it’s going. There’s harsh noise in the middle of this track and in lots of places on this album, but it’s never over-used. It’s here as a structural device to take you by surprise and drag you out of your complacency.


Luke casts his net wide:

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP

Charlotte Braun – Happy Being Sad

Absurde, Chier – Absurde VS Chier

Skatgobs – Pointless

Blood Stereo – The Lure of Gurp

Alec Cheer – Autumn

Ali Robertson & His Conversations

Guttersnipe – Demo

xazzaz – descent / the crusher

VA AA LR – Ping Cone

Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks 3/4

Anla Courtis – B-Rain Folklore

S C K E / Kay Hill – Disclosure, TESSELLATION A/B, IN-GRAIN, Cold Title

Jon Collin – Wrong Moves / Dream Recall

Whole Voyald Infinite Light – Uncollected Recordings

Ashtray Navigations – Lemon Blossom Gently Pixelating In The Breeze

Melanie O’Dubhshlaine – Deformed Vowels

yol / posset – a watched pot never (no link – ask yol or Joe, they’ll sort you out)

half an abortion / yol – the designated driver

Shareholder – Jimmy Shan

[Editor’s note: blimey, eh?  Luke also provided a ‘year in metal’ list too!  Available on request.]


Sof’s impeccable taste displayed:

I’m going with Steven Ball’s Collected Local Songs which I reviewed earlier this year because it’s the one I’ve gone back to over and over, each listen revealing more to me. It’s such an original piece of work.

Originality is the theme of my list –

Saboteuse – Death, Of Course (this maaaaaaay, have come out last year!)

Bridget Hayden and Claire Potter – Mother To No Swimming Laughing Child

Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God

Guttersnipe – Demo

Rosemary Krust – Rosemary Krust

Sam McLoughlin & David Chatton Barker – Show Your Sketches

Delphine Dora – L’au-delà

steven ball - collected local songs

Joe selects:

I fucking guarantee your serious music critics will moan and denounce 2015 as a fallow year for sounds.  Fools!  If you look around there’s an embarrassment of riches spilling out of the tape drawer, CD-r pile and download..er…folder? 

I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable hurling my opinion of ‘what’s best’ around so, in the spirit of “non-competition and praise”, here’s what I’d play you right now if you were to pop round for sherry.

  • yol – everyday rituals. When a record makes you run giddy for the Spanish/English dictionary you know something extraordinary is at work.  You’re familiar with yol yeah? You’re not?  Get a-fucking cracking pal.  This is a truly explosive & genuine performance that makes your insipid rebellion look safe as milk.
  • Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God. A super-subtle voice and tape work.  What I love is the ‘too studio-fucked to be field recordings and too much punk-ass rush for fluxus’ approach.  Natural and wonderfully blunted domestic, ‘Others…’ inhabits its own space – like a boil in the bag something served piping hot.
  • Midnight Doctors – Through a Screen and Into a Hole. The merciless despot with a harmonium!  Phil Begg’s steady hand guides a cavalcade of rough North East gonks through their paces to produce a timeless noir classic.  It is equal parts soundtrack, accurate cop-show homage and mysterious new direction for tight-meshed ensemble.  C’mon Hollywood… make that damn call.
  • Shareholder – Jimmy Shan. Rock und Roll songs collapse in sharp slaggy heaps. Dirty explosions replace instruments (the guitar x 2 and drums) leaving us dazed in a no-man’s-land of stunning, blinding light and electricity.  Ferocious and don’t-give-a-fuck all at once.
  • Tom White – Reconstruction is tied, even-stevens, with Sindre Bjerga’s – Attractive Amplification. The world of violent tape abuse is one I follow avidly. But there’s nothing to separate these two outstanding tapes (of tapes, of tapes, of tapes).  Both Tom and Sindre have the muscle memory and total mastery of their mediums (reel to reel and compact cassette) to wrench brown, sticky moans from the vintage equipment.  It sounds belligerent, punch drunk and rum-sloppy to my ears.  A perfect night out chaps!

yol - er

…and finally, your humble editor:

Bubbling under: here are the releases that made my long list but not the countdown. Every one a cracker, presented here in alphabetical order to avoid squabbles breaking out in the car park:

Culver – Saps 76

David Somló – Movement

Delphine Dora and Sophie Cooper – Distance, Future

Dominic Coppola – Vogue Meditations

Hagman – Inundation

Hardworking Families – Happy Days

Ian Watson – Caermaen

joined by wire – universe allstars

Luminous Monsters – The Sun Tree

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP

Saturn Form Essence – Stratospheric Tower

Shredderghost – Golden Cell

yol – everyday rituals

[Editor’s note: I also have to make special mention of Askild Haugland and his peerless recordings as Taming Power. I’ve received two (I think, possibly three) parcels from him this year containing his work, all the way from Norway, and these recordings always have a profound and meditative effect. Some of it, for instance the 7” single Fragments of the Name of God, could quite possibly be perfect.]

OK, right – ooo! exciting! – here’s the top ten, presented in traditional reverse order:

10. E.Y.E – MD2015


…and what a joy it has been to have Paul Harrison back in the fray!  Yes, after over a decade new material from Paul’s Expose Your Eyes project was finally made available via his new Bandcamp label Eye Fiend – a repository for much missed Fiend Recordings back catalogue (Mrs Cakehead has to be heard to be believed) and digital versions of the new stuff which is otherwise only available in tiny hand-splattered physical editions.

MD2015 is a four CD-r, four hour and twenty minute set comprising discordant synth clatters, decontextualized chanting (familiar to anyone into first wave industrial music), beats: pitter, patter – galloping hooves – factory presses, intoxicating loops, delirium (remember that footage of animals drunk on fermented fruit?  This is the OST to a bootleg version of The Lion King that features those orgiastic scenes), repetition beyond human endurance / irresistible motoric groove, ‘proper’ noise – all primary sexual characteristics out and flapping in the breeze, and sorbet-refreshing shortwave-radio-ish pulse.  It is a lot of fun.

