the 2017 zelleby awards

January 2, 2018 at 5:05 pm | Posted in musings, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Phew!  Another year over, a new one just begun.

It’s that time again eh?  Sharpen your pencils and look back to what it meant to be alive and listening in 2017?

Being non-competitive folk there’s no overall ‘winner’ here.  Each RFM writer has sifted through hours and hours of listening memories to come up with a list of releases (or in Sof’s case – a single tape) that have really meant something to us.  We’re all winners eh?

You’re welcome to clap us along, raise a glass of bubbly or disagree and comment – discussion is always good yeah.

So, while the haters diss the list we at RFM don flak jackets and stick our sensitive parts out there.

Comrades – I present to you the Radio Free Midwich Zellaby end-of-year-list (2017).

Rob Haylerrob hayler at tusk

First up, some thoughts from our esteemed founder – Rob Hayler.

2017 saw one of the mainstream’s periodic upticks in interest in the underground.  The coverage was, as ever, woeful.  The Guardian led the pack with a vampiric attempt to leech authentic lifeblood, presumably to lure back some of the hip readers, so beloved of advertisers, that it haemorrhaged during its shameful anti-Corbyn campaign.  Fuck that.  Most of The Guardian is now just a stream of hot piss being hosed into the face of its legacy.

The Quietus was as late to the party as ever.  Their ‘New Weird Britain’ shtick was weirdly embarrassing on several levels.  Evangelising in Vice (ugh) offshoot Noisey John Doran described a scene ‘impervious to all attempts at commodification’ – in an article containing seven advert breaks, a clickbait footer and a warning the site wanted to shit cookies onto my laptop.  I wish I was joking.

I could go on but why bother?  The best thing to do is turn your back and take a long walk in the thriving ecosystem operating entirely apart from this bollocks.

As if in response to the mainstream’s attempts to prove relevant, 2017 saw a spirit lifting surge in zine culture.  This year I caught up with some back issues of The Chapess, continued to enjoy the indefatigable grimness of Hiroshima Yeah!, marvelled at one-off art projects like Crow Versus Crow’s Ra Wept, photocopied detritus from Robert Ridley-Shackleton and knockout illustration by blog-fave Joined By Wire.  Notable new publications included Dukes of Scuba, a mini-zine fizzing with enthusiasm for the noise scene in Wales, and, of course, Andy Wood’s TQ.  Andy played a blinder here by creating a regular, substantial paper zine but promoting it via that fancy social media that everyone uses nowadays.  With only half-a-dozen issues published he already has a bunch of great contributors and a hundred subscribers.  More power to him.

The digital realm remains as inspiring as ever.  The quality and diversity of writing to be found on blogs, written largely for the love of it by people who are essentially hobbyists, still can’t be touched by ‘professional’ sources like those above.  #noisetwitter was a constant source of comradeship and good humour, despite the trying times, and CAMP radio deserves special mention for hosting shows by Sof Cooper, Crow Versus Crow, Neil Campbell, marlo de lara, Stuart Chalmers and other luminaries.  A terrific resource.

Away from the house the highlight was, without rival, this year’s TUSK festival in and around Sage in Gateshead.  Lee Etherington and the crew kindly hosted not only my final Midwich gig – a profoundly satisfying creative moment for me – but also Klein, who performed the best live set I saw all year.  She proved that even jaded, exhausted veterans such as myself could be left speechless with delight, hovering two inches above the floor, by something thrilling and new.

Away from the noise underground I found myself bewildered, charmed and excited by the woozy, euphoric, future R&B and hip hop introduced to me by 1Extra as I pottered aimlessly around the kitchen.  I returned to tracks like ‘Girlfriend’ by NAO (yes, I know it was released in 2016 – bite me) and ‘Yesterday’ by Noname (ditto) over and over again, following them down late-night YouTube rabbit holes.  One such journey ended with me dumbfounded alternating between ‘It’s OK To Cry’ and ‘Ponyboy’ by SOPHIE.  Holy shit.

The album from the ‘canon’ I Iistened to most in 2017 was Nightclubbing by Grace Jones and film of the year was Paddington 2.  Don’t come at me with Blade Runner or whatever, the bear won it fair and square.

OK, now the main event.  Those that correspond with me privately will know that 2017 was an extraordinarily difficult year for my family.  The jaunty persona I’ve maintained on Twitter, whilst never insincere, has been a prop to help me cope/escape during some very dark times.  Accordingly, the purpose music has served is analogous to those silver foil blankets given to crash victims waiting for an ambulance – comfort during a time of visceral shock.  This may explain why my choices are mainly by friends and familiar names and largely from two genres I’m always happy to immerse myself in: psych noise and drone.  Mea culpa.

First, the ‘oh, just press repeat and that’s the day sorted’ section:

tuluum shimmering

Tuluum ShimmeringLinus and Lucy

A 75 minute psych groove on the riff from the Peanuts theme tune.  Turns any train journey into a summer flashback.

Daniel ThomasKeep The Red Kites Flying

An evolution in Dan’s light-touch-heavy-analogue style.  Possibly his best work, endlessly revisitable.

Caroline Mckenziethe drowning of ophelia

Four hours of dark ambient inspired by Shakespearian suicide, sounding like a cross between culver and SAWII era Aphex Twin?  Yeah, I can get with that.

Next, the ‘everything touched by these people’ section:

Earlier in the year I chose not to go and see Sunn O))) play at Leeds University and instead spent the ticket money I saved buying the entire digital back catalogue on MIKE VEST’s Bandcamp site.  Pretty certain I did the right thing there.  For weeks afterwards I walked around, earbuds welded in, feeling like some kind of space wizard.  My nostrils still ache from the near-constant flaring…

If you like your psych noise a little more sasquatch-spotting and less spaceships-slowly-crashing-into-moons then may I recommend that you investigate EIDERDOWN RECORDS?  There are no releases on this wonderful label that fall short of intensely satisfying.  It’s the home of a fried-pastoral aesthetic that laughs as it warns you how strong the stuff is only after you’ve taken a hit.

helicopter quartet

Two RFM colleagues next.  Firstly, CHRISSIE CAULFIELD has had a remarkable 2017, though she would be too modest to agree.  Foremost amongst a number of releases are the solo album From the Carboniferous and this year’s album from the duo Helicopter Quartet, The Birds Discover Fire.  The former is a beautiful meditation, more drone in style than her usual output, and the latter is an exquisite carving, strung with taut emotion – like a Brâncuși sculpture translated into music.  Seriously, I’ve been banging on about how amazing and important this band is for bloody years.  Go and download it now.

Secondly, SOPHIE COOPER has also lit up everything she’s lent her considerable talent to.  I’ve seen her perform solo in a tiny art gallery to a handful of people and as part of the Friday night headliners United Bible Studies at TUSK.  She’s released her own Faust Tapes in The Curfew Tower Recordings on Crow Versus Crow and offers an occasional Dial-a-Bone service that, well… the mind boggles.  However, it seems that The Slowest Lift, her duo with Julian Bradley, has really caught everyone’s imagination.  The The Blow Volume 3 tape on Front & Follow (billed as Sophie Cooper & Julian Bradley) and the eponymous album on VHF are at once the obvious children of the pair but at the same time utterly alien and fascinatingly other.  ‘What the hell is this?’ you ask yourself, every track, every time.  So, so good – and its December release date has shamed all those who lobbed out their ‘end’ of year list prematurely.

Finally then, the two albums I was most surprised to see are, non-coincidentally, my two favourite albums of the year.


Firstly, A.Y. by itdreamedtome was slipped out in an understated but handsome package by no-audience underground veteran Chris Gowers on his label Trome Records.  A new release from Chris is always cause for celebration but, as it turned out that itdreamedtome was none other than Johann Wlight breaking a decade long silence, I couldn’t log in to Paypal fast enough.

Chris tells the story of JW’s work, influence and disappearance eloquently in the notes on the album’s Bandcamp page so you can catch up there.  I’ll just say that these pieces have a rare poise, an intricate delicacy that overlays much sub-surface activity.  Like paddling in the waters of a moonlit bay and feeling something large and scaly brush against your ankles.  His touch is as deft as it ever was – what a joy to have him back.

tbbculver box – photo by rob

Lastly, with crushing inevitability, we have the body beneath by culver.  The logistics are cyclopean: 65 previously unreleased tracks, spanning the years 1996 to 2013, named only for the year recorded, spread over 10 CDs (not CD-rs) and housed in a screen printed wooden box.  The total running time tops 12 and a half hours.  Its gestation has been elephantine; the set has been literally years in the making – hence my rejoicing at its birth.

Each culver release is another page in the atlas mapping out the territory that Lee Stokoe has claimed as his own and, despite already owning around 80, I was counting the cash in my wallet the second I finally saw this in the flesh.  The precision and seriousness of Lee’s purpose and the (maybe surprising to some) variation he works into the roar that is his art kept me rapt throughout.  This is my favourite album of the year 2017.

Love and best wishes to all – can’t wait to hear what you have in mind for 2018.

Rob x

Next we hear from the essential Sophie Cooper.

sam and the plants

Hello all! Hope you managed to get through Christmas and indeed, the entire year, ok. I’m alright. Started 2017 with a new year’s resolution to work hard and I think I’ve achieved this. Records and residencies, and y’know a job I love that actually pays. The other half opened a beer shop in our beloved Golden Lion pub (#TorBeers #VisitTodmorden) and that’s been an interesting addition to this strange life I’m living. The dog is doing well, thanks for asking.

Music wise I’ve listened to a hell of a lot of new stuff but not written about any of it for Radio Free Midwich (see above for excuses) so was surprised that dear Joe and Rob are allowing me to say my piece in the spectacular “best of…” list produced right here. I’ve only got one album to discuss today because it’s the only thing I’ve given my entire attention to and I have listened to it countless times over and over in the car while driving round West Yorkshire. It’s Flaming Liar by Sam and the Plants.

