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—

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
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

—ooOoo—

ufology: joe murray on the piss superstition

December 7, 2015 at 1:10 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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The Piss Superstition – Garage Squall (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.313, edition of 45)

garage squall

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…

—ooOoo—

Chocolate Monk

a camera pointed at us: joe on peak signal 2 noise

November 14, 2014 at 9:35 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Peak Signal 2 Noise (TV show, Sheffield Live Community TV and Vimeo)

PS2N logo (1)

[Editor’s note: amused by the impressionistic ‘off the TV’ snaps that Joe sometimes tweets I encouraged him to use the same technique in illustrating this article.  Thus what you are seeing has more to do with the workings of Joe’s phone camera (and fevered bonce) than the clear, sharp, properly lit and framed images you can expect from this excellent television programme.  OK, over to Joe…]

It’s seems to be a truism in broadcasting that music TV has to suck really, really bad.

Cast your mind back to the mashed potato blandness of The White Room, the jokey yoof-arse of The Tube and the god-awful sweaty slobbering  from Jools Holland (which is apparently still on).

What should be so simple, folk playing music with a camera aimed at them, turns into an excuse for zany camera angles, ill-thought out concepts and paedophile presenters.  Ugh.  It’s grim.  I rest my case m’lud. [Editor’s note: hey, SnubTV had its moments!]

Thankfully Peak Signal 2 Noise is different fishy kettle.  There’s no presenter to foul things up, no false stage antics or miming fools.  It’s just a camera in face of the no-audience underground.

Cut up like a mix tape, the show moves swiftly between a whole buncha beards in a whole bunch of situations (live show footage, specially recorded pieces, installation performances) keeping the energy up and creating spaces to dream.  Although edits are hard some interruptions blur the edges: a cheap kaleidoscope, raw fennel seeds bouncing on a speaker, frozen wasps, Yodel/Honkey and the Bubble Wrap man.  On the seven episodes broadcast already you can expect to see…

Virginia_JookloJooklo Duo

·         Jooklo Duo – Tender solo sax squall like free-jazz insects.  Drums clatter in fur mittens.  A sound so wonderfully clear and fresh it’s like a clear mountain stream running over polished cobbles.

·         Human Heads – A real Dr Who vibe.  That’s not saying this is Radiophonic; more like Ben & Hannah are playing parts of a broken Tardis for kicks.

Humbolt VenturesHumbolt Ventures_hands in the airSellotape Mung

·         Humbolt Ventures– Glorious Sellotape jam.  Rubbing and stroking are the order of the day with thin vibrations.  Bullroarers in pt 2 induce coma.

Bill OrcuttBill Orcuttttt

·         Bill Orcutt – Winged Eel finger-licking, blues shalom with naked foot.

Knitted Poot70s Poot

·         Luke Poot – No one does shame quite like Poot.  Performance, the pink end of noise, a burst orange ball is honked like a rubber sax, lights pulled out flies, plastic toast. Lead us Luke!

Dylan Vine Gurn

·         Dylan Nyoukis – Multiple Vines flicker like cat’s eyes –the hottest tip yet from the dark monk.

Jon Marshall_Papal Bull

·         Papal Bull – Maplin shoplifters curse the day tape was invented.  Slow torture of the C30.

Chris H_Family ElanHarry Wheeler_Family Elan

·         The Family Elan – Off-kilter yarbles from Transylvania (or something).  A proper band!

·         Sweat Tongue – No Wave roots with new (blue) boots.  Treble cranked high like it should.

·         Harappian Night Recordings – Those familiar stretched ferric sounds clash off Bali bonce with wide eyes.

·         Roman Nose – Layers and layers of Cardiff chalk blown up (Roman) nose, hopping from frame to frame capturing the mauve kinetic holla.   PLUS some bagpipe animation creep hidden elsewhere!

·         Marvo Men – Free gong-poetry on a dusty floor in a freezing space.  Every opportunity taken to push things beyond ‘here’ and into ‘there’ with head-folding results.  A brave and true duo.

Pouting FritzSinister Fritz

·         Fritz Welch – Mental crenulations and high metallic  wavering; clikerty fingerings and squeak in two glorious parts

Pascal Nichols_Stuckometer

·         Stuckometer – Free Jizz overdrive for the ‘fuh’ generation from these boy legends.

JunkoJunko 3Junko 2

·         Junko – “Atttttahhhh-atttttaaahh.  Ktchhttaaaaa.  Tch-aaaaaahhhhh.”

Sharon Gal

·         Sharon Gal – Granite-hard birdvoice dreamtime.  Geysers scored for hot-ash hiss.

Nyoukis_HonkeyNyoukis Honkey 2

·         Dylan Nyoukis/Luke Poot – This time together.  In conversation via khat-o-phone.  Explosive sinus and remorseful tutting like all the world’s Geography teachers at once.