9. AAS – Balancing Ritual


Y’know when your favourite stoner rock band lay down a super heavy, half-hour long, ego-obliterating, tethered crescendo but it isn’t quite enough so you and a hardy group of the suspicious break into one of the spaceships of a seemingly benevolent alien race currently visiting Earth and discover this playing inside?  Yeah?  A version of the above but clinical, steely, a step up from our humble efforts.  It’s like that and I, for one, welcome our new drone overlords…

Graham Dunning offered to send me a tape of this, I visited Bandcamp for a sneaky preview and ended up so impressed that I’d bought the download and fallen in love before my exhausted postie even delivered the jiffy bag.  I can count on the fingers of no fingers the other times that has happened recently.

8. Duncan Harrison, BBBlood, Aqua Dentata – “Ineluctable modality of the visible”


What an excellent three-fer.  Not only occupying a wholly justified place in the chart but giving me the opportunity to praise Paul Watson (BBBlood), Duncan Harrison (who’s Others Delete God tape, so highly praised earlier, shamefully passed me by.  Did I ever own it?  Did I send it to Joe in a moment of madness?  Ah, who knows?) and Eddie Nuttall (who, as Aqua Dentata, is producing amongst the finest work on my radar).  Here’s some extracts from marlo’s review:

…But, damn you, Duncan Harrison! The first track immediately gets me back in my academic head! ‘(Je suis) La Loi’ makes me think of psychoanalytical linguist theorist Julia Kristeva and deconstructionist scholar Jacques Derrida. The use of breath and physiological sounds makes the listening an embodied experience. The listener feels present. It is hard not to notice if one’s lips are dry or if you possibly had too many coffees…

…In ‘Nexistence of Vividence’, BBBlood returns to more of the crunchy reeling and wheeling and dealing. It is a typhoon that builds and waits. Never fully collapsing, the sounds peters out like attempting to catch water running through fingers. Yet there is an ethereal resolution to the struggle and the listeners are laid to rest, an aural wiping of the brow. Time to rest after the long haul…

…Eddie Nuttall, a.k.a Aqua Dentata, is not from this planet. I honestly don’t think he is. His music feels like extraterrestrial communication from outside our universe. Like binaural beats and subconscious interfering hypnosis, his untitled track sounds like it is made of laser beams. As a listener, you feel like you merge with the frequency and question your ability to make cognitive sense. It isn’t because of a reliance in bombarding one with several sounds but rather a direct cerebral invasion…

7. The Piss Superstition – Garage Squall

garage squall

Joe reviewed this one in the shape of a UFO. No, I don’t know why either but it is absolutely bang on:

Mag-lev trains.

The very best form of bluster.

As gentle as breath on a mirror,

Predator’s Answerphone message

The Velvet Underground trapped in a matchbox.

A map! Hectares of featureless crystalline crackle – zoom into mountains,

A corduroy vibe; not geography teacher clichés but that ribbed softness – a tickle on the fingernail.

Ride the world’s slowest roller-coaster taking 1000 years, cranking the incline.

Forbidden Planet strained with nourishing iron-rich greens,

A dream-tractor changing gear on the endless road.

Immense power restrained by gravity

A hit of strong, clean anaesthetic,

I’m counting backwards.

10, 9, 8…

6. Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No. 1, No. 2, No. 3


Joe again, not sparing the superlatives:

…But this time I throw my regular Northern caution and cynicism out the window and claim these three recordings THE MOST IMPORTANT SALVAGED TAPE LOOP RECORDINGS EVER YEAH.

What?  Like…ever?

I hear you ask.


I answer with a calm, clear voice.

Like in the whole 100 year history of recorded music?

You probe,

even including the oft- mentioned high- water mark of looping Tom Recchion’s Chaotica?

You add.  I merely smile and press play on the device of your choice.

You must listen, you must listen to truly understand

I chant with glassy eyes.

Anyway… fuck yeah!  That’s what I’m saying.  If you want to know where looping is right now in 2015/2016: PLAY THESE RECORDS.  If you are looking for an instructional map of what’s possible with simple tape loops, a couple of pedals and some hot ears: PLAY THESE RECORDS.  If you want to open up that valve in your stomach that helps you release gaseous tension: PLAY THESE RECORDS…

…Students of tape culture – your set-text has arrived.  Screw in those earbuds and get seriously twisted.

5. Ashtray Navigations – A Shimmering Replica


A beautiful album in every respect and an entirely life-affirming experience.  Terrific to see Phil and Mel get such a high-profile, flagship release in what was a high-profile, flagship year for the band.  I will have more to say on this in a long-planned article which will be published around the eventual release date of the long-planned best of Ashtray Navigations 4CD box set.  Coming soon!  In the meantime: buy this.

4. Melanie O’Dubhshlaine – Deformed Vowels


Likewise, Mel’s remarkable solo venture deserves a much more detailed account than it is going to get here.  Via a kind of meta-semi-improv (or something?) she continues on her utterly compelling, largely unheralded project to reinvent music on her own terms.

I imagine a Dr. Moreau style musical laboratory in which Mel cares for her cross bred instruments, incunabula parping their first notes, joyfully interacting with the sentient automata Mel has created to entertain them with.  She dangles a microphone over the giant aquarium tank in which they all live and conducts this unique performance.

Unlike anything else I’ve heard this year, or maybe ever.

3. Helicopter Quartet – Ghost Machine

ghost machine

A peerless work, even within the band’s own faultless back catalogue.  From my review:

It is difficult to write about Helicopter Quartet, the duo of RFM staffer Chrissie Caulfield (violin, synths) and Michael Capstick (guitars), because their music is so enveloping, so attention seizing, that when I’m listening the part of my brain I use to put words in a row is too awestruck to function.  However, following many hours with it, I am certain this is their best album yet.  That a work of such mature beauty, sculpted over months, is freely downloadable is surely further evidence that we are living in a golden age for self released music.  It has the austere and magisterial presence of a glacier edge, the drama of that glacier calving into the sea.