This album was originally released in May on cassette by Preston based label ‘Them There Records’ in an edition of just 35. The release came very nicely packaged in printed card and had an extensive insert containing song lyrics and notes that explain what’s what in each song. These sold out more or less instantly and in their own way these tapes caused a bizarre cultural phenomenon amongst those I knew who had heard it. Small talk turned into big talk down the pub, “have you heard that tape Sam did?” became a question asked over and over again usually answered with “yeah, it’s amazing” followed by an in-depth conversation about it. The reason I say this is bizarre is because this type of en masse interest in a record to me is a fairly rare thing. Readers of this will undoubtedly have some connection to the “no audience underground” and we all know that records come and go. In my opinion not that many of them produced on a scale like this tend to linger around for that long. Flaming Liar has become an actual part of a lot of people’s lives and in my eyes its not too hard to see why.

Sam has a wild way with words and I think at the core of this record’s success is the deeply satisfying song craft that makes each chord change and interplay between melody and lyrics sing beautifully. This artist clearly knows how to put a tune together and in a sense the song structures of the record come across as quite traditional however there is this overarching oddness tying it all together that really appeals to me. Despite being an hours worth of separate ‘songs’ they are presented as two continuous sides of music producing their own other worldly entity as one tune becomes unable to exist without the others. I’m talking from the point of view of someone who has listened to this umpteenth times, as each song essentially ends in your head you’re already hearing the next one and I think that’s the addictive quality of this album that has so many people hooked. Lyrically Flaming Liar really works the listener with things like incorrect grammar and by putting words together that shouldn’t make sense but in conduction with the melodies and genius rhyming couplets it just all fits and after a while you find yourself singing along to every word coming up with fake harmonies and imagery in your head as you’re doing so.

The album is tastefully unpretentious. The songs seem to be written from a personal place and I found myself wondering what could have inspired each one. The liner notes hold some hints at answers e.g. “an anti-hymn of sorts, written in a moment of cold clarity” but at the same time they keep you guessing. On one hand the writer seems incredibly open, most of the words written from a first person point of view with lyrics inviting you to dig deep into your emotions as Sam lays his out for everyone to see: “I light, I trip, I fall. I soil before you all”. There are mentions of deep love and tinges of sadness, there are several references to crying littered throughout the album. Yet on the other hand the messages are obscure and kind of harsh: “you’ve been down, I’ve been down. How are you supposed to sound?” It’s like the artist is messing with the listener in a way, perhaps you aren’t suppose to figure it out, making us come back for more.

sam and the plants 2

I heard about people writing to the label to say thanks for putting this out so I wasn’t surprised when Flaming Liar got another short run re-release this time 50 copies of a CDR. Them There Records did a really nice thing of honouring the tape format by releasing this version as a double CD containing one side of the tape on each so you didn’t lose that glued together effect. Similar attention was paid to the artwork, all hand typed and pretty.

This album was mostly recorded on tape with very few overdubs made later creating this warm and cosy vibe. Tape is celebrated as a contributing instrument throughout Flaming Liar, layered up between songs and over the top. You hear tape being played at different speeds and in different directions throughout sewing pieces of songs together. My copy of the tape had a weird feature during a song soon at the start of side B called “the net was never cast”. Somehow the volume of the song gets louder during a great banjo solo halfway through and initially it was a weird addition but after all those plays it just became part of the fabric. Eventually the label put the album on Bandcamp and I heard it digitally through studio monitors showing me this little “effect” didn’t actually exist. A perfectly placed mistake. I later found out this also happened on another friend’s copy, she loved it as well. I appreciate that this record was made to be heard on tape and it’s made me consider mastering approaches for different formats a lot so thanks for that Sam.

A good song lends itself nicely to this type of lo-fi treatment though and you can’t get away from them here. Clearly the songs have been loved and crafted to the point where they can be recorded in a one take, press play and record at the same time, to the point where they sound effortless. Sam is a skilled instrumentalist moving between notes on harmonium, piano, guitar and banjo like a path travelled many times before. His voice has a story telling quality guiding us through various ways of looking at the world and outsider observations. Musically he throws in notes that take you in unexpected directions and these moments really make the song sparkle making everything come together in a truly magical way.

I love this album! Flaming Liar by Sam and the Plants is number one for me. Sorry I don’t have a top 176 album list for you but I’ve been working. Listen to this album in 2018, physical copies have all gone but the label have kindly put it up on Bandcamp. You can also hear an interview I did with Sam on my radio show Tor FM where I ask a lot of questions about his writing methods. Love be with you in 2018 x

wizards of oiwizards of oi – what it is not

A puff of smoke, a flash of light and genie-like he appears – Luke Vollar

And so marks the end of a pretty terrible year…

A time of anxiety and uncertainty about my future and what grim tribulations lay ahead (buy me a pint and I’ll share the whole sorry story with you). More time on my hands should have given me the impetus to dive into the review pile but alas I was constantly at war with grey and weary enui. I found the effort to provide sparkling insight into underground sounds just wasn’t there.

I still took a great deal of solace in music, be it the sombre post-metal of Neurosis or the self-loathing hip hop of Danny Brown and Earl Sweatshirt. The furious tornado of rage from the Power Violence/Grindcore underground offered me an outlet for the rage and injustice I felt.

As the request for end of year thoughts was put out I found myself musing over the year as I walked to the pub to meet a mate whilst listening to Fata Morgana by Stuart Chalmers. It dawned on me that my end of year list would include two artists who have been at the top of my end of year list for the past two years- Stuart Chalmers and Robert Ridley Shackleton. This in turn led me to mull over the ‘problem’ of the review pile and the sheer glut of (often fantastic) artists who want people to hear their work. Whilst I wholeheartedly agree with Rob Hayler’s views raised on the punkness of bandcamp and the increased accessibility to peoples music that can bypass all the horseshit there is an undeniable risk of over-saturation.

On a purely personal level and as someone who has always been fairly (ok very) obsessive about music a certain amount of investment is required in order the reap the rewards from their work. Hence I have now spent a couple of years getting my head round a couple of artists who have been on an upwards trajectory with their work.

Robert Ridley Shackleton’s – The Opera – on Chocolate Monk is a culmination of all of the disparate elements of his art brought together into a sprawling masterpiece. Part absurd/awkward/ moving audio diary part cardboard noise work out part purple bedroom funk.

Stuart Chalmers has maintained his output of dazzling brain-music unshackled by earthly requirements and free to orbit the space ways. His disc on Chocolate Monk plus his collaboration with Neil Campbell and his self released Fata Morgana are all essential.

Towards the end of a grim year came an unexpected shaft of sunlight as my duo The Teatowels were asked to perform our debut at the Tusk Festival in Newcastle. Several sleepless nights were spent prior to the event asking myself was I really going to ‘sing’ in front of an audience? On the night all nerves were forgotten and the show itself seemed to be over in minutes, we had a blast.

The joyful experience of catching up with old pals and meeting new people all with a passion and intrigue for weird sounds was a wonderful thing, as was mooching about the toon with two of my best pals. I left with my soul enriched but my liver threatening to leave me. Highlights include Rob Hayler’s thought provoking panel discussion followed by a Midwich set as the perfect hangover cure and the dismantling of the trusty groovebox – absurd, funny and moving. The Brainbombs set was a ferocious nihilistic groove machine and I damn near dislocated my head from banging it.
so before a ramble some more here’s a list of things that I enjoyed this year in no particular order:

stuart chalmers loop phantasystuart chalmers loop fantasy 4

Drunk in Hell – s/t
Infernal Body Demo
Filthxcollins Demo
Of habit- Extended technique
Stuart Chalmers- Loop fantasy 4 , Fata Morgana, In the vicinity of the reversing pool (with Neil Campbell) , Mazes and Labyrinths (2007-2017)
T Mikawa- Rising Sunset
Blood Lewiis-The Toadstool Millionaires
Feghoots -Dwindling Correspondence
Fordell Research Unit- Octuary
Wizards of Oi- Wot it is not
Psanck- Psanck
Richard Youngs- Fibe Optic Ballads
Robert Ridley Shackleton- The Opera
Street Beers-Seriously Hot
Karen Constance- Gudgeon Snout
Karen Constance and Elkka Nyoukis- Bicker Sweet
Lust rollers- Grim reflections from the poetic spleen
BBblood/Posset/Stuart Chalmers- Delirium Cutlet Impaste
Kevin Sanders- Numb for Somethings
Skull Mask- La muerte es sabia
Culver- Prisoner of FRU
75 Dollar Bill- Wood/Metal/Plastic
Joshua Abrams and Natural Information Society- Simultonality
Yeah You- Krutch

And in conclusion 2018 is already looking a lot brighter. Stuart Arnot’s prediction for The Teatowels blasting out a set from a boat on the Tyne for the next Tusk Festival might just happen. Anything is possible right?

Feet on the ground, head in the sky – it’s Paul Margree’s blurred memories

In 2017, I listened to and wrote about music, then stopped writing about and listening to music, and then started listening to and writing about music again. I spent the first third of the year swamped in dark ambient symphonies, drone shudders, computer music chatters and freely improvised squalls in a state of caffeinated befuddlement before throwing the whole lot in the (proverbial) bin post-Easter in an attempt to figure out what I actually liked listening to, if anything. And, while I still don’t have the answer to this, the investigations required have continued to prove rather fruitful.