·         Turk Geko – Found footage, frowned frottage, grown pottage, hewn montage.

YOLs Shirt

·         YOL – Without a face he chants (gggrrrrrrrr) leaving few traces but ghastly thoughts.

·         Belied Gunaiko – Silver cloud noise.  The sound of pilots dozing off…

Julian PSPiss SuperstitionPiss Fingers

·         The Piss Superstition – Transparent methods.  A ‘how to’ guide if you will.  But ingestion of foul liquids may, just may, play a part in the visceral rusty bliss-tronics.

Jon CollinJon Collin taps a footJon Collin makes a chord

·         Jon Collin – Naked guitar (finger then slide) of ultimate sorrow.  Salty harmonics from slack, bitter strings cry. Two-fer-one.

·         Trans/Human – Mystery Machine hi-jinks full of fuzz, fizz and fixx.  Taking pale ‘scree’ to the people like hotdogs.

Joincey

·         Joincey Jointhee – Word poems to a frosted tit.  Superb fractured sentences folded together with abrupt and sudden breath.  Curse the rain that stops the f-l-o-w.

Crank

·         Crank Sturgeon – Electric Portraiture.  Oh my Crank!

OK friends…I tried me hardest with those descriptions (for some reason this is so much harder than talking about records) so it’s probably best just to tune in really.  If you are Sheffield based you can get this on the proper telly (9.00pm/Saturday/Channel 159).  Jokers living in other locales can check out Vimeo for an identical web version and an archive of everything broadcast so far building up to an encyclopaedia of No Audience shenanigans.  The series plans to run for 10 episodes which should take us almost up to Christmas.  But, be warned, the busy bees behind the venture are looking to bust out in all different directions in 2015.

Stop reading.  Start watching.

Bloody Fingers

fencing flatworm recordings presents the piss superstition

July 28, 2014 at 10:59 am | Posted in fencing flatworm, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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the piss superstition – getting nothing to appear on the developed film (CD-r with booklet, fencing flatworm recordings, edition of 50 or download)tps front covertps back covertps booklet front and back

tps inserts

The most hotly awaited date in the no-audience underground calendar is, of course, the publication of radiofreemidwich’s annual Zellaby Awards. I know the anticipation ruins Christmas for a lot of you, and that spats on the red carpet have ended up in the tabloids, but our duty to promote the finest available music trumps all concerns about public order.

Once the puddles of champagne vomit have been mopped away, all that remains is an ancient tradition that can be dated back as far as 2013. The winner of the yellow jersey for Album of the Year is, *ahem*, ‘rewarded’ with a release on my otherwise dormant microlabel fencing flatworm recordings. This time the annual reactivation was postponed for a few months to allow for the project to mature but the wait has proved justified: the result is perfect.

getting nothing to appear on the developed film by the piss superstition, the duo of Julian Bradley and Paul Steere, comprises three tracks lasting a total of 30 minutes and is presented on CD-r (and/or download) in a cover designed by Julian. It is accompanied by an eight page, A7 pamphlet containing details of the release and some oblique poetry also by Julian. These pamphlets were hand-typed on one of those ol’ fashioned typewriters (see photo above) with hand-written track listings and edition numbers by guess who? Yep: Julian. That’s the nice thing about working with self-sufficient artists with confidence in their own vision – all I need do is the administration. The physical edition is strictly limited to the customary 50 copies, a download is available on a pay-what-you-like basis.

The music is, as ever with these guys: mystifying, brilliant, peerless. I’m not going to say any more because I want you to come to it fresh and untainted by my own interpretation. However, for those of you new to this band here’s a little of what I have said about them in the past:

…heavy, juddering electrics describe arcane symbols as they spiral through the iterations of this garbled instruction set. Something truly weird is being revealed. The serrated buzzing suggests saw mill equipment escaping its moorings and consuming itself as one bladed machine vibrates into the path of another. But again, there is nothing random about this movement. All is being conducted by an unfamiliar intelligence for some unknowable purpose…

…or to put it more succinctly:

…this music is detuned – not discordant as such, just eroded, smeared, until its original content is lost or, at best, obliquely hinted at. That is what makes it so endlessly fascinating…

Intriguing, eh? I’m very, very proud to have been involved in making this available. Now don’t be sleeping – this is sure to sell out double-quick.

—ooOoo—

the piss superstition on fencing flatworm recordings on Bandcamp

the piss superstition’s own site

The 2013 Zellaby Awards

 

crossing the streams: broken arm and the piss superstition

April 23, 2014 at 7:12 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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The Piss Superstition / Broken Arm – Live at The Fenton (tape, Great Sadness)

piss - arm - fenton

It’s years since I read it but, if I remember correctly, Foucaults Pendulum by Umberto Eco is about hoaxers who get in trouble when some bullshit they made up for a laugh gets taken seriously by dangerous conspiracy nuts. After hundreds of pages of dramatic incident and post-modern clever-cleverness the punchline is (spoiler alert) that the greatest secret has no content. Thus: the more you deny there is anything to know, the more desperate those desiring to know will become.

