Tags: drone, fells, guitar, hairdryer excommunication, handwritten, invisible city records, kevin sanders, luke vollar, miguel perez, ritual, skull mask
Fells – Waking (Invisible City Records)
Kevin Sanders – Numb for Somethings (Hairdryer Excommunication)
Skull Mask – La Muerte Es Sabia (Invisible City Records)
No filthy typewriter, or flimsy keyboard for our Luke Vollar. He presents his vision scrawled in ink, direct to page. With the filters removed, the truth bleeds through…
Fells – Waking (Invisible City Records) C120 Cassette and Digital Album
Kevin Sanders – Numb for Somethings (Hairdryer Excommunication) Digital Album
Skull Mask – La Muerte Es Sabia (Invisible City Records) C40 Cassette and Digital Album
the rfm lunchtime recital programme #1: black_ops, grant evans, dag rosenqvist, kevin sanders, club sound witchesJanuary 15, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: awkward formats, black_ops, club sound witches, dag rosenqvist, grant evans, hairdryer excommunication, invisible city records, junk mnemonic, kevin sanders, lunchtime recital programme
black_ops – perdition (self-released download)
Grant Evans – Silent Refusal (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR16, edition of 50 or download)
Dag Rosenqvist – Vowels (12″ clear vinyl, Awkward Formats, AF08)
Kevin Sanders – Doors do shut themselves, but like graves astride birth, the open window is there to catch us (3” CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 10 or download)
Club Sound Witches – Uprok (tape or download, Junk Mnemonic, JM#4)
A new tactic. The lunchtime recital programme will be a series of short reviews published in batches approximately once a fortnight. This is me laying down some spontaneous thoughts following one or two listens as I commute or enjoy a midday stroll. Hopefully, this will fill gaps between my less frequent, lengthier reviews and op-ed pieces and act as a kind of regular jet-wash for my brain. Right then, off we go…
black_ops – perdition
The ominous pulse-breath of RED war machines idling on the Culverian tundra is naturally reverbed by a nearby crevasse. An injured BLUE soldier finds himself trapped there listening, delirious. The distorted synth washes of the final, title track have the tragic/grandiose feel of the conclusion to a SF dystopia movie of the 1970s – maybe the suicide scene of the disgraced BLUE general. The claustrophobic scrabbling added right at the end being his feeble attempt to clutch at his meaningless medals.
This release is: short, bleak, good.
Grant Evans – Silent Refusal
Evans, a new name to me, presents the sort of high quality, richly textured, characterful drone that sets my metaphor engine spinning. It is balanced with the gravity defying tension of a snail sliding along the jagged edge of piece of broken glass. It has the inexorable, hubris exposing/destroying momentum of a lava flow rolling over a car park full of military vehicles. It’s as compellingly unnerving as a slow-motion film of a giant octopus escaping into open water via an impossibly small hole in a glass tank. Another belter from Invisible City Records.
Dag Rosenqvist – Vowels
Make sure your ear buds are in snug as these exquisite crescendos of hiss are carried on a tidal wash of bass. Like fellow blog-fave Joined By Wire, Dag Rosenqvist appears to sculpt from slabs of raw emotion. Thus, despite clearly being the product of great craft, patience and ambition, the experience of listening to these pieces bypasses the cerebral and vibrates heart strings directly.
I admit the Vangelisian sheen of the final of these four tracks lost me a little but I appreciated the relatively positive vibe it ended on. Difficult to find fault with the prior three tracks though – not only did they press my buttons, they leant an elbow on them and used their free hand to clutch my shoulder reassuringly. I would, of course, love to see the dance performance that this music was composed for – the mind boggles.
Kevin Sanders – Doors do shut themselves, but like graves astride birth, the open window is there to catch us
18 minutes of utter nihilism in three movements. The first section is a six minute panic attack – a decision has been taken, the consequences are hurtling towards us but all attempts to change gear or direction are useless. Keys spin in locks, nothing has any grip. The second, shortest, section is the moment of violence itself. A hive is kicked over, split – the swarm inside gathering fury. The frayed tether of a snarling dog finally snaps. Raskolnikov looks down at the axe in his hand. The final section, maybe half the total running length, settles into an existential resignation – the slowing heartbeat of an injured and freezing mountaineer, the blood’s retreat.