Here are some good albums that I should have reviewed but didn’t in 2017:

maya and tom

Maya Dunietz & Tom White: Summer Crash (Singing Knives)

Nicole Mitchell: Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds (FPE)

Duncan Harrison: Preamble to Nihil (self-released)

Kostis Kilymis: A Void (Organized Music From Thessaloniki)

Yan Jun and Ben Owen Swimming Salt 游泳的盐(Organized Music From Thessaloniki)

Jlin: Black Origami (Planet Mu)

Sloth Racket: See The Looks On The Faces (Tombed Visions)

Cristián Alvear / Seijiro Murayama: Karoujite (Potlach)

Organ For The Senses (Marginal Frequency)

Daniel M. Karlsson: Expanding and Overwriting (Conditional Recs)

YOL: Hand of Glory (self-released)

Kill Alters: No Self-Helps (Hausu Mountain)

It wasn’t all bad, however. In those jittery months, I got to speak to a set of talented, passionate experimental musicians about their craft, a process that was both a privilege and an eye-opener. Speaking to these artists added perspective and nuance to my own understanding of their recorded output and helped to free something in my own creative process, an unfolding which is still ongoing. Thank you Marlo, Colin, Duncan, Phil, Elizabeth, Gabriele, Petridisch, Andie, Sam, Dale and Cristián – and apologies to everyone I never quite got around to.

Here are some good albums that I did manage to review – or at least talk about – in 2017:

daniel bennett roil

Seth Cooke: Triangular Trade (Suppedaneum)

Me, Claudius: Reason For Balloons (Dinzu Artefacts)

Phil Julian: Clastics (Conditional Recs)

Maria W. Horn: Excitation – Frustration – Excitation (Conditional Recs)

Dale Cornish: Aqal (Entr’acte)

Bredbeddle: Stackes (Fractal Meat Cuts)

Sophie Cooper: The Curfew Tower Tapes (Crow Versus Crow)

Irreversible Entanglements: s/t (International Anthem)

Mark So … And Suddenly From All This There Came Some Horrid Music (Caduc)

Trupa Trupa: Jolly New Songs (Blue Tapes/X-Ray Records/Ici d’aileurs)

Elizabeth Veldon: Laika & Other Works (Third Kind Records)

Guiseppe Ielasi: 3Pauses (Senufo Editions)

Mami Wata: s/t (Wild Silence)

Missing Organs: Old Speakers (Umor Rex)

Daniel Bennett: Roil (Organized Music From Thessaloniki)

Diurnal Burdens: Inaction/Extinction (Invisible City Records)

A lot of labels had a good year, too. You’ll all have your favourites, but, for me, the dedication of Tombed Visions, Linear Obsessional, Sacred Tapes, Potlach, Wild Silence, Crow Versus Crow, Entr’acte, Singing Knives, Organized Music From Thessaloniki, Chocolate Monk, Invisible City, Beartown Records, Baba Vanga and Structured Disasters was crucial in achieving a kind of mass immersion in weirdo sonics that has helped rewire my brain. Don’t go changing, y’all.

Threaded through all of this, of course, is the warp and weft of everyday life. Getting up, going to work, coming home, cooking, cleaning, washing, giving people lifts, getting stuck in traffic, filling in forms, going on holiday. You know the drill. During these bursts of activity, I’ve listened to Stormzy, Sza, Princess Nokia, St. Vincent, The National, Neil Young, Drake and Halse . I’ve heard ‘Despacito’ more times than I thought I would ever hear a song (and that includes Wet Wet Wet’s version of ‘Love Is All Around’ and all those Christmas songs that never, ever go away). Sometimes music is a consolation in all of this, sometimes it’s a distraction. Sometimes it’s both.

However, I can recommend a period of abstinence from music. This may seem like an odd thing to say on a website devoted to uncovering organized, disorganized or just plain unorganized sounds, but this absence really did make the heart (and ears) grow fonder. My hiatus came to an end when I was welcomed into the Radio Free Midwich fold, a move that helped me chart a path back to thinking about music again. So, Joe, Rob and all the RFM squad, thank you.

There was plenty of live stuff this year, although individual gigs do tend to slip away from my lobes like custard down a plughole unless I make specific notes. Some things have stuck, however –TUSK remained one of most welcoming and sonically adventurous festivals around, closely followed by Glasgow’s Counterflows, whose city-spanning locus matches the diversity of its bill. The London Contemporary Music Festival felt a little highbrow in contrast although sets by Joan La Barbara, Moor Mother, Yeah You and the Elaine Mitchener Ensemble were definite highlights.

Here in the big smoke, Café Oto continues to be a beacon for weirdo sound junk of all stripes, with newer locations such as Sonic Imperfections and Rye Wax in Peckham, Iklectic in Lambeth and New River Studios in Manor House offering up tasty morsels themselves. Even better, scenes around the UK are asserting themselves –Dylan Nyoukis and the squad in Brighton springs immediately to mind, but there are fruitful nodes of improv, electronics and noise in Gateshead, Newcastle, Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool, Cheltenham and loads of other places. This cannot be anything but good news.

Here are some gigs that have rocked my 2017:

Ian Watson, Marlo Eggplant, dtub; New River Studios (February)

Aaron DIlloway; Hope & Ruin (February)

Posset; Café Oto Project Space (March)

Les Filles de Illighadad; Counterflows (April)

Farmer’s Manual; Counterflows (April)

Phil Maguire;Sonic Imperfections (July)

Dead Neanderthals/Sly & The Family Drone; Café Oto (September)

Beachers / R Elizabeth / Dan Hayhurst/ Missing Organs; New River Studios (September)

Duncan Harrison;TUSK (October)


The Seen; Hundred Years Gallery (November)

New Intimacy III; London Contemporary Music Festival (December)

Sharon Gal and Paul Watson; Café Oto (December)

philphil maguire at sonic imperfections (photographer unknown)

What does all this mean? It is possible to synthesize all this sizzle and noise into something meaningful? Should we even bother? After all, isn’t all this list making and ranking just another way to instil FOMO and get you to part with your hard earned?

Well, maybe. I reckon most of these artists deserve your coin as they battle on through financial hardship and general indifference. So, let’s raise a mug of peppermint tea to all those cultural workers whose idiosyncratic, dissonant lurches up various one-way streets brings a little bit of joy to our lives.

Here’s to you, one and all.

We would not be complete without a word from Marlo Eggplant.

It has felt like a super long year. Constant turmoil in the world left me completely disinterested in making music and listening in isolation. And for me, to appreciate and create music and art without social context has been particularly difficult. So, in light of folx calling out the misogynistic white washed, I propose to you some music that I have been enjoying. I am absolutely certain I missed some great music released in 2017. But these releases are more than enough for me to feel like other folks were feeling similarly.

C. Lavender – “Vanishing Light” (Hot Releases)

Where does one go when they are feeling overwhelmed by life? Do we choose to be studied through a two-way mirror in hopes those behind it have our best interests in mind or do we choose to live as outsiders and let our internal conflicts unfold without help?

Freaking good. I love an album that you feel compelled to listen to from beginning to end. The recording quality is nostalgic and analogue-ish. While the tracks are ordered, the sounds are not confined. Her orchestration is unpredictable but melodic and zeroes in on the irritation and desire to feel something. Hudson, New York based C. Lavender has been killing it for years but perhaps this album’s juxtaposition with the fascist irritants of the times is particularly medicinal and accurate.


Stackes – “Bredbeaddle” (Fractal Meat Cuts)

Nottingham’s Rebecca Lee’s work is charged with playful intent. It feels good on the ears with a late-night radio channel surfing quality. Rolling the dial between the fuzz of a well-loved vinyl collection, the tenor of instruments, and the more mathematical computer sounds, Lee distracts us from the dis-ease of current events.

dead machine

緊那羅:Desi La (Kinnara : Desi La) –  “Dead Machine”  (Afrovisionary : Dark Matter)

The always excellent Afrovisionary: Dark Matter label promoting the black avantgarde brings a treat with a full-length album by the label’s admin LA BRUHA DESI LA. I was tuned into this particular release with the Tokyo based artist’s current geometric video art accompanying the tracks. The album is electronic harpsichords and sci-fi visions. I have been sent a homing signal back to my home planet and escape from this sur(reality) contemporary society.

edit history

Sterile Garden – “Edit/History/Erase” (Self released)

Portland, Maine artist Jacob DeRaadt describes this release as music concrete explorations of the human condition. Accurate. Seeing the masses as grouped individual experience, this long form cassette is aesthetically pleasing and epic. Experiencing both nothing and momentous. With each side, atmospheric discomfort DeRaadt articulates the ephemeral.

Helictitie in the Studiophoto of typical nau live equipment

What do I think about the last 12 months?  Here’s Joe Posset’s list plus a riff about live music.

A gradual change in live performance seems to have reached a peak in 2017.   While the NAU is pretty much built on the idea that performer and audience are one and the same, when we get down to it, in the live arena, the old invisible contract between active, single-discipline performer and passive single-discipline audience holds sway.   You know the sort of thing I’m talking about: the ‘artist plugs in a box and plays, the audience shuts up and listens’ scenario.

For years Usurper have been redrafting this contract, busting out of a single-discipline improv mode by adding elements of humour, visual art, dada-winks, audience participation, drama, repetitive movement and sharp political comment to their increasingly abstract(ed) work.  And for me some of the most electric performances of the year have brought a similar polymorphic structure to the NAU.

To be clear…I’m not just on about Bob Dylan painting his own record covers here – another key element of the NAU is the multi-skilled nature of its proponents.  What I’m talking about is bringing those multiple energies and disciplines straight into performance where what we thought was one thing becomes the other.

renerene mcbrearty (photographer unknown)

The penny dropped for me while watching Rene McBrearty perform Hesitation, Deviation, Repetition.  This prompted my listening companion to say – ‘kinda reminds me of Malcy Duff’ which of course was a spot on comparison.

Rene’s vocal rollercoaster had all the hallmarks of a vocal jaxx / sound-text piece. Repetitive sounds, sense and meaning were explored and performed with a wonderfully straight face.  But if some beard walked in halfway through they would have struggled to place the setting and root of this marvellous piece.  It stood in a new patch of grass; not chin-stroking sound art, or visual art + .  It was a slippery performance delighting in sliding between exciting places.

Granted…a few acts branching out does not a movement make.   But this year, when I think back, I’m seeing more and more of this polymorphism.

