magnetic stones: joe murray on lost harbours and common objects

May 21, 2015 at 3:53 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Lost Harbours – In the Direction of The Sun (tape, Cruel Nature Records, CN040, edition of 50 or download)

Common Objects – Whitewashed with Lines (2 x CD, Another Timbre, at85x2)

lost harbours - sun

Lost Harbours – In the Direction of The Sun

Shove your hipster Mordant Music/Boards of Canada/Giallo soundtracks etc.  This is the real deal with a wryd feel: a skinned vole left on a post by the farmer, the lonely boom of the fells when a second set of shallow footprints appear next to your own.

Wind-blown tape-loops wobble over grey-sky synths and chilly field recordings.  The mood is respectful, not quite sombre, but with a doesn’t-suffer-fools gait; a rustic Culver in a Barbour jacket, the tang of rich dubbin flickering ’round the nostrils.

With no whizz, bang, look-at-me theatrics this is listen for a long haul.  I needed to take my time, to let it fill up my earholes with black moss.

And, of course, the rewards are many.  The super-deep richness is an almost tactile thing.  It throbs in and out of phase like a sleeping beast, gently massaging the air on either side of room, making things shimmer like slinky minx graphite.  ‘Rings’ even manages to open up a small tear in the hiss to let through a galleon drawing stars in it’s wake.

But it’s the vocal tracks that make this an essential release.  ‘Idumea’, written by Charles Wesley in 18th Century is sung in that gentle voice we reserve for the very young and the very old.  A natural and unaffected true-voice that meshes entirely with the loop/synth/electronic backing that, in an earlier time, might have been a barren fiddle, earlier still – the gush of the wind.

The final track, ‘The Lovers’, is a traditional Orkney tune.  This time the true-voice is overlapped and woven around itself, dubbed and floating.  The vocal lines get more and more intertwined and complex until a static machine tunes them out, and all we are left with is the huss of magnetic stones.

It’s no surprise this banger has sold out at source (although you may find a copy at Lost Harbours live shows) but that doesn’t mean you should stop reading right now.  The download lasts forever right?

common objects

Common Objects – Whitewashed with Lines

Hurtling through the Yorkshire countryside with my snazzy new headphones, the pre-breakfast sun is already sharp and hot.  Common Objects become my perfect travelling companion as I settle down for almost 100 minutes of gritty group-think.

There are two lengthy live sets from these Heath Robinsons offered here.  Disc One – ‘Cup & Ring’ is a composed piece, realised via a graphic score whipped up by Rhodri Davies – beard wearer, harp supremo and all round good egg – based on ancient cup and ring marks.  Carved by prehistoric peoples these gnarly scratches in the rock have no discernible purpose.  Could they be border markers, religious offerings to the wolf in the sky or early communications?  Hey, I don’t know… this is not that sort of blog buddy.  But what is clear is that they have formed a rallying point for Common Objects, a most singular group made up of the already mentioned Rhodri, Angharad Davies (violin), John Butcher (saxophone) and Lee Patterson (amplified devices).

This being a cadre of first-class improvisers the sounds are ingenious (sick whistles blend into viscous burrs to finish off crumbling varnish) and carefully placed.  And it’s the winding up and release that’s the thing; the slow shift and shuffle that conveys a compelling narrative arc.

I revel in the rich peaks, plump as a Ptarmigan – converging hiss, burr and bummmnnn nestled next to a haunted pause.  But as my train judders shakily towards Leeds I sink deeper into the genteel placement of texture: burlap sack, waxy candle and discarded orange peel.

My mind drifts to these hairy caveman carvers (my image of the caveman is pretty much based on 1950’s ladybird books so admittedly probably not 100% historically accurate) and I reckon they would dig this kind of music.  Why?  Well it sounds vital, honest and, in a very good way, obvious.

You can see how the music is made with lip and finger. A vibrating gadget attached to strings sounds like a vibrating gadget, a set of short, popping breaths on the reed sound like short popping breaths.  A solitary twanged spring sounds like…you get my drift yeah.  As I drift further into the city the pops and drones translate into blue-black clouds skimming over a full moon, bullrush rustle and a toad’s wet burp.

Disc Two’s ‘Repose and Vertigo’, a group improvisation, is fizzier and bubbling with ideas; rich like calligraphy and clever as Braille.

I’m listening at home now, covers pulled up to my chin, when the violin takes centre stage (about 10 mins in) the sloppy plops and trills, pings and scratches sound like hornets swarming, foaming with  life.  But this business is answered with a gong-like recess, all keening pipes and slack string sawing.  Pregnant drones start to push up from the seabed toppling hastily-erected cities constructed of coppery small change.