Christ, Kev – what the hell do we do with this, eh?
Club Sound Witches – Uprok
When this began I had my doubts but after a few minutes I began to tune in to its wonky charm. The scrunching loops, pulses of grating hiss, synthy pops and noodles, nee-naw rhythms of battery-bled toy instruments combine into a playdoh monster greater than the sum of its neon coloured parts. Listening is a surprisingly intimate experience, not entirely comfortable, but there is something… I dunno… naughty about it. It’s like being the recipient of a clumsy, affectionate massage – complete with accidental inappropriate touching – from a friend trying to hide just how drunk they are…
Tags: benjamin hallatt, haiku, hairdryer excommunication, hardworking families, kay hill, kevin sanders, marlo eggplant, seth cooke, tom bench
kevin sanders – reducing ideas to words (CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)
kevin sanders – the physical resonance of attraction (a.m.) (3” CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)
Marlo Eggplant – Jutted (3” CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)
kevin sanders – Sounds of separation (3” CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 11 or download)
Kay Hill & Kevin Sanders (tape or download, hairdryer excommunication)
Seth Cooke – Christ of the Abyss (business card CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 100 or download)
Hardworking Families – Happy Days (CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)
Kevin Sanders – hyperhypercritical (3” CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)
1. reducing ideas to words
Scratching the paper,
we trade precision smears
for hard company.
2. the physical resonance of attraction (a.m.)
lick the air – cavers approach!
A feast of tanned flesh…
Brine, creosote, blood –
stir with rusting screwdriver.
Cut tethers, start work.
4. Sounds of separation
like it had never been said.
Then we remember.
5. Kay Hill & Kevin Sanders
From edge of tar pit
to aeon-bled exhibit –
6. Christ of the Abyss
Petri dish culture
of tainted agar reveals
face of the prophet.
7. Happy Days
‘Sit on it, Winnie!’
says Fonz, buried to his neck.
Sammy feeds the shark.
Each tide’s rasping breath
a fraction of Moon’s release,
or: “saying goodbye.”
teeth, gears grinding
– reflected in silver bullets.
Tags: deserted village, hairdryer excommunication, joe murray, jurgen de blonde, köhn, kevin sanders, kirigirisu recordings, petals, woven skull
Woven Skull – Fat Baby Blues (tape or download, Deserted Village, DV51)
petals – enactment & advocacy (CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)
Köhn – The Long & Unwinding Road (CD-r, Kirigirisu Recordings, edition of 50 or download)
Woven Skull – Fat Baby Blues
Two seventeen-minute pieces that sound jammed on the fly… but deeper inspection reveals some careful meshing with historical recordings.
‘Fat Baby Blues Part 1’: Dawn chorus guitar strums along with a misty moor drum pattern (locked like Liebezeit) summoning up some Summer Isle ensemble. The rural ritual is played out as simple structures emerge; green shoots springing from black loam. They unfurl like ferns revealing the mathematical complexity of fronds, the solemn beauty of autumn leaves.
But this is no sepia-tinted back-look to Fairport, String Band etc. The wooden ‘clunk’ of the gamelan folded into the end of ‘Fat… Part 1’ adds a whole-world-weirdness that wouldn’t be out of place in a Sun City Gurls joint.
‘Fat Baby Blues Part 2’: A deeper vibe. Free reeds huff and drones are musty like cumin. It reminds me of the great Jazzfinger; weaving sumptuous washes of sound from broken amps. This fades into a damp techno where field recordings spar with shrimp synth tones.