Rob Hayler’s well documented final Midwich performance was both an artistic farewell, a greatest hits medley and a safety-conscious Metzger action.

Headless Pootluke poot in gateshead

In their solo guises, and in an occasional duo, Duncan Harrison and Luke Poot have left audiences with their jaws loose and flapping.  Physical comedy, tape interruptions, fourth-wall collisions and a deep, deep investigation into the nature of the uncomfortable have made their performances bristle with meaning way beyond the purely sonic.  They react in the moment to the moment.  It seems you don’t need shock tactics to blow open the doors of perception – just a well placed joke, a clever mind and carefully choreographed movements.

Sophie Coopersophie cooper in thornton

More and more examples are released from my memory banks; Sophie Cooper’s trombone performances have merged highfalutin’ reductionism with laff-out-loud honks, electronic loops and heartfelt covers.  Yeah You, Acrid Lactations and Sippy Cup are pushing at the long and illustrious history of ‘tabletop improv’ by balancing primitive electronics, domestic non-instruments with dangerous, unhinged drama – gloves are off, rules are broken and anything can happen.

All-in-all 2017 has been an outstanding year for live music and I’m confident 2018 will continue to stretch genres and rubberise boundaries.


Witch Blood – Xenie (Invisible City Records)

“There’s an aching to the sound that’s more than the sum of any hiss or lo-fi tape wobble. It’s the marbled end-papers in a leather-bound book; it’s the smell of cigar smoke on a blue velvet jacket.”

Katz Mulk – Husks (Singing Knives)

“Below the chanting it squats waiting for the echoing ‘clack’ balancing the freezer burn amp-huffing on Andrea Kearney’s perfectly timed Cuban finger clicks.  High on rum I feel gloriously wasted.”

KWC – Fruit Rosary Sacred Hour Service (Power Moves Library)

“Hail Marys and ritualistic bingo / self-help becomes text-sound gumbo / Fylkingen with lap steel blunts”

Various Artists – L’Incoronazione (Hyster Tapes)

“…tracks that seem to bridge the gap between Gastr Del Sol’s sweetly-composed minimal whimsy and the raw burst of anger unleashed when you realise your car’s been nicked.”

Spoils & Relics – Threadbare Adult Life (Second Sleep)

“A constant churn of soft and gentle, an avalanche of chinchilla fur envelopes an unsuspecting listener warming the cockles like a fine brandy.”

King Kungo – Da Ist Der Rhein (Spam)

“The shouts and hollas let us gnarly-old adults revisit that pure innocent joy of shouting into the wind; you can hear his excitement as these sounds reflect back his practiced squeals and effectively rolled ‘r’s and trills.”

yol wanting less

Yol – Always Leave Them Wanting Less (Self Release)

“The carefully controlled mayhem, the steel toe-capped attack and shuddering decay sprints though the ten minute set.  But as the balti bowls are hurled about for one last time, and in the instant before the cheers begin, one set of booted feet swiftly exit stage left.  Their work cleanly and precisely done.”

Dale Cornish – Aqal (Entr’acte)

“Ear-cuppingly intimate, a conversation between bass-crustacean, measured in bright bubbles and underwater static (If such a thing is possible).”

Shapeless Coat of Arms – Early Protection (Self Release)

“This is a repeating cascade of sonic bladderwrack – all pop-able blisters and gummy textures.”

Blood Stereo – Where There’s Raw Grace in Garbage (Chocolate Monk)

“Dry, echoing ‘clonks’ and ‘squarks’ are placed carefully into the mix – but not with a dictator’s swagger stick.  Rather the gardener’s crisp carrot!  These, sounds are encouraged to grow, swell and bloom.”

Maya Dunietz & Tom White – Summer Crash (Singing Knives)

“Outstanding Quatermass freakery from these two living dovetail joints…leapt like a flea from the back of a 2016 tour with Maya Dunietz (voice/piano/harp) melting butter all over Tom White’s (reel-to-reel tape) witchcraft.”

Duncan Harrison

Duncan Harrison – Prelude to Nihl (Self Release)

“It’s like staring into a fly’s eye; multifaceted and crazily reflective.  The movements come thick and fast collapsing into each other like drunken Henry Moore nudes.   It is god damn ripe my dearest reader.”

Feghoots – Dwindling Correspondence (Chocolate Monk)

“The flickering and flighty splutters mimic a barista’s recurring dreams of hot steamed milk.  At one point I swear a double bass makes an entrance and I realise I’m getting randy for Feghoots and John Edwards to collaborate.”

Stef Ketteringham  – More Guitar Arrangements (Crow versus Crow)

“…all arthritic knuckles and sunburned hands, shiny as polished chestnuts with its ham-fisted flamenco flourishes bruising the strings.  This is most certainly hardcore!”

artem spar

Artem Spar – Kassettenwerk 13-15  (Falt)

“The end result is part solo-tape slosh, a wonderful brain-scramble of pinched wheels and FFW scree, part free-jam in a No-Neck style; untutored, informal and confident.”

Tea Towels – We are the Deadness (Beartown Records & Tapes)

“The rehearsal room ambience is thick with amp fug and ideas blooming in the moment. It’s a secret shared in hot breathy gasps.  The shamanic use of repetition and lowest of all known ‘fi’s’ becomes a grey carnation shuddering in an autumn storm.”

Ezio Piermattei – Tre Madri Ludopastiche (Discombobulate)

“…things are kept purposefully beautiful and wobbling: voice crackle in fake-stereo, tape jizz squirts it’s hot mayo, TV gossip chatters to no one except the caged songbirds.”

The Slowest Lift – The Slowest Lift (VHS)

“Their coupling of (on one side) shocking distortion, tape noise and blistering huff with (on the other) soft slow voices and gentle unhurried compositions make the act of listening like dreaming through an electrical storm.”

Ali Robertson & Guests – S/T (Giant Tank)

“Without any of the oddball yuks this is a beautiful tape/performance piece of gentle clicks and solitary word play.  The whirr of the tape engines adds one hundred tog warmth to the creaks, recorded footsteps and groans.”

power moves

Various Artists – You/In/Be/Arc (Power Moves Library)

“Like that gold record they sent up into space on Voyager; a recorded message of humanity’s desperate need to make sound, to communicate in the most natural way possible – to make music.”

Aqua Dentata – One Day, You Will Be a Painter (Echo Tango)

“…my ears register the electronics tones as haw frost shimmering on silver birch or endless exhalations roaring from bronze lips.”

OK my dearest reader.  Blimey!  Are you still there?  We’ve almost reached the end of this massive, massive memory gong.

As this marks my last post as editor I’m going to grant myself permission to be a bit soppy so a HUGE heartfelt thanks to everyone who has sent us music, read our scribblings and gone on to check out exciting and daring new sounds.

A big and particularly sloppy kiss to the whole RFM team – the absolute best of humans.  Your support and energy has been o-o-o-ou-ouu-outstaaaaaanding.

And please remember RFM will continue to champion the new, the bold and the plain weird – just at a slightly more sedate pace in 2018.

You’re wonderful ya’hear!


crater lake festival 2015

March 18, 2015 at 12:24 pm | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

crater lake poster

Whoo, boy – where to start with Crater Lake? Maybe with the simple and declarative: Crater Lake Festival is a day-long celebration of experimental music held annually in March at Wharf Chambers in Leeds and is organised by Pete Cann. Them’s the facts. However, over the four years of its existence it has grown into something over and above a display of the curator’s unimpeachable taste and ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ approach to time keeping: it has become a gathering of the clan. As well as being an unrivalled opportunity to see the risen cream of ‘noise’ (some in combos suggested by Pete himself) perform to a large and appreciative crowd, you also get the equally important social side. Names are put to smiling faces, hand are shaken, warez exchanged, plots hatched – all taking place in a general air of slightly delirious enthusiasm fuelled by the constant flow of decent, fairly-priced alcohol.

This blog is known for a phrase coined as shorthand description of the scene it documents but I am steering clear of that for now.  I don’t want to co-opt something that is clearly greater than the sum of its parts and can’t be pigeonholed. I will say this though: when I noticed that Pete had hooked some relatively big fish for the bill, and saw the Arts Council logo had snuck onto the corner of his poster, I asked him how he’d managed to successfully tap ’em for funding. He replied, to my delight, that he’d used my write up of last year’s festival as the blurb for his application and they couldn’t wait to shower him with cash. Despite knowing that the Arts Council has recently taken an almighty bollocking for being Londoncentric and that any application from Winterfell was going to be seriously considered, it was still a very proud moment. There you go, people: this stuff matters. Hang on a second, I seem to have something in my eye…

<sniffs, turns to window, regains composure, harumphs manfully>

OK, a word about the below. Due to family commitments – a visit from my parents to celebrate the second birthday of my son Thomas – I could only attend for the three hours from 8pm to 11pm. To be honest, given the stinking cold I had, that is probably all I could manage anyway. So, having spent the afternoon chasing the kid around Home Farm at Temple Newsam (and marveling at turkeys that looked like monsters from Doctor Who, or an illustration by Ian Watson) I arrived flustered and discombobulated into an already pretty drunken milieu. Suspecting this would be the case I had already tasked the other four RFM staffers attending (alas, Chrissie had to be elsewhere recording an orchestra) with documenting the day so all I had to organize was a group photo.

In the piece that follows the author of the paragraph is indicated in bold like this – Luke: – and interjections about non-musical aspects of the day are (bracketed and in italics). Photographs of the workshop were taken by Sof (using the ‘nice’ camera) and the awesome pictures of the performers were taken by Agata Urbaniak and kindly donated to RFM for use in this piece. I am hugely grateful to her – and to marlo for having the presence of mind to ask – and recommend that you all visit her flickr site too.

Right then, let’s go!