(Aside: should my exciting synopsis cause you to consider reading this book may I recommend instead that you go for The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. It covers similar ground but has way more fucking in it and far fewer witty puns in Latin.)

I  was reminded of Eco’s conclusion when listening to The Piss Superstition. Thus: I flounder about trying to make sense of it all whilst Julian (Bradley) and Paul (Steere) look on amused, shrugging and whispering to each other:

Dude, it just is what it is…

…but of course I don’t believe them and my babbling interpretations continue to spill out.

First, the facts: here we have the latest release from The Piss Superstition, winners of the Best Album gong at the 2013 Zellaby Awards. It’s a split tape shared with Broken Arm featuring two sets recorded live in famed Leeds shithole The Fenton. The recording quality is of an acceptably raw ‘walkman bootleg’ variety, mastering is limited to topping and tailing with the settings otherwise jammed on ‘brutal’. TPS contribute one track, ‘A Stupor-Look On The Knife Throwers Face’, lasting about twenty minutes. BA’s set comprises seven songs lasting half an hour. It has apparently been released by a label called Great Sadness though no contact details are provided on the object and perfunctory net-based ‘research’ also reveals nothing. Mysterious.

The Piss Superstition sound on this occasion is made of stringed noise (unrock guitar digested by intestinal effects), electro scribble spiralling into gibberish and stumbling, ill-fitting rhythms falling over themselves. ‘Wait, what?’ a mournful two-pitch pulse seems to groan, as if from a nightmarishly devolved nursery rhyme. Now, tempting as it is to romantically claim that the TPS back catalogue is the noise equivalent of the Voynich manuscript, I don’t think these boys are perpetrating an elaborate hoax. Nor are the indications of meaning accidental – there really are fossils of Cambrian oddities in these shale fragments, not just artefacts of rock formation and wishful thinking. No, this music is detuned – not discordant as such, just eroded, smeared, until its original content is lost or, at best, obliquely hinted at. That is what makes it so endlessly fascinating.

I know nowt about Broken Arm because they are, y’know, a ‘band’ but I very much like the smashed garage punk on display here. Their riffage is meaty and prominently veined, the high point being, err…, that track in the middle (who can follow a track listing whilst listening to a tape, eh? Not me – my brain is mush nowadays. *Sigh*, as a teenager I could sing along to Scum) where they get on a groove that is part glam stomper and part Spaceman 3 via orange swathes of distortion pedals. Highly entertaining and serves the main purpose of any decent live recording: it makes you wish you’d been there to see it performed.

For details of how to secure a copy visit the TPS blog.

oTo archive complete

March 15, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Posted in blog info, fencing flatworm, midwich, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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(oTo) – Ordnance, Tape Only

oTo archive pic 1

About a fortnight ago I announced the launch of the oTo tape archive project.  Today, much to my surprise, I am delighted to declare it complete.  That is: all fifty tapes that comprise the oTo catalogue, originally released in limited numbers more than a decade ago, have been digitized and are available to listen to and/or download for free here on this blog.  Haven’t I been a busy bee, eh?  Actually, hooking up a decent tape deck, via my little midwich mixer, to the laptop has made the task a breeze.  I’ve enjoyed chugging through it very much.

For further information about what this tape label was all about see the preamble on the archive’s own page.  This page is also where you’ll find all the links.  There are many gems hidden amongst the names you’ll recognize so please take the opportunity to dip your toes.  How about a terrific hiss-drone by The Dead Body?  Or the mutation of recordings made during the refurbishment of Leeds Railway Station into a Basic Channel-ish jackhammer dub by TK94?  I could go on: noise, electronics, folk-psych, dada collage – it’s all there for the taking.

May I ask a favour?  I’m usually loathe to ‘promote’ RFM, figuring that the right people will find it eventually, but I’m quite proud of the work done in presenting this bounty.  So… if you find something you like would you mind passing the link on to someone else you think might be interested, or doing one of them tweets or a facebooking?  Many thanks to those that did so following the initial announcement – your support is, as always, much appreciated.

The normal reviews based service you’ve come to expect from RFM will resume shortly with some great stuff dictated by Joe Murray to his children from the bouncy castle he uses as his office.  Scott is up to something calculated and evil in his mysterious undersea lair.  Me?  Well, having begun a phased return to work following my recent bout of depression I find myself in a near-constant state of bewilderment.  The muse is finding this most unattractive.  Hopefully inspiration will return as my energy levels increase as I am looking forward to doing justice to some exceptional releases on the review pile.

oTo archive pic 4

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