If you ever act on anything I say then act on this: go get it.

2. Guttersnipe – Demo


Wow, this kicked the fucking doors in.  With this CD-r and a series of explosive live performances Guttersnipe owned 2015 – they were either your new favourite band or you just hadn’t heard of them yet.  Luke got to review this one, here’s an extract:

Guttersnipe whip up a frightening noise on drums, guitars, electronics and howled vocals that will have you reaching for the light switch. The cassette fidelity smudges the freejazzmetalhaze into a fog of terror from which emerges the fangs of a gaping gob ready to bite you. I’ve been listening to a lot of black metal recently and these vocals could have the corpse painted hordes crying for their mama.  However, they are not the guttural grunts of the alpha male but more a feminine screech of desperation and disgust which the other two respond to by conjuring a blackened and unsettled miasma.  Calling this disc demo leads me to believe that Guttersnipe are selling themselves short.  This is impressively original material that comes over like a Xasthur/Skullflower hybrid with a hefty slug of secret ingredient.  Marvellous job.

Amusingly, and presumably because he hadn’t seen them live at the time, he seems to imply this duo is a trio – a testament to their ferocity (and my skills as an editor…).

1. namke communications – 365/2015

namke - 365-2015

Finally then, the winner of the Zellaby Award for album of the year presented by Radio Free Midwich is, in an unusually literal sense, the album of the year: 365/2015 by namke communications.  Here’s some context from a piece I wrote in March:

…old-friend-of-RFM John Tuffen, in a project which recalls the conceptual bloodymindedness of Bill Drummond (who has raised ‘seeing it through’ to the level of art form), is recording a track every day throughout the whole of 2015 and adding them to the album [on Bandcamp] as the calendar marches on … each track is freshly produced on the day in question and, as might be expected, vary enormously in style, execution and instrumentation – there is guitar improv, electronica in various hues and field recording amongst other genres welcome ’round here…

Indeed, added to various forms of (usually light and expansive) improv and field and domestic recordings of life’s ebb and flow were many forays into sub-genres of electronica, techno as she is written, actual *ahem* songs, drones of many textures, experimental sketches with software and new toys, callbacks, the odd joke (all tracks in February had the duration 4’33” following a twitter exchange with me) and so on and so, unbelievably, on.  I can’t claim to have heard all of it – of course I haven’t – and there are misfires – of course there are – but the level of quality maintained is gobsmacking given the scope of the exercise.

Each track was accompanied by notes, most with a picture and then a tweet announced its presence too.  John was no slacker on the admin – I approve.  In March I suggested:

This one I have no qualms about dipping into, in fact I would recommend constructing your own dipping strategies. As the year progresses you could build an album from the birthdays of your family, or never forget an anniversary again with a self-constructed namke communications love-bundle. Won a tenner on the lottery? Create your own three track EP with the numbers and paypal John a couple of quid. Or perhaps a five CD boxset called ‘Thursday Afternoon’, in homage to Brian Eno, containing everything released on that day of the week? Or condense the occult magic with a set comprising every 23rd track? Ah, the fun to be had. Or you could just listen to it on a daily basis until it becomes a welcome part of your routine…

I was at least half-joking at the time but engaging with 365/2015 has proved a unique way of experiencing an album.  During the worst of my illness, as I spent nights trawling Twitter unable to sleep, it did become a valuable part of my daily routine.  Literally a light in the darkness – Bandcamp page shining on the tablet as I lay in bed – John’s project, existing due to nothing but his crazy drive to create (the whole thing, 40+ hours, available as a ‘name your price’ download!), truly helped me through.  A clear and worthy winner.

In conclusion…

So, that is that for another year.  John’s prize, should he wish to take me up on it, is for namke communications to have the one and only release on the otherwise dormant fencing flatworm recordings some time in 2016.  A surprise baby sister, perhaps, for his lovely available from namke communications released by me back in the day and now (I think) a teenager itself.

Many thanks to my fellow writers and to all who support us – for your time, patience and enthusiasm – it is much appreciated.  Heartfelt best wishes for the New Year, comrades.

All is love.

Rob Hayler, January 2016.


…but the days grow short when you reach september

September 15, 2015 at 3:45 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Luminous Monsters – The Sun Tree (self-released download)

joined by wire – universe allstars (CD-r, LF Records, LF048)

Lost Trail – That Which Melts And Becomes Ash (3” CD-r, aetheric records)

Shredderghost – Weaved Regolith (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR13, edition of 50 or download)

Taming Power – Fragments of the Name of God (7” vinyl, Early Morning Records, EMR 7”-013, edition of 220)

Brian Lavelle – A Diagram and Pattern of Subtle Air (self-released download)


As I mentioned in the 500th RFM post below, I’ve had some trouble writing about, or even engaging with, music during my recent period of illness. It became like an old friend I’d not seen in a while. You know how it goes: if you see someone all the time you talk at length about each other’s lives, the issues of the day or just bullshit about nothing but once circumstances split you up it’s hand written letters and calls, then emails, then the length of the news dump needed becomes daunting, then it becomes something you ‘should be getting around to’ then months pass and… ah…, hey – an opportunity to be a smart arse on Twitter, I can do that in two minutes whilst lying on the sofa! Don’t look at me like that – you’ve done it too. We are terrible people.

Actually, I can’t feel too guilty. Sure, it is crap that stuff sent our way months ago is languishing unreviewed but it is a coiled-liquorice-turd-in-a-hubcap-full-of-boiled-tramp’s-piss that I lost the use of my, shall we say, ‘higher functions’ for months of this finite and irreplaceable life. Anyway, justified resentment to one side, I am happy that my critical faculties are slowly returning and I find myself listening to racket again and making up nonsense in response. I’ll be revving up with short pieces, anthology posts and other ways of deteetering the review pile. First up: this lot, chosen at near-random.