(Joe: Too early! We – one half of the Newcastle delegation – arrive too early at Wharf Chambers. We spot an Evil Moisture prepare for his evil workshop through the crack in the door but take the old army maxim on board – eat when you can – and scoff a scrumptious Persian meal at the place round the corner. A brief sojourn to Leeds market is broken by a call from YOL. We can sound check so I make my way back to base camp. Pete’s relaxed event management skills pay dividends. Everyone knows/does their job. Things tick like Swiss time. The super-patient sound guy balances our 10 second sound check, we nod satisfied with the racket and slope off to meet ace faces Ben Hallatt & Dale Cornish cackling in the Wharf Chambers sun trap.)

workshop 1 workshop 2 workshop 3 workshop 4 workshop 5

The workshop

Sof: I fought my way through Saturday afternoon Leeds crowds to make it to Wharf Chambers just in time for the Evil Moisture / Andy Bolus Ghost Hunting Detector workshop. We had been instructed to bring along a non-metallic cylindrical object, basic soldering skills and undead ancestors.  I’m sure I had the first two with me at least.

We all gathered round a table in the middle of the bar on which we found various items I came to know as ‘cells’, wires and other dangerous looking bits. I’m generally quite scared of electronics (old residual fear of metal work at school no doubt) and so always sign up for activities like this to try and get over this issue. Andy’s approach to the workshop was really relaxed with his main instruction being a hand drawn diagram that he placed in front of 4 of us before letting us get on with it. He was available to answer questions and sort out our various mistakes – great teaching style. This helped to kerb my concerns, I mean, if he could be so chilled holding a wand that can melt metal then why shouldn’t I be too?

There were a lot of confused and frustrated faces around the table during the process but these all turned into massive grins when the detectors finally worked out. It took me nearly 2 hours to attach the cells to a battery and a long wire wrapped around a giant pencil but you know what, it bloody worked. I mean, I’m not sure if the loud squealing noises that were produced from this thing were communications from the other side but when I stuck it into an amp through a bit of reverb at home some use was envisaged. In retrospect I shouldn’t have drank a really strong black coffee during the process because the shaky hands did become a bit of an issue but I got there in the end!

Tom and Jerry, I mean Dale

(Joe: While the laboratory is an evil hive of evil activity the wonderful folk of the N-AU turn up, firstly in ones and twos, then huddles, then mobs. I meet Sophie for the first time and gasp in awe at the purple camera she’s sporting so rakishly. The N-AU are prompt, alert and full of relaxed bonhomie. Crater Lake has started!)

Mel 1  Mel 3 Mel 4  Mel 6 Mel 7

Mel O’Dubshlaine

Joe: fractured electronics garbled and yarbled straight outta Mel’s mini-mouth – possibly reading out what she was doing (I’m lowering the volume on this tape, I’m adding more reverb on this channel) – via a Dutch translation aid and robot clarinet.  The vocal musings were calmly paced, relaxed and with an electronic softening that tickled the tiled floor all nice.  Phil Navigations joined in on cyber-Taiko drum to muss things proper towards the end.  Ke-tung!

Luke: droll Yorkshire instructions fed through robot vocoder.  About five minutes in it dawned on me that I could listen to this quite happily for hours.  My mate thought I’d left because Phil turned up and it was in danger of going ‘all musical’ not so: my chalice had run dry.

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Yol & Posset

Joe: (view from the floor) dunno about this, lots of knees and boots, getting awful hot awful quick, Yol clatters…HIT IT!

Boof/~~~scree/HAWKS////zingzingzing/~~II~~:~~BAU~~~~/CLANK.  The end.

Cor.  That felt good.

Luke: yowser this was fun like visceral high energy free gumph played with the contents of a skip, lots of gurning growling and testifying.

Marlo: the interesting element of this performance is that opposed to some electronic noise acts that seem distanced or detached from actual live performing, these two were very alive, very awake and fully present in a visceral and physical way.  Yol, as usual, used his body as his instrument to full capacity.  Apparent in his performance were both his sensitivity to environment and his physiological response to Mr. Posset’s intuitive electronic gestures. Both, not shy to show some presence, expressed a reciprocal appreciation of live art.

(Joe: Later… the food comes out full to bursting with Pascal’s grapes… I’m too keyed up to eat but notice it gets a thumbs up from Lee Culver who, no shit readers, is a proper gourmet/baking behemoth. Top Marks.)

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Stuart Chalmers

Joe: top drawer Dictaphone thumb-nastics from Stuart.  The whirr and ‘scree’ of fast forwarding tape was a joy to hear as it bounced from one hand to another; Stuart flinging his luscious black locks like a metalhead and shaking like a nervous cicada.  Even my tin ear picked up the subtle tape preparations and timings as skronk melted effortlessly into ethnic-plink with industrial overtones.  Of course no one knows what Stuart really looks like…he threw his Kim Thayil wig into the crowd and disappeared into the balmy Leeds afternoon.

Luke: about three beers in this was lush green elephant tea. I dig the candles, the wig, the ritual maaan. Led to an interesting conversation outside.  Seems in the N-AU you got your tapes lovers and your tapes haters (known as ‘taters’)

I’d rather watch him play the sounds than play a tape of it

…one geezer remarked.

He was playing a zither thing!

I retorted in his defense. I myself am pro tapes: the wow, the flutter, the plastic encased mystery.

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Kay Hill

Joe: Ben Hallatt set up an impressive reel-to-reel machine and facilitated the sound of a monkey opening a recalcitrant jar of peanut butter through the fragile, disintegrating brown tape.  A play in two parts, this simian housekeeping was taken over by a more keening, knock-kneed hubble-style.  All glorious drippings to clear out me waxy tabs.

Luke: my highlight of the day. Tape music with lots of pop and hiss but with, if not a tune, then a beguiling pattern. I struggled to verbalize how impressed I was to the man himself and was astounded that he had no merchandise to pass on (you haven’t heard the last of Kay Hill, readers).

Marlo: Ben Hallatt performed a nuanced, textured and atmospheric tape art set. Despite the surging, celebratory atmosphere of Crater Lake, he held a patient and meditative space. Starting from a minimal structure, he added an elaborate architecture that was sturdy and mindful. The performance was a sound journey that led the audience through this construction and left them in a different place.

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Dale Cornish

Joe: Canary Yellow computer splutter. Spitting and frothing like a thousand tiny tummy kicks from the blue shrimps inside.  Marie said to me,

It sounded like the 90’s.

I said,

What.  All of it?

She said,

Sure, in Belgium.

I’m no flat pancake!

Marlo: I had previously seen Dale the week before in Nottingham. His mood was quite different this time. With alert attention, he proceeded to command his laptop to amuse, irritate, and tickle the audience. If I were to have a party, I would invite Dale. Always enjoyable, instead of baking him a birthday cake to compliment last week’s set, based on this performance I would make him profiteroles.  Thus instead of a treat that is made for pure enjoyment, celebration, and taste, a pastry as work of art which takes many steps prior to presentation (and I like profiteroles a lot).

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Dylan Nyoukis & Kieron Piercy

Joe: Soundtrack to Night of the Living Squelch that somehow managed to dissect Dylan & Kieron so one duo played breathing noises: hisses, coughs and sighs and the other ‘ghost’ duo played the sound of the first duo running their outputs through resinous pinecones.  By gently slapping their foreheads bubbles of gas birthed from parted lips adding a metallic sheen. Please stop me if I’m getting too technical.

(Joe: Later…. booze is consumed, hands shook and booty exchanged. Among the hugs plans are hatched and reputations blackened! Later… we meet the boss. In what must look like a comical gesture to onlookers we both reach out one hand to shake and another to pass cdr/tapes/notes to each other.)

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Charles Dexter Ward

Joe: Erotic Jerome is the most focused man in the N-AU.  Every twitch and tremor of his hands opened another subtle filter, let out a deceptive synth note or texturised the canvas with his painterly guitar thribbings.  Guess what?  Watching CDW reminded me of that Keef.

What do you think about when you’re playing?

Asked the handsome young Vee-jay.

I don’t think on stage.  I feel,

came the raspy reply.  Nuff Said.

Marlo: I had the immense pleasure of being acquainted with Jerome after his stellar set at Tusk Festival. This time, the layers and processing felt more dense. Every time I felt as though I had embraced a new element of his guitar mosaic, I was being introduced to yet another level of intensity that abandoned yet built upon the previous input. It was a rich and powerful piece.

Rob: I got my non-euclidean groove on and shimmied like a tentacle.  It was cyclopean.  Who would have thought such a nice guy could be an Old One in human form?

(Joe: Later…a fart in front of Elkka Reign Nyoukis makes her laugh so hard it drowns out the nearby trains.  Later…it’s a Warhol of confusion. The heat and the noise and the crowd means conversations start, stop, merge and scatter. I’m bending ears all over.  Later…The RFM photo op. I never realised our erstwhile photographer was the legendary Idwal himself! Our handsome group is propped up by my screamingly odd face.)

5-6ths of RFM take 1

Rob: The evidence!  Five sixths of RFM: me, Sof, Luke, Joe, Marlo – Chrissie sadly couldn’t make it as she was recording an orchestra.  Cheers to Uncle Mark for taking the picture.

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Stephen Cornford

Marlo: As they said in Videodrome (1983),

Long live the New Flesh!

I say this because I felt like Cornford was battling with the mind melting controlling of vertical and horizontal holds, in a telekinetic struggle with amplitude and frequency, he went head-to-head with his multiple television screens. He was absorbed. I was absorbed. I think the visuals that seemed to translate his audio concoctions were pretty. I would love to see more of his work.

Rob: I felt like the little girl in Poltergeist (1982) but I wasn’t communing with the dead, rather a race of electric creatures attempting to re-programme my bonce with strobing logic.  They may have succeeded.  I await the trigger word from Mr. Cornford.

(Rob: Sof, Sof!  Where are you?  I think Sof and Jake’s last train beckoned around this point)

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Joe: Rich sarcophagus music.  Prostrated like a monk with a Casio, Culver played the sound of the tides spiced with deep orange paprika.  Ebb and flow washes over you easily for sure but remember Culver’s dark gravity pins you to the planet like a moth in a cabinet.