Later a Hong Kong traffic jam is felt through steamy windows, your fingers sticky with hot Pork Bun.  A librarian type plays that new Sunn O))) record high up on the 33rd floor and your strain your ears to hear above seabird caw-caw and TV static.

The final third of this disc is a dream sequence for some hardboiled detective. It’s obviously a stakeout scene (a dissonant background furze punctuated by sharp sound sprigs) and superbly matches that combination of tension and irritability readers will associate with overnight close surveillance.

Eventually the disc whirrs to a skittering stop and within minutes the vivid hallucinations have begun to fade. Good golly; Common Objects play music to look at.


Cruel Nature

Another Timbre

ants, ice, eggs, oscillations

May 1, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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Alas, I remain ill.  No need for further details or more moaning.  Suffice to say I’ve been signed off work by my doctor for another week and little vials of my blood have been taken for some occult purpose.  Ugh.

Naughtily, I went out to the Ceramic Hobs gig on Saturday night but used up all my available energy in so doing and had to leave early.  Still, it was a great night.  Two car loads of people came down from Newcastle so I got to talk to Hasan and Ben Jazzfinger, Lee Culver and Mike Vest (Bong, Basillica etc.) as well as the usual Leeds crowd.  The music was all terrific with Jazzfinger being properly awesome: half an hour of super-dense drone. Hasan literally had his head inside the speaker.  A more detailed review of the night, with photos, can be found over at Idwal Fisher.

One of the non-musical highlights of my brief time out of the house was a conversation with Seth Cooke (co-curator of Bang the Bore) in which we talked about the sort of hyper-detailed oddities and field recordings he currently finds himself listening to.  The following day I restoked the conversation via email and Seth kindly sent a bunch of recommendations.  This list of links has provided me with such a lot of pleasure over the last couple of days that I found myself cut-and-pasting it into other personal emails.  Once I started doing that, it’s appearance as the centrepiece of a blog post was crushingly inevitable…

Seth sez:

As to artists who utilise ingenious methods to record microscopic sound events (usually completely unprocessed), or who frame the commonplace in a manner that makes you wake up and pay attention, or who put microphones in positions impossible for the human ear…

The ants eating an apricot recording (editor’s note: this one was mentioned in conversation and led to the email exchange) is by Jez Riley French, which I think is self released on his own label Engraved Glass (he’s vaguely local, resides in Hull). But for convenience’ sake, it’s on his Soundcloud.

This is one I reckon you’ll love (it’s from one of my favourite albums of this year so far) – an excerpt from Stephen Cornford’s Binatone Galaxy exhibition (released on Senufo Editions, I think), in which he fitted tape decks with self-amplifying cassettes so that the turning of the cassette motor is amplified. Very beautiful, very musical (editor’s note: I do love it, you may too).

Lee Patterson is also great – he got a lot of unexpected mainstream attention when he released Egg Fry on Richard Pinnell’s Cathnor label. Egg Fry is fantastic, highly recommended – teeming with detail, the frying/cooling egg sounds like an army of insects and unexpectedly synth-like. And here’s a few streams that are also pretty damn good.

Here’s some unbelievably beautiful recordings of ice cracking on a frozen lake, from Andreas Bick’s website. Fucking amazing stuff (editor’s note: I concur.  Sounds so ‘radiophonic’ it is hard to believe it is a natural phenomenon).

I quite like Wire-writer Will Montgomery’s stuff, too (editor’s note: ‘Wire writer’?!?  Heh, heh – how quickly we forgive, eh?). Some lovely frogs he’s recorded here.   His Thames recordings available from the Compost and Height blog.  Bill Fontana has also done some fun stuff around the Thames.  Eric La Casa also excellent in the water recording stakes.

Here’s a modestly successful one of my own, difficult to capture accurately because of the massive difference in dynamic range between the wash cycle and the spin cycle.  Length, on this occasion, due to preserving the narrative of the machine’s process and presenting the recording for what it was – plus it seemed patronising to assume that a listener couldn’t handle listening to the process unfold in its own time. If you want to skip out the detailed, hypnotic but highly repetitive riff section then you can see where the action starts on the Soundcloud wave form. The final oscillations are epic (editor’s note: indeed they are, Seth’s washing machine puts many noise artists to shame).

Hope you get a kick out of at least some of that. What a beautiful sounding world we live in!

I couldn’t agree more.


P.S. The version of the classic Adam and the Ants logo above is by jakeford.

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