Luminous Monsters – The Sun Tree

An epic of lone wolf psych rock. Reminds me of teenage afternoons spent lying on my bedroom floor, fried, watching the carpet undulate in time with my heartbeat. The crescendo here is expertly handled – in the second track, ‘Sapling’, before the chugging even properly begins you can feel the reverb being allowed to hang in the air – like plumes of incense in the barracks of some stoned soldier ants, preparing to watch footage – again – of that one time they kicked those fucking termites’ arses. Sweet.

LTjbw -ua

joined by wire – universe allstars

Lost Trail – That Which Melts And Becomes Ash

Imagine if the invitation to migrate to the off-world colonies was not a trope of dystopian SF, a cynical attempt to empty an increasingly choked and infertile Earth, but that all the marketing material was literally true. The experience of faster than light travel is an ecstatic oneness with the universe, the colonies themselves are bountiful paradises where the grim hierarchies of our current existence are abolished, the strange physical properties of the planets where they are located give us superpowers and so on. joined by wire and Lost Trail would be the soundtrack to it all. The former accompanying the day’s effort sculpting our new wild architecture. The latter for evenings by the campfire telling wistful tales about the old country whilst our newly tamed alien pets eye each other with suspiciously knowing expressions and idly test the strength of the ropes they are tethered with.


Shredderghost – Weaved Regolith

The first of two tracks begins with a satisfyingly rough-hewn tone/drone which is still but not motionless, like a fishing boat anchored in an otherwise deserted and isolated bay. When some curl, fizz and spit is applied to the sound later in the track it’s as if a bucket of chum has been thrown overboard to enliven an otherwise serene session of dozy, half-cut night fishing.

The first half of the second track documents the awakening of a holidaying Old One who squelches out of its semi-submerged tidal cave and swims under the boat. Sensing there is fun to be had, it belches a warning signal and whilst the mariners panic it eats them and, for good measure, the boat too. This crunching finale is represented by about five minutes of brute guitar skronk. I see where he’s coming from.

TP - fragments

Taming Power – Fragments of the Name of God

Back in February, Askild Haugland of Taming Power kindly sent me another four of his records. With his typical, understated generosity he did this unsolicited and free of charge just to ‘fill the gaps’ and as a way of thanking me for enthusing about his work (click the tag above for more of my writing on this subject). I was, as you can imagine, profoundly grateful.

His music has been a welcome tonic whilst I was sick. Presenting a variety of dramatic, ego dissolving views – across the frozen lake, scree slopes in the foothills, the emerald green grass of the flood plain – Askild’s work has the same perfect bite as opening your front door onto a December snow scene. I have not written about these releases partly for the reasons given above but partly because the more I think about it, the more perfect it appears. It has the same emotional intensity and efficiency of expression as the best poetry and, frankly, no-one needs my clumsy marginalia.

If I may make one suggestion: this 7″ single is a useful distillation and can be used as a map key to make sense of the atlas that is the Taming Power back catalogue. It is not an exaggeration to say I have listened to this dozens of times.

[Note: picture stolen from the Idwal Fisher blog where you will find a much more enlightening write-up here.]

BL - diagram

Brian Lavelle – A Diagram and Pattern of Subtle Air

Finally, then, we have this requiem for a much missed feline companion.  Brian explains:

This piece was recorded in tribute to our beautiful cat Bob who passed away before his time on Friday 13 March 2015. He deserves more than this, but I’ve struggled with how to express in music just how much he meant to me and how big a void exists in my heart now that he’s gone.

It’s a beautiful ten minute track, constructed with the care and skill anyone familiar with Brian’s work might expect.  It has the taut elegance of a cat trotting along the top of a fence, the magisterial poise of a paw on the neck of mouse and the soulfulness of a moggy sparked out in a sunbeam.  It is (and I mean this as high praise and not a flippant joke) ‘Adagio for Whiskers’ – a glimpse into that edge-world that only cats can see.

Available for free download but donations gratefully received and passed on to the UK charity Cats Protection.


Luminous Monsters

LF Records

aetheric records

Invisible City Records

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

Brian Lavelle

eject the tape: rfm moans about the format, champions the content

October 17, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | 4 Comments
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Clive Henry / Joined By Wire – split (tape, Soundholes, #060, edition of 100)

Joined By Wire – ERA END and/or BAJM! (tape and 12 page A6 booklet, self-released as part of Bang the Bore Forum tape exchange, edition of 15)

BBBlood – Untitled (tape, Beartown Records)

Cestine – Other Half / Bright Encounter (tape, Rok Lok Records, #97, edition of 40 or download)

Dear Beloved Henry / Albert Materia – split (recycled tape, Hyster Tapes, HYSTER13)

Leitmotiv Limbo – LIMBO / WIND SWEPT (self-released tape)

Stamina Nudes – Discipline of Exploding Bridges (tape, Stolen Head)

harsh noise wall (of tapes)

Apologies for not writing more reviews over the last couple of months.  I’ve been waiting for two things to wear off: the effects of a nasty virus and the novelty of being on Twitter.  Both have rather dragged on.  Anyway…

As part of this year’s fabulous TUSK Festival Joe Murray agreed to curate a small exhibition of tape label art titled Everyone Loves Tapes These Days.  Looking for someone to write a brief wall text Joe reached out to his editor here at RFM and I replied with the following diatribe:

Interesting, and thanks for thinking of me – I’m flattered.  However, I wonder if I am exactly the right guy for the job.  Dare I say it?  OK, deep breath: I’ve pretty much fallen out of love with tapes.  I appreciate the determined anti-commercialism that they represent nowadays, and they are a good archive medium,  but the format is cumbersome, inconvenient, space consuming and has no sonic advantages over other formats.  Those beardies that talk about its ‘unique low end’ are talking out of their own low ends. I suppose I still do like the clacky sound of taking them in and out of their cases but if everything went download/CD-r tomorrow I wouldn’t care. Tapes = the price you pay for being a Culver fan.  I might even go a bit further: what used to be a democratic, punk (‘home taping is killing music!’ well, GOOD) format has mutated over the years into a symbol of hipster elitism – maybe not in the context of the no-audience underground but that is what anyone vaguely knowledgeable about music looking in from outside would see.  Tape walkmans aren’t as an awful an affectation as manual typewriters but, hey, matter of time…

Heh, heh – ain’t I naughty, eh?  So do I actually believe all that or did Joe just catch me in a mischievous, belligerent mood?  A bit of both, I think.  Some clarifications and addenda are necessary.