Luke: whilst Charles Dexter Ward embraced the crowd with his pink love drone in a highly pleasing manner, Culver extended the black tentacles of Cthulu and left us powerless facing the ghastly pit of torment. I am inebriated at this point and only roused from my Culver trance by my pal clinking glasses, it’s a fine moment: we are ridiculously close to the high priest himself. There can be only one.

Marlo: Culver is remarkable in that he uses similar gear and techniques to others whilst adding something completely signature and unique. I would say that Culver is one of the best drone artists in the UK. His monastic and constant involvement with his gear makes for a compelling performance. Despite the darkness that he chooses to invoke with sound, there is a clear joy interspersed amongst the high frequencies.

Rob: I make a mental note of all in the crowd who talk during Lee’s set.  There will be a reckoning.  A RECKONING!

(Luke: sad to say I had to miss Evil Moisture and Rudolf Eb.Er but I was successful in navigating my way home. Cheers Pete, see you next year!)

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Evil Moisture

Joe: A Very Wonderful Fucking Sloppy Mess (AVWFSM).   Long, long loops of disgruntled squirm get run through the Bolus-zone to come out triple-strength odd.  With nothing to hold on to the free fall becomes increasing delicious.

Marlo: When watching Andy Bolus, one wishes that they had superpowers like photographic memory or the ability to time travel. The issue is that normal human capacities do not allow for full visual comprehension of the devices across his two tables and to simultaneously be absorbed by the sounds. There is just so much going on! From the crazy inventor’s lab of his set up to the enveloping waves of sound, my body was compelled to move. Pushed up close to the stage with several other victims of unintentional movement, I held onto a monitor to make sure I didn’t collapse from my undulations. These movements are, by far, my favourite response to good noise. His detailed dynamics had a light touch. Well paced yet not predictable in his shifts, Andy seemed to be using his whole body, even his feet to make the monster chewing sounds. But there were purposeful and understated details placed delicately through sound blasts and running engines. Not sonic saturated and definitely not shy, Evil Moisture’s intuitive performance was well worth the wait.

(Rob: at this point I bow out myself and trot off for the second-to-last bus home very happy with how the day has gone.  I’m in such a good mood that when I discover the New Blockaders tape Joe gave me earlier is leaking oil onto the other merch in my bag all I do is chuckle.  Ahh, occupational hazard.)

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Rudolf Eb.Er

Marlo: One of the best things about seeing noise and improvisational music played live is the feeling that what one witnessed is unique and unrepeatable.  Experience a performance by a sound artist like Ruldolph Eb.Er, for example, and you know immediately that what you saw and heard will never occur again the same way.  In this case, it might be the fact that several Crater Lakers had lost their marbles on booze and kept hollering throughout the set. That was a bit unfortunate but his professionalism didn’t allow one moment of lack of concentration. I use the word ‘dynamic’ a lot when I talk about noise and sound art, often using it to describe movement.  However, in this case, Rudolf’s use of tension and silence is signature to his style. Silences punctuated the set and left the audience irritable and anticipating each aural stimulation. Personally, I was enthralled by the spectacle – I felt prone to his ‘psychoaccoustic’ gestures and was dizzy with confusion.  My favorite part of his set was when he placed some nodes covered with a black, inky sound conductive substance on his face and head whilst appearing startled and trembling. I like to think he was slightly losing his mind with the audience but by the end he was fully composed and I felt freaking grateful I had stayed cognizant enough to appreciate all the different acts contained within the piece.

Joe: It had been a very long day.  Whist I don’t approve of public drunkenness I am charmed by the tipsy.  All my notes say is:

good oaky noise but possible Harkonnen spy.

I think it’s about this point that my brain packed up…


…which is an appropriately wonky note on which to end.  Alas, that is that for another year.  Many thanks to all involved – performers, venue and attendees – with special back-slapping to Pete Cann for making it happen.  It was a terrific day.  See y’all next time.


Photo credits:

Agata Urbaniak: performers

Sophie Cooper: workshop

Mark Wharton: Team RFM


cables: untangled by marlo eggplant and benjamin hallat

March 15, 2015 at 8:32 pm | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

rammel club flyer

[Editor’s note: roving reporter marlo eggplant performed at this event and offers the following insider account.  Having more humility than her self-aggrandising editor she has chosen not to write about her own set, instead enlisting the help of Mr. Benjamin Hallat (of the excellent KIKS/GFR label, performs as Kay Hill) to cover whilst she was otherwise engaged.  Over to M & B:]

All day events are tricky. In my personal experience of attending and performing at these long days, it sadly tends to be a crapshoot. Even if you are enthusiastic about the performances, one can’t help but remember events that lacked hospitality, a cohesive vision, or even clean bathrooms. Sometimes you end up feeling corralled into a tight space with poor ventilation and bad sound systems; elbow to elbow amongst the once excited, now hungry and tired audience members. By the end of the night, you escape outside as soon as possible in order to recover both your hearing and your sanity.

Simply put – in order to sustain the attention of an audience, participants/attendees must be well fed. I say ‘well-fed’ in the sense that one should not need to go elsewhere for sustenance.  Memorable events need several elements in place: good curation around interesting concepts and ideas, an appropriate space that is suitable and comfortable, a framework for the happenings of the day, and – importantly – refreshments to keep the hypoglycaemia at bay.

Two Nottingham organizations, the Rammel Club and Reactor Halls, got together to create an event that provided just such a balanced diet of aural and visual stimulations and the result, Cables, succeeded in being well planned, thought provoking, and fun.

Celebrating the definitions and uses of ‘the cable’, the organizers provided this text:

A cable is more than a mere length of wire. It is a trail to be followed, tracing a line between two points, or a meshwork of interwoven threads. The cable carries the pulse of electricity or light in response to a trigger. Cables are bookended by ‘plugs’, affording an abundance of possible connections. Some connections will be recommended for you in the user guide. But why stop there?…

Indeed a collaborative and connective spirit flowed through the day. From the availability of open improvisational spaces led by Abstract Noise Ting, to Murray Royston-Ward’s contact mic workshop, to the sound/performance kinetic installation by Experimental Sonic Machines, the audience was nourished.

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The event took place at Primary, a former schoolhouse converted into several artist studios and exhibition spaces. Workshops, installations, and performances were placed throughout the building, keeping one from feeling claustrophobic by the full programme. The overall aesthetic of the day was well curated and was followed by an evening of provocative performances that played with sound, intention, and improvisation.

[D-C]- by pieterLastIMG_2826

The first performance was [D-C], comprising two local musicians: analogue improviser Jez Creek [Modulator ESP] and Benjamin Hallatt [Kay Hill] providing tape loops. I heard a racket in the performance space as I entered the building and threw my gear aside. I love a good racket but that is too simplistic a description for the dynamics of their improvisation. They played together, reacting and interacting with each others’ sounds.  There was an overall meteorological sensation to the collaboration – I felt tribal drums leading to low rumbles. Punctuated at times by high whistle emissions, the accompanying visuals enhanced the feeling of being in a silo, lifted by the brutal whimsy of a storm [Editor’s note: not in Kansas anymore?]. The performance ended with trailing robotic sounds…

johnmacedo - by pieterLast johnmacedosetupIMG_2861

John Macedo followed. I do love looking at set ups that appear more like a rummage sale then actual preparation for sound art. The arrangement of small transmitters, drinking glasses, and speaker heads looked like the workbench in a hi-fi repair shop. His laptop seemed a bit out of place on the table, yet Macedo does not confine himself to his seat. Exploring spaces and placement, he circled and travelled the performance area playing with resonance and tone. Glass tapping and static transmissions, volume played with value. Silence had its place. At no point did the sounds feel saturated. It felt focused and intentional with a light touch across a minimalist acoustic playground. I enjoyed watching objects vibrate in cones. One comes away with the feeling of being witness to something ritual or holy.

[Editor’s note: Ben takes over at this point…]

Well, to follow Marlo America’s lead, I have to say that I am happy to be able to review these sets as they were two highlights for me, but this needs a bit of context which I shall elaborate on in due course. It is true that these all day events can be long and arduous but in this case the ingredients made for a fun buzz long into the night.

ianwatson-by pieterLast

I wandered into Ian Watson’s set just after I had finished packing up after my own collaboration, so it was a welcome first chance to sit down just when I needed it. Ian played in a separate large, darkened hall.  The light outside had almost completely faded by this point leaving a dull purple glow in the high windows. I walked into the room and thought

hmm, ok, a sort of tinny drone, sounds ‘ok’-ish!

But as I sat down and began to settle into the room and the darkness I found myself settling into the sound too. Ian’s set up was a really nice two turntable affair, playing his own custom resin 7” drone recordings. These vibrated a pair of cymbals that were further amplified with a couple of guitar amps. As the records spin they catch on the various imperfections, creating accidental loops and details. Within five minutes I was not exactly absorbed but simply letting my mind wander, calmly taking in the room, space and details of the sound, feeling quietly present with the fellow listeners dotted about the place! This was a lovely set for me and just what I needed.

marloeggplant - by pieter lastIMG_2880

As I remember, Ian’s set signalled the brief dinner break and up first after this was Marlo Eggplant, who also caught me, I guess, at a good time. All the sound checks I had been keeping an eye on were over and pizza had been scoffed on the fly, so I settled in for the first evening performance and opened up a beer. I was taken by surprise by this set immediately, as I had not heard Marlo before and I was expecting something more ‘crazy’ or ‘playful’,  let’s say. However this was a really peaceful emotive set utilising an autoharp and subtle building of delays and drones. Being not too drunk at this stage to appreciate the subtleties of sound I was totally immersed, gently floating about in the well orchestrated ebbs and flows of the set as a whole. I was really impressed with how well paced out this set was and its evolution, building to subtle voice expression later, coming to a timely conclusion and leaving me absolutely content! Yeah, it was good!