The Woven Skull and their folding-in method becomes an exciting, bubbling tributary to the overcrowded field recordings debate. Book an appointment with the Skull Doctors, pull up a chair and listen.
petals – enactment & advocacy
I’ve never knowingly listened to Kevin Sanders’ Petals project but it’s a name I’ve seen about loads. Or is that Plurals? Or Petrels? Jeepers N-AU it’s hard to keep up at times! Alls I know is that I plugged this baby in zooming through York and didn’t pick my head up until Peterborough. Proper heeds-down drone action as they say in Newcastle.
This disc (or ‘load’ is probably more accurate) consists of two lengthy tracks: ‘enactment’ and ‘advocacy’.
Super-heavyweight organic machines thrum deeply on ‘enactment’, pumping dark waste-gas through a grotesque puckered orifice. There’s a real sense of musicality and movement to this track although it’s glacially slow. You could certainly pick out the notes on a piano (slowly) as they descend through a scale with the flutter of an enormous damselfly – if you were that way inclined. Being as tasty and uniformly stratified as a top notch lasagne your sonic nourishment is then deconstructed! Eventually the layers are gradually faded out one-by-one to reveal the truth; the individual parts of this symphonic insect hum are simple electronic tones slathered with varnish and endlessly tweaked.
A war of attrition becomes the image-totem for my listening during ‘advocacy’. Two forces: one weak but constantly modulating with plucky underdog energy, the other one stronger but erratic, bloated and unfocused. Pitted together they are evenly matched creating a neutral stalemate position.
Plucky underdog seems to weaken further and play dead lulling bloated and unfocused into a sense of superiority. Bloated and unfocused advances with speed, tactically over-stretching itself; snapping out at an enemy that doesn’t exist, chasing shadows until it changes shape entirely becoming dangerously shallow and all-encompassing.
Slowly, gradually, plucky underdog whispers an echo that’s almost impossible to pick up. At first mimicking bloated but taking its time, gradually overpowering the once bloated and now almost transparent signal.
And so this listen ends, as it began, with two opposing forces pitting themselves endlessly against each other. The balance of power has changed, that is true. But at what cost?
The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again: but already it was impossible to say which was which.
– George Orwell, Animal Farm (1944)
Köhn – The Long & Unwinding Road
A three-track synth/organ/keyboard meditation from one of Gent’s finest, Jurgen De Blonde.
Track one, ‘Alwatis is Alwateris’, is a static, stately almost regal drone that seems to look backwards (Logan’s Run jumpsuits) and forwards (thought transference and soul download) in time simultaneously across its eighteen minute span.
Where Petals were carbon-dense this is hydrogen-light, fixing to float away until moored by the occasional luscious Rhodes Piano-type tones making this as swooningly lovely as that Cocteau Twins and Harold Budd album I remember from incense-fuelled bedsit fumbles. But it’s not all anxious eiderdown arranging; the fake-locked groove ending made me cough up a cola cube with a genuine LOL.
‘Nu-uN’ wears it’s Flemish heart on its sleeve with that slightly wonky 1980’s animation feel. Monster organs float in the upper atmosphere, pipes the diameter of small cars pumping out sky-music to the primitive creatures below. At least that is what I’m hearing.
But it’s the final track ‘Albeit’ where I lose my shit [Editor’s note: I love this track too]. There are pin-prick tone clusters to start; all bright dazzle but with a peculiar flavour – I’m getting aniseed, I’m getting turpentine.
Then my slow mind thinks,
this is not the sort of stuff you normally listen to…
and I start feeling the excitement of a new vista opening up between my ears. My slow mind says
…this is Autechre repainted in primary colours, all textures softened with practical linoleum.
This is no Drake-style diss-track. The optimism and hope that flows through ‘Albeit’ is a joy. Music moves me every day. It makes me twist and shout, throw the horns, stroke a chin…even fall in love, but very rarely do I feel so goddamn charmed by a piece of music that’s simply going about its business without any fuss or expectations.