Firstly, that bit about being an archive medium is true enuff – they won’t play after the aliens come and destroy civilisation with a massive electro-magnetic pulse but they will last until then which is more than can be said for CD-rs etc.  Dude, my Mum has had that Billy Joel tape, like, for ever.

Secondly, I do really like the clacky sound of removing a tape from it’s box and sliding it into the deck.  I also think the Tabs Out Podcast twitter feed is really funny.  So that’s two tape related things that are good – fair as Solomon, me.

Thirdly, and more contentiously, the determined anti-commercialism/hipster elitism tension.  I haven’t closely followed the rise of tape ‘culture’ but I’m sure arguments must have raged/might still be raging about this subject on corners of the internet that I am blissfully unaware of.  I don’t have the energy or inclination to take a side.  However there is one aspect of the business that I’m tempted to take a hard line on.  Now, I have nothing but love for truly tape only noise labels (the ne plus ultra in the UK being Matching Head, of course – a label with no official internet presence, untouched by fashion, driven purely by the uncompromising vision of Lee ‘Culver’ Stokoe) but raise an eyebrow at self-described ‘tape labels’ that also offer downloads.  Personally I prefer this arrangement for reasons given above – 98% of my musical appreciation is done via mp3 player – but I would argue that by offering downloads you can ditch the word ‘tape’ because yours is just a… label.  Catch me in the same mischievous, belligerent mood that greeted Joe’s innocent request and I might say that you were actually a label providing music in the preferred, most convenient format of the day alongside unnecessary physical versions meant to tempt daft hipster object-fetishists – a demographic always keen to reify counter-cultural heft into something that can be neatly displayed on a shelf.

Heh, heh – more naughtiness – comments genuinely welcome.  I am open to being convinced otherwise.

So, with that all in mind, my eyes wander to the tape section of the RFM review pile and I decide that a round-up is long overdue.  Never mind my misgivings about the format, it’s the content that really matters right?  Let’s see.

jbw and clivejbw - era end

Clive Henry / Joined By Wire – split

Joined By Wire – ERA END and/or BAJM!

Boy, have I slept on these two tapes – Stephen of joinedbywire kindly sent me these months ago.  Mea culpa.

Clive Henry‘s side of the split tape is like waking from a blackout caused by a blow to the head and piecing together the events that led to the assault.  Bursts of vision-blurring pain, repeated verbal tics that refuse to resolve into coherent speech, stumbling.  Or maybe it is Ted Hughes’s The Iron Man reassembling itself the morning after falling off that cliff.  I like it very much.

Stephen’s side is perhaps not as nostrils-flaring, full-on psych as previous JBW releases admired on this blog but is no less terrific for being dialled down a notch.  Instead what we have are a group of multi-limbed clockwork toys of indeterminate form defying the laws of thermodynamics by winding each other up into a clicking, buzzing, writhing mass of mechanical energy.

Available from SoundHoles.

ERA END and/or BAJM! is Stephen’s contribution to a tape-swap project organised via the Bang the Bore forum.  I was not involved in this so am grateful to him for sending me this spare copy – the last of an edition of 15. As ever, I deeply impressed with Stephen’s graphic work and faultless attention to detail – see photo for all the elements that make up this package – especially as this was originally only to be seen by the dozen people signed up to take part.  The racket this time is up in the red.  Thick clouds of noise create an atmosphere of salty feverishness with occasional sinus clearing bursts of stomping distortobeatz.  That said, there are passages of relative calm too – imagine some brute devolved remnant of far-future humanity worshipping the one remaining artefact of our decadent age: a broken tape walkman.

bbblood - untitled - beartown

BBBlood – Untitled

Paul Watson is a current scene leader in what I’ve always thought of as ‘proper’ noise.  That is: a visceral racket created by rough-housing with physical objects, by combining field and domestic recordings and by filtering the lot through a rag-tag tabletop of battered and home-made electronics.  However, that is not to belittle the skill and care with which Paul puts these recordings together.  The sounds are not ends in themselves but chosen, ordered and edited as a means to establishing an atmosphere.  His latest recordings eschew ‘harshness’ almost entirely and the listener is led through a post-industrial landscape of broken glass and burning tyres with, dare I say it, delicacy and finesse.

I can sense the leather-jacket owning section of my readership twitching with unease but don’t worry – I’m not saying Paul has gone all Nick Drake on us.  He still get his balls out on occasion – and so magnificent are his plums that it is no wonder the crowd goes fucking apeshit when they are displayed.  What I’m saying is the flashes of nad are appropriate and proportionate to the larger task at hand.

Essential, of course.  Available from Beartown Records.


Cestine – Other Half / Bright Encounter

This recording by Cestine, the duo of Dominic Coppola and Theodore Schafer, hovers shimmering between the ‘nothing music’ of Karina ESP I described a few posts ago and the ‘extraction music‘ of Dan Thomas et al that I have been banging on about this year.  Two tracks, each lasting fifteen minutes exactly, contain slowly cycling electronics augmented with field recordings – birds, the sea maybe, children – and snatches of whispered conversation, perhaps partially overheard whilst daydreaming, perhaps snatches of radio broadcasts crackling between the stations.  It is constructed with a robust attention to detail that allows for deep, repeat listening but conveys a vulnerability, a brittleness too.  The contemplative reverie it induces is bitter-sweet and emotionally complicated, like turning over the memory of an important friendship, now long lost.  Recommended highly.