I just got drunk after that!

[Editor’s note: and on that happy note, back to marlo…]

Dinner break was an artisan pizza party – amazing smells erupting from the multiple pizzas topped with caramelized onions and butternut squash. The kitchen did a magnificent job of feeding everyone cake as well. I put this in the review of the event because that was a total pro move. Well played, organizers!

dalecornish - by pieterLast

After I put my gear away, I prepared myself to watch Dale Cornish’s set. I was looking forward to seeing him play as I had previously only heard his recordings. The only note I took during the set was:

party music

With a laptop on stage, you pretty much only have two choices. You can try to deny that you look like you are checking your social media or you can own it. Cornish made no qualms about standing behind a laptop, often hamming it up with eye contact and charming face. The music, in its own right, was fun, rhythmic, and dynamic. And I really wanted to dance. Amen to the set that makes you want to shake it.

phantom chipsIMG_2987

Phantom Chips is the visionary project of Tara Pattenden. Her passion for noise and hand-crafted electronics is well matched with her gleeful expression as she skronks through the performance.  Her set was well chosen for the event. Pattenden, using fabric lines with transducers, corded off the audience. Throwing sound conductive dinosaur parts [Editor’s note: wait, what?!?] into the audience, we were forced to have a taste of the sonic madness. Audience participation is integral to her playful aesthetic. I think at this point my notes may been delirious. Regardless, I wrote this in response to her circus:

Goofballs. I am trapped in an arcade. Squished sounds. Crunchiest sounds of the night. Throws meatballs at the pasta crunk collective. Beta bites of crunch. Decimated manual noise. Serious overdrive.

mel by Pieter LastIMG_3068

My fellow Leeds-ian was up next. Watching Melanie O’Dubhshlaine’s [Editor’s note: not sure about that spelling, but that is how it is on the poster] performances is like having the privilege of watching a scientist in a sound laboratory. One would not be able to tell that the source material of her sounds was spoken text if you were not sitting there watching her speak into her whacked out dictaphone/microphone processors, appearing to be reading aloud to herself. Her minimal movements work well with the sound. Using an electronic wind instrument, she plays the strangest clarinet solo set ever. Actually, it doesn’t sound like a clarinet but it doesn’t even really sound like an instrument. The overall experience is of sounds working themselves out in front of you; your brain’s attempt to recognize and categorize the inputs hampered by insufficient associations. It is interesting work that makes you think.

philjulian by Peter K rollings phillyj

I am not sure if the curators intended this but Phil Julian proceeded to keep the audience pensive. Sitting in this dark room, he steps behind a laptop and begins to play with notable focus. Julian’s work is well paced. Even without any visuals, his music feels like a soundtrack. Both recorded and in live performances, there is a cinematic quality to his work and a patience that comes with confidence and knowledge. His face does not reflect the tension of being a performer.  Perhaps his experience of playing in different spaces allows for an exploration of his own notions of process and result. Regardless, his focus and overall performance energy is noteworthy.


Trans/Human had the pleasure of performing the final set – perhaps the most difficult slot to fill. I, personally, find it quite difficult to be the last on the bill. How does one do something memorable when one has had to sit and watch every act? Have you had too much to drink? Do you need food? Adam Denton and Luke Twyman did not seem to have any of these issues as they went old school. In my favourite duo positioning – facing off across tables filled with electronics – they went full throttle. It felt like they were trying to release the demons from their gear out through the speakers. Their set was a celebration of volume and provided much needed catharsis for a day filled with creative questionings. A perfectly good way to end the evening.

So, there you have it. Thanks again, Rammel Club and Reactor Halls. Nottingham sure is lucky to have you.


With thanks to Pieter Last and Peter Rollings for photographs – much obliged to you both.


new midwich product! ‘attachments’ available for download

December 3, 2014 at 5:51 am | Posted in live music, midwich, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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midwich – attachments (self-released download)


Comrades! Radio Free Midwich is proud to present an early Christmas present for the discerning listeners that frequent this blog.  The latest release by house band midwich, attachments, is now freely downloadable (donations welcome but not necessary) via Bandcamp.

The first two tracks are (ahem) a ‘studio’ version of the set played at the RFM 5th Anniversary Shindig, the third track is a live recording of that very show – compare and contrast.

‘absent friends’ features a multi-tracked recording made in my backyard on a July evening – birds, wind-chimes, traffic, neighbour calling their cat.  Well extraction music, innit?  Everything else comes out of my battered Roland MC-303, which is also the sole sound source for ‘skin tags’ – a pure tone meditation, with pings.  The ripple of applause a minute or two into the live version is in response to me releasing a helium party balloon I had hidden under my table.  I like a bit of theatre, me.

Thanks again to Mitch for organizing the show and to Dan for recording it.


attachments on Bandcamp

midwichmas: live at the radiofreemidwich 5th birthday shindig

December 2, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Posted in live music, midwich, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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The Radio Free Midwich 5th Birthday Shindig: Hagman, Human Combustion Engine, midwich, UK Muzzlers, forgets live at Wharf Chambers, Leeds, 29th November 2014

nov 29th gig poster

So, yeah, it was a blast. Thanks to all who came and special, glowing thanks to Mitch of forgets who put it together then allowed me to hijack his efforts for my self-congratulation. All the sets were terrific and, despite the usual pre-gig nerves and some (fully justified) technical worries about crackling pots, I couldn’t be happier with how mine turned out.  Good crowd too, despite ‘rival’ gigs nearby (PAH! <spits on floor> I HAVE NO RIVALS! <short pause, sheepishly looks around, cleans up spit>). Some of my typically half-arsed and incompetent photo-journalism follows below. Let’s face it, I was only really concerned that my t-shirt and balloon were documented…

Oh, and in reply to the two comrades who wondered if this was now going to be an annual event the answer is: no, not unless each year another benefactor wants to come along and organize it for me. That said, my vanity did bubble to the surface on receipt of this riff from Eddie Nuttall of Aqua Dentata:

I propose Midwichmas as a name for this. Midnight mass on Midwichmas Eve can adopt a tradition of no carol singing, but perhaps a 4-hour recital of sine waves, bowed baking trays, and warpy cassette hiss. This can be followed by the traditional exchange of photocopied collages, also known as Midwichmas cards.

On Midwichmas morning all the children will excitedly gather round the Midwichmas Tree (a petrified oak) to exchange CDRs in edition of 7 or something, usually recorded an hour or so prior. These are presented in the traditional Midwichmas wrapping paper substitute, heavily weathered Poundland Jiffy bags that have been recycled across England half a dozen times or more.

A traditional afternoon Midwichmas film would perhaps be like a Christmas film, but probably substituting Bing Crosby for Duncan Harrison.

Heh, wouldn’t that be glorious, eh?

OK, on with the showbusiness…

hagman 29-11-14

Trowser Carrier had to cancel (trapped in a giant laundry basket, apparently) so Hagman kicked off by recreating the pose from every other photo I’ve ever taken of Dave and Dan Thomas (no relation) ever.  Their set was a gruff, bassy, throb – like the hot breath of a big cat as it licks you with its sandpaper tongue.  I swayed purposefully.

human combustion engine 1 29-11-14human combustion engine 2 29-11-14

Human Combustion Engine (Mel and Phil of Ashtray Navigations) teased out some tangerine psyche-synth with semi-improvised power moves.  I slapped my thighs in time with the pulse.  Occult science.

…and then:

it's showtime folks

…it was SHOWTIME folks!

midwich 29-11-14

I thanked everyone for their support and played a 20 minute set comprising two new ‘songs’.  These have been recorded and will be released alongside their live versions on my Bandcamp site soon.  You will be kept informed.  About three minutes in I remembered the helium balloon I had stashed under my table and releasing it (see pic above) got a ripple of amused applause.  This moment was such a coup de théâtre that my friend Alice later said it was…

…better than the Olympics Opening Ceremony.

Surely, no rational observer could disagree.

A word about my rad t-shirt.  The logo reads ‘Sonic Circuits’ and the tagline runs thus: ‘Avant Garde Music For The No Audience Underground’.  Yes!  My philosophy vindicated with leisurewear!  These garments were produced in celebration of the Sonic Circuits Festival 2014, organised by the genre-busting promoters of the same name based in Washington, DC.  My twitter bro’ and extraordinary digi-crate-digger Phong Tran (@boxwalla) appears to have convinced ’em that the slogan was bang on and, in return for lifting the idea, a shirt winged its way across the Atlantic.  So cool.  Fits real nice too.

uk muzzlers 29-11-14

Next were ‘headliners’ UK Muzzlers.  Neil Campbell and John Clyde-Evans played caveman Oi! over a hilarious tape collage.  There was much whooping, thumping and brute racket.  It was as if Happy Flowers had grown up but were still refusing to take their medication.  The future of rock and roll, possibly.

forgets 3forgets 2 - mitchforgets 1 - kroyd's notes

Finally, Mitch, who organised the night, and Kroyd, who’d been on the door, dropped their admin roles, took to the stage and brought the evening to a close as forgets.

The noise purists don’t like this…

…Kroyd began, and, looking at the half dozen people who remained in the room, he clearly had a point. The throng appreciating UK Muzzlers had melted away into the ‘beer garden’, the bar or had sprinted for last trains and buses leaving just this attentive elite. Ah bollocks to the lot a’ya – I fucking love this band. This is what they do: Kroyd tells stories and recites semi-improvised prose poetry whilst Mitch soundtracks it with improv noise guitar. A comrade who shall remain nameless worried that Kroyd’s observations were ‘hit and miss’, which I concede, but it all adds to the cumulative effect of the performance. People who put their heads around the door and think ‘hmmm don’t fancy this’ are missing out on sharp, funny, sometimes very moving stories and, quite often, a fantastic crescendo of flailing, bewildered despair that tops out the set. I recommend sitting the fuck down and listening.