Tags: brian lavelle, drone, dust unsettled, extraction music, hairdryer excommunication, ian watson, kevin sanders, new music, no audience underground, noise
Ian Watson – Caermaen (CD-r, Dust, Unsettled, DU09, edition of 50 or download)
Messrs. Sanders & Watson – Cumulative Undulations (2 x CD-r in gatefold sleeve, self-released, edition of 50 or download)
Ian Watson – Caermaen
Dunno why I’ve slept so long on this one. An intriguing album of heavy electrics by the second most charming guy in noise released by the most charming guy in noise – you’d think I’d be all over it, wouldn’t you? My apologies for the inexplicable tardiness. Allow me to make amends.
What we have here is a four track CD-r (long gone – sorry) or free download (still available – woo!) by Ian Watson – artist, polymath – released on Dust, Unsettled, the label run by definitive good egg Brian Lavelle. It was composed using ‘cymbals and feedback’ manipulated through bosky layers of electrics and is apparently inspired by the writing of Welsh mystic and Lovecraft influence Arthur Machen. So far, so perfect.
A satisfyingly viscous low end and a refreshingly untamed crackling at the top act as river banks containing the current’s flow. Could that be a torrent of fluorescent ectoplasm combed clean by the bones of skeletal fish? Sure, if you like. I can certainly imagine Ian’s kit producing a cool, flickering, ghostly green light:
Brian: err… is that supposed to be happening?
Ian: mate, it isn’t even plugged in! Perhaps we should leave the room…
Brian: press ‘record’ first though.
Ian: oh yeah, of course, NOW RUN!
…but what this called to mind for me were happy times I’d spent as a teenager staring at a lump of dirty metal.
One of my first jobs was operating a solder bath in a factory that manufactured printed circuit boards. Boards were loaded onto a conveyor belt, subjected to a terrifying liquid that cleaned the copper (so corrosive that I dropped two pence coins into it to see the queen’s face dissolve), covered in slime to help the solder stick, hung on a hook by me, dunked into a bath of liquid metal about three feet deep, blasted with air blades on the way back up, then placed on another conveyor belt. Repeat for eight or nine hours with frequent breaks to sit on chemical drums outside and smoke cigarettes.
On Fridays we would be paid in cash in little brown envelopes around 11am. At lunchtime I’d race to the nearest pub, drink as much as possible, smoke a spliff on the way back and spend the afternoon cleaning this machine – heated to 250 degrees centigrade – in my shirtsleeves because, y’know, it was too fucking hot for overalls and a certain amount of scar tissue looks manly and suggests character doesn’t it? The spray and overflow of hot solder dripped down into the guts of the machine and coagulated there into something magical.
This mass of waste solder – the size and shape of a child’s torso, almost too heavy to carry – was a mesmerising landscape of clustered globules, of organic micro-castles blistered with irregular crenellations, of needle sharp, filigree wire work. All glistening a muddied silver, hopelessly polluted with the scorched scum that boiled from the boards as they were dunked. These random accumulations of melted metal remain some of the most beautiful objects I have ever seen, even accounting for how stoned I was at the time. Something about this album took me back to that sight and that made me very happy.
Messrs. Sanders & Watson – Cumulative Undulations
Also available from a neighbouring stable is this two hour long, two track, two CD-r set, by two collaborators: Mr. Ian Watson (as above) and Mr. Kevin Sanders (see below).
Imagine a large ruined house in a forest, swamped in ivy – each luscious leaf as deep green as cooked spinach, as shiny as patent leather. Now imagine the root severed and the gradual death of the above ground plant, its draining vitality and increasing brittleness. A high quality digital camera is making a time lapse film of this process. Once complete the memory card is removed and Kev and Ian bath it in a a cool, flickering, ghostly green light. This ‘develops the film’ with an occult power that reveals the usually invisible creatures of woodland folklore that live around the ruin: dryads, fairies, elves, horrifying, robotic horseshoe crabs, their scrabbling legs the stuff of nightmares, their carapaces as black as a dominatrix’s whip, and so on. Now play the film in reverse and compose a soundtrack to it using just rust and magnets.