Available from Rok Lok Records.

dear beloved henry

Dear Beloved Henry / Albert Materia – split

Hyster Tapes are punk as all fuck – black and white J-card, recycled tapes, photocopied flier advertising their warez (pictured) – and I wholeheartedly approve.  Joe grokked the FOUR LETTER WORLD compilation back in March and as a result Heikki of the label kindly sent this too.  Gotta keep that goodwill circulating – keeps it fresh and vital.

The Dear Beloved Henry side of this split, one 24 minute track titled ‘Advent’, is one of the best things I’ve heard all year.  It is deceptively simple in execution: a flowing electronic drone groove with a vaguely East Asian feel – like 1970s Krautrock that has been listening to a bunch of gamelan LPs – works through the variations.  However, every so often a magnetic pull distorts it off course and adds an intriguing, complicating layer of discordance.  It’s like it was mastered to VHS and someone is now messing with the tracking.  Is this an artefact of duping it to an old recycled tape or is this woosiness wholly intended?  The result is magical either way.

Sadly the Albert Materia side, several tracks of fractured poetry with piano accompaniment, was not for me.  Can’t win ’em all, eh?

Available from Hyster Tapes – email: plaa@pcuf.fi

leitmotiv limbo

Leitmotiv Limbo – LIMBO / WIND SWEPT

Also sent as result of Joe’s FOUR LETTER WORLD review.  In ‘Limbo’ Elijah Vartto (umlauts over the vowels – apologies for the limitations of the WordPress editor) conjures an alien souk from the echoed honking of an unspecified wind instrument and stick-in-bucket metallic rhythms.  The point of view changes every few minutes and gradually a scene is set, protagonists introduced.  This comes together in a surprising burst of new wave pop before retreating to the abstract – a menacing bassy warble dragging us down to an underground bunker full of robot soldiers.

‘Wind Swept’ uses field recordings phased to sound like the fuelling of spacecaft over which mournful, austere jazz blowing accompanies growling, heavily filtered vocals.  It’s the blues played by a band whose home-world was destroyed as a display of power intended to tame a petulant rebel princess.  Guitar jangles like the rigging of boats.  All eventually peters out to a gargling throb.

Comparisons have been made elsewhere to early Cabaret Voltaire.  This is apt and, of course, a very good thing.

Available from Elijah himself.

stamina nudes

Stamina Nudes – Discipline of Exploding Bridges

Finally then, what might be my pick of the bunch.  Bryan (whose surname I suddenly realise I don’t know) operates in an adjoining laboratory to meta-musical collage-jockeys Spoils & Relics (indeed, I recently saw him play as a duo with that #KieronPiercy).  The shared working method involves isolating sounds, sanding off their contexts and reassembling them into new fragmentary narratives – a perversely delicious anti-archaeology.  Here Bryan invokes a dystopian, science fictional vibe but builds in a wry distance that stops it becoming self-important or parodic. The balance and compelling flow he maintains are both very impressive.  In summary: I dig this.

This album scores maximum ideological purity points too.  It was slipped to me, in person, by the artist, as we sat on a bench, under a tree, in a park, with Dan Thomas, one sunny lunchtime – a clandestine, samizdat-style handover.  Now that is tape only.

I’ve no idea in what sense this this might be ‘available’ but you can email Bryan and ask: dorh@hotmail.co.uk


the barrel nut #5: hyper-signage, gargle-score, saturated doodle

January 18, 2014 at 9:22 am | Posted in art, no audience underground, not bloody music | 2 Comments
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barrel nut 5 cover

Attentive readers will know that I have recently been ill, enduring an episode of the depression that fouls my life every so often.  Sadly, I remain knacked though some progress has been made.  I have, in part at least, been attempting to fight it off with creative endeavour – discovering that getting busy with the glue-stick then folding tiny zines can be a meditative, therapeutic exercise…

Hence the return of North Leeds’s premier oddness-aggregator: The Barrel Nut.  The latest issue, #5, is something of a showcase for regulars.  Check out the pan-dimensional, hyper-signage – pointing god knows where – by Stephen Woolley of joinedbywire and the text score (feel free to send recordings of your interpretation) and line drawing by Yol, champion art-growler.  Dr. Adolf Steg of Spon contributes a page of ballpoint mental cacophony and Dex Wright of Tape Noise concludes matters with a mysterious portrait in the naive style.  Cover collage, ‘migrating birds’, is by yours truly, as is the freestyle sudoku on the back.

For those new to this type of silliness, a microzine is a single sided, single sheet of A4 paper cleverly folded to make an eight panel, A7 pamphlet.  Paper copies will be distributed to anyone who wants one, or who has expressed an interest in the past.  I’ll bring some to gigs I attend and a bunch will be passed around by those with a similar love of the post.

Should you be all internet-enabled n’ that then you are very welcome to download and print out your own.  It’s well salt-and-shake!  Links to the latest issue in jpg and pdf formats (in colour!) are below.  Assembly instructions and previous issues can be found on the Nut’s own page (tabbed above).  You’ll need to trim the print-out a bit down one edge to make it fold properly.  Apologies for the size of the pdf this time – I managed to save it in an unnecessarily ultra-high quality setting.

Should you wish to contribute artwork then I would be very grateful indeed.  Submissions need to look OK when reproduced as a black and white photocopy and be 7cm by 10cm in size (or scalable to roughly those dimensions).  Good quality scans attached to an email are fine, originals sent in the post ideal.  Please get in touch.

The Barrel Nut issue #5 as a pdf file

The Barrel Nut issue #5 as jpeg file

‘art by noise’: radiofreemidwich presents ‘the barrel nut’ microzine

July 26, 2013 at 7:32 am | Posted in art, no audience underground, not bloody music | 5 Comments
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The Barrel Nut issue 1 cover

Hey people!  Radio Free Midwich is proud to present the first issue of The Barrel Nut microzine.

Having been inspired by various small press, ‘artist book’ and zine(ish) activities, I have decided to create a little something on paper myself.  Keeping it as simple as possible, each issue will be one single sided sheet of A4 paper folded into an A7, 8-panel microzine (picture above is way larger than life).  The six internal pages will be filled with contributions invited from stalwarts of the no-audience underground and other affiliated parties, hence the clever tag-line: ‘art by noise’.  Cool, eh?  The intention is to produce issues on a monthly(ish) basis but we’ll see how that goes.  Physical copies will be created to pass on to contributors, leave in gig venues and give to distros/zines to send out with their orders/correspondence.  Subscriptions available.  I will also put up a pdf and jpeg of each issue on RFM so anyone can print out their own (see below for Blue-Peter-style assembly instructions).

Why am I doing this?  Well, this kind of thing is a lot of fun to put together and reminds me of happy hours spent making small-press comics in my teens.  I’m also into the idea of showcasing the graphic talents of this pool of artists – perhaps an underrated aspect of our endeavour.  Links will be given on the back page, so picking this up might encourage the curious to check out a Bandcamp site or whatnot too.

The first issue starts strong with artwork from Stephen Woolley of Joined By Wire, Dex Wright of Tape Noise, Yol of, err…, Yol and, *ahem*, Rob Hayler of midwich.  More line drawings and typewriten text (intended as scores for performance – ‘like La Monte Young with ADHD’) to come from Yol.  Some great upset typography from RFM staffer and dictaphonic maestro Joe Murray to look forward to in future issues.


A UK subscription can be had in return for stamps or trade – enquiries welcome.  Due to silly postal prices I suggest overseas readers follow the instructions for creating their own copies.


Contributions of artwork welcome.  It can be anything you like but should a) reproduce OK as a black and white photocopy and b) be 7cm by 10cm (which ain’t big).  Anyone can submit as many pages as they like – I’ll juggle ’em up.  Originals posted to Midwich Mansions preferred but good quality scans attached to an email also fine.

Issues in digital format

The Barrel Nut issue #1 as a pdf file

The Barrel Nut Issue #1 as a jpeg file

Assembly instructions

Should you wish to construct your own copy of The Barrel Nut you will need the following: a print out of one of the files above and a craft knife or pair of scissors.

tbn assembly 1

Don’t be intimidated by the incredible fanzine creator kit in the photo above – I’m a professional.  First fold in half like this:

tbn assembly 2

Then in half lengthways too:

tbn assembly 3

Then open out and fold the ends in to meet the middle like this:

tbn assembly 4

Open it out again and use your sharp instrument to cut along the long fold in-between where the two middle segments of each side meet (indicated by ruler, blade point placement):

tbn assembly 5

Fold over along the long fold with the artwork facing outwards:

tbn assembly 6

This is the spatial awareness stretching bit.  Fiddle with it and refold a couple of lines until it looks like this:

tbn assembly 7

Then squash into booklet form thus:

tbn assembly 8

…and you are done.  Peruse, enjoy then get to work on your contribution or, now you know how it is done, rival publication.

tbn assembly 9

artifacts of the no-audience underground: thossian process and joined by wire

November 13, 2012 at 7:01 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Thossian Process – Impurities (CD-r in handmade packaging, Striate Cortex, S.C.54, edition of 60)

joinedbywire – lost weekends (CD-r, self-released, edition of 17)

Patience is a virtue, eh readers?  Without it how could I ever come to appreciate the oblique, the abrasive or a not-immediately-welcome change of direction?  It took me a while to get with these releases (one even had to be snuck into Midwich Mansions ignoring my polite but firm indifference) but the rewards have far outweighed the effort.  When life outside music proves difficult and I eye the teetering review pile with, shall we say, ‘mixed feelings’ these CD-rs remind me that remaining open-minded is a virtue too.

Impurities by Thossian Process – a chap called Tim Mitchell – is new on Striate Cortex.  Reason for celebratory fireworks usually but in his plugging email to the Striate faithful Andy described it as follows:

Impurities has a more industrial feel to it, very dark and edgy and for me has massive reflections of early TG

Oh, I thought, maybe I’ll give it a miss.  Heresy, I know, but I don’t really like much of that first wave industrial nowadays.  The claustrophobic seediness of Throbbing Gristle just makes me feel sad.  Thus I maintained a dignified silence.  Andy contacted me again, I explained my misgivings and suggested hardier blogs that might be more receptive …and a few days later a copy turned up in the post anyway.  The cheeky bugger had guessed correctly that once it was in the house I’d feel compelled to give it a chance.  Well, I’m glad I did.

The packaging is first class.  Inside a robust plastic wallet there is a length of black gauze.  This veils a fold out cardboard case painted in ‘oriental’ colours of red, gold and black.  Inside is a title card, a booklet of creepy black and white photography and a colour printed CD-r in its own black window envelope.  The attention to detail is… well, you can only shake your head in amazement.

The music unfolds to reveal a similar seriousness of intent.  I see where Andy is coming from with his description.  With so much noise these days being so, er…, noisy it is easy to forget how empty and eerie some of that early industrial stuff could be.  Thossian Process captures that vibe perfectly with rhythmic ticks, pulses and pitter-patter in lieu of anything too drum-like and a carefully chosen palette of electronics used sparingly and with purpose.  A couple of tracks even have that vaguely ethnographic Middle Eastern/North African influence that bands like Cabaret Voltaire tapped into.

Part of what makes the album so compelling is the space within the music.  I don’t mean it is ‘dubby’ – this is not a stoner-friendly warm bath – rather it is ‘spacious’ like a harshly lit, unfurnished room, or a view across a frozen lake, or the inside of your head when you wake sweating in the pitch black at 3.30am.

The seven tracks that make up this release total a fat-free 28 minutes.  This efficiency shows a respect both for the material and for the listener and ensures that the quick-witted inventiveness throughout is left undiluted and espresso strong.  Its discipline is admirable.  Given its very high tolerance to repeat listening, and the art-object level of the packaging, this release is incredible value for money.