Tags: drone, extraction music, hairdryer excommunication, joe murray, kevin sanders, new music, no audience underground, noise, petals
Kevin Sanders – Aladdin, al-Bireh (CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)
kevin sanders – a study in pink (3” CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)
kevin sanders – live in berlin, 2015 (3” CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 9 or download)
Kevin Sanders – Aladdin, al-Bireh
High-in-the-mix scraping, like I’m scooping the last remaining smears of thick yogurt from an earthenware bowl, beckon me into Kevin Sanders’ felt yurt. I remove my shoes and adopt a cross-legged pose to match my host whose steely gaze has not left mine.
His intensity is replayed in the heavy fugging drone that sweeps gently over the initial scrape. Two notes are lazily fingered, ‘AHHHhhhhhhhhhhh OHHHhhhhhhhhhhh’ – a cosmic call and response to a distant god.
All the while a ball of tangled steel wool is unravelled at a snail’s pace. Watching the slim pale hands move with purpose, but without fussy haste, manipulating the thin wire, unwinding, untwisting and smoothing it out is…making me….s…l…..e…….e………p………….y.
Dreams, so often a blessedly heavy velvet vacuum, are now full of distant howls of creatures yet-imagined. The fear of the fear jams my mouth open and eyes wide. Roaring voices pour from my throat as I am the vessel of the lost souls. Each life left in limbo protests limply at being held like a fly in amber. But the numbers! The countless number of them leave my throat sore as the last snivelling heckle dribbles down my damp chin.
But all things must pass and I awaken beneath the poplar trees, glittering with marvellous frost.
kevin sanders – a study in pink
This is no-nonsense stuff. Some electro cardiogram briefly splutters and we’re catapulted into a see-sawing sinewave swoon. It’s dogtooth check rough up close but smooth as alabaster from a distance.
And that’s the stand-out thing about this 3 incher. There really is so much going on in here you can, in the right state of mind, project yourself into the landscape, stand among the slowly peaking waves of static or ride the rolling ocean of thundering grumble like a tiny Norrin Rad.
The space analogy gets stronger as about half way through this 19 minute piece planets and stars begin to hurl themselves about, bending gravity and swooping perilously close to each other. The solar whoosh of the near miss is felt as gentle pressure on the balls of the feet. The last two minutes slowly unfold like some docking sequence; two rusty old Soyuz modules that got pimped-out by Grateful Dead fans to better honk the Dark Star-brand kif pipe, kiss silently with a sigh of compressed air. Two become one.
Kevin Sanders – live in berlin, 2015
OK readers. So far we’ve had two different approaches, two different moods showing two different sides to Mr Kevin Sanders.
But this micro-diskette, recorded in a flat on Sonnenallee is my personal pick of the bunch. The notes say:
A broken organ in the flat was used to create two tape loops which were processed.
This all seems simple enough eh? But the super-exciting thing about this 21 minute set is that the process is left clear and unadorned. The tape loops are cut with confidence and make an extremely satisfying gristly crunch each time they turn back on themselves. This becomes both rhythm and off-kilter melody as the singing-bowl-ring builds in intensity in the background.
Overtones become undertones become slumber-tones. Each successive loop, as bright as copper, slides down a shapely neck to rest on lightly furred shoulders. They collect in metallic piles on top of each other, shifting with faint tinkles.
By the 14 minute mark everything gains a superheavyweight quality. What once was sunny and bright becomes black like lead with a similarly dark purpose. What seems like the dawning of a dark inevitability eventually plateaus out into a shimmering crystal desert. Geysers spew their hot dust, the polished sand flickers with heat haze. The organ spits its last dirty electric cough and sadly clicks off.
Tags: drone, extraction music, hairdryer excommunication, kevin sanders, new music, no audience underground, noise, petals, team harpy
Kevin Sanders – Evenings & Weekends (limited edition CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)
Kevin Sanders – The Weekday (limited edition CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)
Kevin Sanders – A decline in aspiration (3” CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 20 or download)
Kevin Sanders – Circadian escapades (3” CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)
Kevin Sanders – Consonants and ambiguity (3″ CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 15 or download)
…and is there anyone in the no-audience underground as prolific as Kevin Sanders who can also match him for his flawless quality control? >hmph< – *makes dismissive hand gesture* – I doubt it. At the time of writing Kev has produced 23 releases on his own label hairdryer excommunication in 2014, 20 of which involve him as sole artist or in collaboration with others. Unbelievably, during this same year, he has also had his creations released by other labels, has played live, has moved house and job along a lengthy diagonal line from North to South and has let fly with a gazillion opaque tweets which may be about the politics of radical librarianship (or perhaps his cat – I don’t really understand them all). Anyway, if Kev was a track relay runner he’d hand over the baton, take a short cut across the field dodging the shot puts and javelins of outrageous fortune, grab it back again and run the next leg himself. Then he’d do six extra laps despite the fact that no one is watching. Now, I’m far too sensitive to use the word ‘mad’ so let’s say the guy is ‘driven’…
…moving swiftly on to the sound I’ll leave the athletics metaphor in the sand pit and reach for the cartographical notion I’ve used before to describe both Kev’s work and that of fellow no-audience Stakhanovite Lee Stokoe. Given the number of these releases it isn’t possible to write (my usual) reams of whimsical nonsense about each one. Instead it seems appropriate to see them as pages of an atlas, adding to the map of the world Kev’s music is describing. The latest batch covers some pretty tough terrain…
…Evenings & Weekends is a frozen beach of black volcanic sand, a tragically unheralded distress signal, still audible, is emitted from a shipwreck long submerged in the bay. Nobody here to respond. A decline in aspiration is a deserted street of steel shuttered buildings, a physical manifestation of the paranoid mantra: ‘if no-one gets in, no-one gets hurt’ – the heart-breaking logic of the emotionally scarred. The Weekday is an aerial photograph of heavy industry. The scything fuzz opening building into an opera for malfunctioning saw mill equipment. Circadian escapades is an overgrown battlefield where hollow, rusted armaments stand sentry in the brambles, chimed by the wind-whipped thorns…
…but for me, Consonants and ambiguity seems to be the key to it all. This is what the background electro-magnetic roar of the universe sounds like when reduced to the pitiful range of frequencies we can hear. It is the sound of the implacably hostile, utterly indifferent ocean of nothing that our tiny island bobs on top of. Our planet orbits at a point where, like Goldilock’s porridge, it is exactly the right temperature – a fluke. The radiation from an unimaginably vast rolling nuclear explosion we call the Sun can travel 93 million miles and then be deflected by your mirrorshades – a sick joke. There are no kitsch affectations, no tentacled Old Ones to worship: this is noise as pure cosmic horror. Its nihilism is, on its own perverted terms, immensely satisfying. All the more so for knowing that Kev personally is a man of principle and deeply held conviction. We all doubt though, we all weaken, and if you don’t have moments of wanting everything to JUST FUCKING BURN sometimes then I suggest you aren’t paying enough attention…
…I recommend you pick up these releases. You need them. Kev has also recently been donating the proceeds of his empire to the legal fund of Team Harpy, two women who have been threatened with ruin for the crime of calling out a man on his appalling behaviour. The full, grim story can be had via the links below. It is a worthy cause and the questions the situation raises are all too important and depressingly current…
Tags: ap martlet, beartown records, cherry row recordings, daniel thomas, dave thomas, drone, electronica, extraction music, hagman, haiku, hairdryer excommunication, kevin sanders, kirkstall dark matter, lf records, new music, no audience underground, noise, petals, psychedelia, sheepscar light industrial, tst, twitter
Daniel Thomas & Kevin Sanders – “I am a moment illuminating eternity… I am affirmation… I am ecstacy.” (CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 25 or download)
TST – Tsim Sha Tsui (3” CD-r, Sheepscar Light Industrial, SLI.026, edition of 50 or download)
Kevin Sanders – A purification of space (CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 20 or download)
Petals – upon receiving the ultraviolet light (CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)
Hagman – Number Mask (CD-r, LF Records, LF037)
Petals – I’ve never been very good at retorting narrative tales as I always get lost along the way. So I lie (tape, Beartown Records, edition of 33)
TST – The Spoken Truth (CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)
Daniel Thomas – Enemy Territory (CD-r, cherry row recordings, CRR005, edition of 25 or download)
Daniel Thomas – That Which Sometimes Falls Between Us / As Light Fades (2 x CD-r in wooden flower press, edition of 9, 2 x CD-r, edition of 39, or download, Kirkstall Dark Matter)
That Twitter is alright, innit? After stalling for years I finally signed up a couple of weeks ago and can be found @radiomidwich should you be inclined to go looking. Knowing that I was entering a lengthy period of hectic work activity, and that my energy levels are low, I was looking for a way of staying current that was effortless to pick up and just as easy to put down. With apologies to my regular email correspondents, Twitter fits the bill real nice. I have the odd gripe with twittery behaviour already but by and large I’ve been enjoying the shouty-pub-with-six-jukeboxes-and-four-televisions-on atmosphere and the opportunity to crack wise and arse smart. It also gave me an idea of how to scythe through a crop of review items.