Buy here.

The issue that delayed my appreciation of Lost Weekends, the latest CD-r by Joined  By Wire was a bit different.  I’m a big fan of the work of Stephen Woolley (and associates) and was delighted to be offered one of this super-limited edition.  Imagine the shiver of anticipation as I slid it into the CD player, pumped the volume and… was bludgeoned.  Oof.

Now, JBW is a noisy project and doesn’t mind loosening teeth/bowels if necessary but this is something else.  Stephen’s turn to brute electronics is closely akin to that taken by Neil Campbell with his recent Astral Social Club stuff.  However, being the dimwit that I am, my first thought wasn’t ‘oh yeah, Neil did something like this and I eventually understood it and learned to love it.’ It was: ‘oh shit, how am I going to break it to Stephen that I don’t like his record?’  Luckily, good ol’ fashioned English fear of an embarrassing situation kept me from pressing ‘send’ for a few days and in that time I realised that I was wrong.  Once I’d got used to the chilli heat I could taste the nicely balanced blend of spices underneath.  It turns out that, after your eyes stop watering, the new JBW disc is delicious.

It’s another cracking package.  A brown card gatefold sleeve, screen printed with a cartoon forest on the front, opens to reveal a CD-r, itself printed red and decorated with a wood grain pattern, and an eight page card booklet.  The booklet contains no information about the release just more of Stephen’s lovely graphic work.  The CD-r contains seven untitled tracks and runs to approximately 44 minutes.

The first three tracks are full of joy and energy but are unrepentantly brain-scouring.  It is like an audio time-lapse account of geological processes: formless masses are melted, boiled, set hard, torn into reflective shards, melted again.  Exhilarating stuff but you’ll need to fiddle with the volume to minimise ear-bleed.  Track 4 is relatively mild so affords us a deep breath and a brief, refreshing interlude to wiggle our toes in the grass before cracking on.  Track 5 is exactly one minute of sanity-baiting anarcho-squiggle so breathtakingly looney that if it continued any longer it may well cause irreversible brain-tilt.  Luckily it cuts when it does and we are back with the longer form, shimmering, rolling, scarifying tectonics until the end.  Blimey.

Now, in my reviews I generally try and avoid the internet cop-out of ‘if you like that, you’ll like this’ but fans of recent Astral Social Club material that don’t already know Joined By Wire should really check this out.  I’m sure neither Neil nor Stephen would grumble at the comparison as they are clearly both attacking the void with similar weaponry.  This particular edition runs to a mere 17 copies but fear not as Stephen has previous for bootlegging his own stuff.  I’m sure some arrangement could be made should it have ‘sold out’.

Buy via the JBW Big Cartel shop or drop Stephen a line at joinedbywire@hotmail.com.

artifacts of the no-audience underground: a brief history of joined by wire 2002-2008

August 21, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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A Brief History Of Joined By Wire 2002-2008 (CD-r, Omcore Recordings, OCD 19)

Ysteryulator (A5 zine)

So is it possible to bootleg yourself?  Well, of course we all copy our own work for others all the time – this blog features mp3 rips of most of my back catalogue – but my question is more, y’know, philosophical: can a copy be unauthorized if it is made by the author?  Insert well worn arguments about consent, ownership, copyright, remuneration etc. here, should you be so inclined.

I suppose my main concern would be a practical one: I wouldn’t want to risk annoying the label that created the lovely, hand-made original edition.  But what if that label’s ‘business model’ is entirely based in the gift economy and the original edition was just handed out to whoever showed an interest?  From the Omcore homepage:

FREE AS YOU AND ME – all OMCORE gear costs no money, not because it’s wrong to pay for things but more because GIFT is an important part of keeping culture wild and healthy.

Way cool.  And what if your copy came in a glittery facsimile of the original packaging accompanied by a smart art zine?  Tough times for the ‘official release’ nowadays, eh?

Anyway, enough musing.  What I’m referring to specifically is a copy of A Brief History Of Joined By Wire made for me by Stephen Woolley of the band after the run on Omcore, err…, ran out.  With 14 tracks over 75 minutes this is far longer than my cruelly eroded attention span will usually allow but the chunks are manageable and the quality control is impressively maintained throughout.  As this retrospective covers six or seven years, squeezing it onto one CD-r is admirably disciplined (there is even a 20 minute long live set that acts as a précis for those in a hurry).

Whilst there is plenty of variation from track to track and over the years – check out the big guns of ‘M’ followed by the glockenspiel cupcake of ‘Intermission’ – there is an informing intelligence behind it all that guarantees a satisfying cohesion.  JBW are, to put it simply, fascinated with the possibilities inherent in crackling fuzz.  This takes a melancholy, entropic, almost shoegazey quality on, say, ‘We Are Believers’ – an elegy for a once great city, now ruined and buried in sand.  Or it can swagger with balls-out machismo, as on the aforementioned ‘M’ which sounds like a gathering swarm of sentient war machines.  They’re pissed off too.  Or, best of all, it can billow into an electrical storm of psychedelic noise, as it does on the terrific Exif Endless.  This rolling crescendo of ecstatic fizz is a joyous, mentholated sinus clearer and has me clapping with delight: ‘again, again!’

In the same package as this treat was Ysteryulator, an A5 zine printed on red paper (with an A6 yellow insert) featuring collage, artwork and cut-ups.  I’ve praised the JBW visual aesthetic before and this object is equally worthy of your attention.  Bleakly humorous (‘enter with caution’ it says on the back cover, too late), yearning for meaningful connection underneath its surface of cool detachment.  The centre spread is reproduced above.

How to get these things?  Ask, I suppose.  Email Stephen via joinedbywire@hotmail.com and I’m sure some kind of transaction could be arranged.  More visuals can be seen at StephensVolume.  Check out Omcore Recordings too.

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