Some context: the leading exponents of the sub-genre I’ve defined as ‘extraction music‘ are very busy guys indeed – check out the heaving parentheses in the following sentence. Dave Thomas (solo as ap martlet, half of Hagman, one third of TST, label boss of Kirkstall Dark Matter), Daniel Thomas (solo under his own name, the other half of Hagman, a further third of TST, as a duo with Kevin and label boss of Sheepscar Light Industrial and Cherry Row Recordings) and Kevin Sanders (solo under his own name and as petals, as a duo with Dan, the final third of TST, label boss of hairdryer excommunication) are enjoying a hit rate unrivaled since the glory days of Stock, Aitken and Waterman – the 1980s production trio they have modeled their work ethic on.
What’s a conscientious reviewer to do? Given the exacting quality control, staggering over such a fast growing body of work, the music is deserving of serious contemplation. However, who has time to write the usual 1000+ words about items arriving on a near-weekly basis? Not me. Instead I will turn (again) to haiku, a traditional variety of Japanese poetry in which the idea expressed is distilled to 17 syllables arranged in a five-seven-five formation. Thus, mental energy expended is roughly equivalent to normal but writing time is cut to the bone. It is also an eminently tweetable format – something the spirits of long-deceased masters of this most delicate and disciplined art must be thrilled by – so Twitter is where they got their initial airing.
Below is a compilation of the first nine, properly formatted and illustrated. I’m pleased with these, especially the last two, which are, I hope, impressionistic but accurate – like a portrait by Frank Auerbach. Click on the band name/album title to be taken to appropriate blog post or Bandcamp page. Amazingly, all of this can be had dirt cheap or for free. I recommend the lot very highly – there are potential Zellaby Award winners here – and also recommend you explore the catalogues of these gentlemen on either side of this snapshot.
Terminal thought of
fatally injured robot:
“my blood is on fire”
above the spice refinery.
Inhale: the future!
Yellowed grass, cut paper
– consolations of order –
cut grass, yellowed paper.
fierce entropic beauty,
pebble becomes sand
in an era of magic:
cogs versus witchcraft
self lost to alien flow,
hive mind emerges
Adjust tracking for
artefacts of video:
hot snow, concrete blur…
Sharp, bristled morning
through circadian filters
to uterine fug
Tags: ambient music, daniel thomas, electronica, kevin sanders, miguel perez, new music, no audience underground, nostalgia for the future, oracle netlabel, oscar menzel, science fiction
Airwaves – Ambient Tracks (download, Oracle Netlabel, ORE108)
In 2006 I gave up on science fiction. I had been a voracious reader (yeah, we’re talking about books here – I have some interest in SF cinema, none in SF television) for the previous 25 years and had taken it all in from the golden age of starships and robots, through the pyschonautical adventures of the new wave, skating over the gleaming surfaces of cyberpunk to the post-post-modern present. Ironically perhaps, my interest waned because of an increasing concern for the future. SF’s wave function collapsed for me when I finally measured it against reality.
At the time I was experiencing a kind of long-form political awakening. The build up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 had pulled concepts like ‘resource war’ out of dystopia and into the reality I appeared to be living in. I read up on peak oil, on permaculture, on climate change, on the whole coming storm and, at the same time, novels about terraforming and interstellar travel which just ignored the difficult questions or glossed over them with macguffins. After an illustrious history of satire, prophecy and back-lighting the present by extrapolating into the future, SF seemed to be increasingly irrelevant and anachronistic. Like a know-it-all mate who might be entertaining in conversation, or good on a pub quiz team, but bloody useless at a time of actual crisis. I turned my back on it and used the time I saved to learn how to grow vegetables.
However, in the intervening years I have, on occasion, found myself nostalgic for the future. It is an odd, unmoored emotion that can range from a wistful yearning for a bucolic, post-scarcity utopia to a spitting rage at wasted opportunity. Those could have been the days, eh? I’ve had cause to re-examine the feeling twice in recent weeks.
Firstly, following a conversation with Dan Thomas and Kev Sanders in which Dan was lamenting the ballooning tendency for fans of popular culture to pick it to bits before even experiencing it. Thus: the dissection of movie clips released in advance to create ‘buzz’, the speculation that runs rampant between the broadcast of one episode of a television series and the next etc. Kev made the interesting point that traditionally backward looking attitudes and activities: appreciation, analysis, nostalgia and so on had been spun around and were now facing forward. It was a brilliantly useful notion and, like shoe shops when I need a new pair of boots, suddenly I’m seeing it instantiated everywhere. In fact, some forum posters seem to exist solely in this queasy, unwholesome fug made up of part thwarted expectation, part whiny entitlement. This is nostalgia for the future distilled down to an airless and wholly unsatisfactory mode of being. Ugh.
And then, in counterpoint, I heard this: Ambient Tracks by Airwaves released as a free download on Miguel Perez’s Oracle Netlabel. Airwaves is the alias of Mexican musician Oscar Menzel, who sadly passed away in 2012, and these recordings date from 1994. Before proceeding let’s take a second to applaud Miguel’s breadth of imagination in making this available. Oracle is known as a borstal for punishing noise, flu-symptom drone and lizard-brain improv so to find this epic of retro-futurist synthtronica sharing a cell with these repeat offenders is, well, surprising to say the least. It’s like the album asked for directions to Sanity Muffin tapes then got into trouble at the border…
The IDM/electronica boom was well under way here in the UK when this was recorded on the other side of the Atlantic and some of these tracks sound very much of the time. I know I always mention 76:14 by Global Communication when I’m talking about this kind of music but it remains a favourite album of mine, a classic of the genre and was originally released in the same year. Some of Ambient Tracks could be found brooding in the same car park.
The rest of the album harks backwards – to the electronic edge of Krautrock, to the high gloss of Vangelis, to the claustrophobic pulse of John Carpenter. If I’d heard this in 1994 I might have thought it old fashioned but the ambition, sweep and sincerity of this music has aged considerably better than the more hip, knowing froth on Warp and RePhlex that I was obsessing over back then: all agitated surface and in-jokes. Do I listen to any of it nowadays? No.
Menzel’s music reinvigorates the notion of nostalgia for the future. There is nothing kitsch or naive about the vision expressed here. Its scope and scale are impressive, its emotional content earned and genuine. The task of documenting the never-has-been is necessarily Quixotic but if done, as here, with heartfelt conviction the task has nobility and conveys – dare I say it? – hope. These are silvered dreams in which we might just see ourselves reflected. Think about that for a second, comrades – these could have been the days!
Airwaves on Oracle – also for write up by Miguel and further links to Menzel’s work.
P.S. Yes, I was supposed to be keeping things to the point due to being frazzled but, hey, I found myself with something to say. Pithiness to come next.