…and that was that so we packed up, said our goodbyes and tumbled out onto the street. Dan Thomas, taking pity on a tired old man who’d been up since 4.30am caring for his boy, made sure I got home safely.  In the morning Thomas had a shiny helium balloon to play with…



Human Combustion Engine


UK Muzzlers (dunno – try via Astral Social Club)


Wharf Chambers

Sonic Circuits


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.

collapsing chair/civilisation: joe murray on yol, neck vs. throat on bandcamp

November 27, 2013 at 8:11 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Yol – Four Live Pieces (recycled tape, self-released, edition of 30 or download)

yol - four live pieces

On the day that Hull win the UK City of Culture bid it seems fitting to be listening to local lad Yol.  I can’t pretend he’s Hull’s most famous son but he’s certainly kicking the Larkin out of the gob-punk scene right now.

Presentation is an issue for Hull’s unofficial town-cryer: Four Live Pieces comes wrapped up in the distinctive Yol graphics featuring a stylised hammer blow to the skull on recycled tape; Yol’s DIY approach is no scenester posturing but an integral part of his no-audience underground footprint.

Things kick off violently with ‘Fire Blackened Fork’.  This is very live (dumb audience chatter audible throughout) as the title suggests, and it’s very liveness seems to have a feedback-loop impact on the incredible power-throating with its sudden glottal stops, lubricated with mucous as thick as Swarfega.   The gentle spanner tinkling in the background seems to add to the barely restrained aggression of the howls, not temper it with either prettiness or diversion.  But this is no formless screaming at a wall.  And it’s here the real theme seems to emerge.  Where earlier Yol releases appear to voice his own frustrations and daemons these brief pieces inhabit other fuming bodies: the opportunist vandal, the frustrated chippie and the black murderous jealousy of the cuckold. But more of that later…

‘Vocal Triptych’ leads us towards somewhat straighter poetry…albeit delivered via strangulated psychodrama.  Words are stumbled over, repeated or left hanging with ‘plosives showering sparks off the brickwork.  The line ‘long arms of a strangler’ is re-cycled from earlier Yol jams and rammed right up in the audience’s face.  A cough splutters into a trouser-staining strain, ‘ning, ging, dip’ as collapsible chairs are hurled around the room.

For meInternship’ is the key performance on this here tape…and possibly a skeleton key entry into the dark world of Yol.  The narrative has two conflicting voices; one deferential, even a little snivelling ‘excuse me’, the other a Mr Hyde of hatred, ‘DO YOU WANT TO SHARE A NEEDLE?’  I think it was the mighty Stan Lee/Jack Kirby axis that came up with the Incredible Hulk to explore the untamed, brutish side to mankind.  The trick Yol has turned is to take this Yahoo Hulk and transplant it into the damp and bland world of Northern Britain – 2013.  This is no Marvel Universe magic realism but the dark perverted land of a bent cop, conflicted priest or overworked teacher.  It’s a post-Saville world where celebrity corrupts and no one can really trust each other.  Yol gives a voice to the bitter and bleak, the misplaced righteousness and revenge that most of us keep buttoned up tight.  The inner struggle is played out in vivid crimson, choked out, spat into the gutter and stamped on with spite. (EDIT: watch this performance on YouTube. You really must.)

Blimey.  The darkness can really grab hold of you if you let it.  Phew…deep breath and turn the tape over.

Side two is taken up with the longer piece ‘Sarcastic Lager Cans’.  It sounds like Yol is breaking out of a wooden egg with rusty garden shears and sheaves of bubble wrap (?). Amplified objects melt into the snot-nosed screams as another character, displaying ‘neighbourhood watch logic’ takes up the story.  His raging against imagined foes strikes at the heart of the argument for the middle England Nazi.  It’s always someone else’s fault: the immigrants, the kids from the estate and in this case, the tourists.  Yol plays this loss of control perfectly moving from pleading to incandescent rage over the course of 11 minutes.  This tape is the perfect soundtrack to those fateful micro-moments when the mask of decency and civilisation slips and animalistic rage arrives slobbering into the light of day looking for a victim.

You can check this all out on Bandcamp, download it for nowt or, do the right thing and drop Yol £4 and get the tape. There’s not many left so be sure to get cracking…free hiss!

Editor’s note: here might be a good place to mention that Zellaby Award winning album of the year NECK VS. THROAT by Yol and Miguel Perez is now available for download on that Bandcamp along with its sequel, volume 2, which I resurrected fencing flatworm recordings in order to release.  Both are absolutely essential listening and I urge you to grab hold if you haven’t done so already.  Whilst you are at it, you should also download Miguel’s drone ritual The Three Cycles of the Incantation, recorded as The Will of Nin Girima, because it will alter your head.

neck vs throat

heft and chemistry: scott mckeating and joe murray on the unit ama

August 9, 2013 at 7:36 am | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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The Unit Ama – The Mason’s Mallet (vinyl LP, Tusk Records, TUF001)

 the unit ama

Ladies and gentlemen, your editor speaking.  There now follows an epic, mould-smashing experiment in tag-team journalism.  As both RFM staffers Scott McKeating and Joe Murray attended the gig at which this performance was recorded, and as both love the record, they decided to split it between ’em and review a side each.  Who am I to stand in the way of such bromantic celebration, eh?  See Scott’s opening paragraph for the hard facts of the matter, the rest is poetry…


Side A reviewed by Scott McKeating

Arriving onstage to a strong welcome from the in-the-know and familiar, and playing as a part of Newcastle Upon Tyne’s second Tusk Festival, The Unit Ama are another one of the North East of England’s unsung heroes. A trio comprising of bassist Jason Etherington, drummer Christian Alderson (who you can both find as members of the Miles-esque improv unit The Long Lonesome Go) and guitarist/vocalist Steven Malley, The Unit Ama are a ‘rock band’ in the same way Sonic Youth were/are a ‘rock band’. While these three players might work with tools of a power trio, they play fast and very loose with that particular setup’s conventions. For the record, and what its worth, Malley’s better loved by me for his outstanding folk project The Horse Loom than through this band or his rightfully lauded past as a member of both Crane and Kodiak, but there’s no denying the heft and the chemistry of The Unit Ama’s sound.

The opening track ‘Sycamore’ swiftly cranks itself up on its metallic guitar part, a muscled Husker ragged edged crunch that allows the rhythm to flex underneath. A push-and-pull of guitar and bass, there’s a lot in Ama’s rhythms that recall the sharp turns, mathness and force of Fugazi’s famed Lally/Canty engine. There are enough moments of structure melting under exploration to pull ‘The Mason’s Mallet’ away from being a straight-faced live document affair. Their post-punk flecked racket is mauled as it continues its momentum, the guitar ram raiding its way between Lee Ranaldo string wrangling one minute and micro Derek Bailey indebted investigations the next. Steven Malley’s voice is a mix of roar, wail and bullishness but there’s something tender and exposed in there too. The second track, ‘Sable’ is a more expansive piece though not without its wild bear at the limit of her chain ferocity. With warm lulls of  wide horizons and cauterised desertscapes, here The Unit Ama nod to their dissassociative side (recalling quiet Slint) without getting all post rock snoozy on us.

Side B reviewed by Joe Murray

This side opens with a knotted clump of notes tugged from the greasy strings of a bass guitar (penk…pendle-de-tumg) and accompanied by the dry-mouth gulps (glumm-broof-AW-Aowl) of Henri Chopin choking on bread sauce.  Soon drums have a look round the corner and say, ‘what about me then eh?’ and drop a tart ‘tub-tub-ping!’ all over the gaff.  Guitarist starts the harmonic star-light shine with a shimmering vocal (extracts from Miranda Grey’s diary perhaps?) into one of those muscular riffs that all rock groups wish for…like a Jordon/Minnesota, a Sunshine of your Love, a Flip yr Wig…one of them beauties.

And you know where you are for a bit.  The Power Trio doing that Power Trio thing…bass, drums, guitar all equal, all levels balanced, no bully-boy boss-man to stomp on your buzz.  Call me a bleeding heart but this is living, breathing musical socialism in practice.  I know where I am man.  This is going all the way man.  This chunka-chuka-chunka riff is going on forever man…right on down the freeway.  Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassidy.  The wind’s in my hair and my fist thumps the leopard-skin print steering wheel in time to that heavy, heavy riff.  Let’s fucking go man!  Hunter S Thompson and the Brown Buffalo.  Sure, we’ll stop for Gas and Tacos and a ‘worship at the altar of Quetzalcoatl’ guitar solo on the way but what we’re gearing up to is the inevitable BIG ROCK AND ROLL ENDING – cymbals crashing like Talos crashing to his knees, guitar & bass strings scoured for fair won victory.  I know where I am man.  Put your foot to the floor baby.  I ain’t never gonna stop.

But the Unit Ama have thought ahead and know the only way to stop this supernaut is not with a crash but with a change of medium.  With gentle love, love, love the blacktop turns to clear blue water, the highway becomes a placid lake.  One by one the guitar, bass and drums drop out to be replaced with shaker/mbira/percussion scraps…the propulsion is still there but this is more of a pedal power vibe, swish, swish swishing through English country  lanes…take your feet of the pedals to hear the ‘sccccciiiiiiiiiiiiirrrrrrrrrr’ of cogs relaxing and freewheel to a stop. Tik tik tik tik…


…and that, dear readers, is that.  Allow me to draw proceedings to a formal conclusion and entreat you to buy here.

hot, hot summer hitz: new from midwich on bandcamp

July 20, 2013 at 6:08 am | Posted in fencing flatworm, midwich, new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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three days in wooden block edition frontthree days in covermidwich - flint soul beach midwich - light industry

Ladies and gentlemen, may I call your attention to a further three releases cooling on the windowsill over at the midwich Bandcamp site.  There is much for the discerning dronester to get their teeth into.

First is three days in, four to go, originally released in 2003 on CD-r in an edition of 75 with a lovely screen printed cover by Carbon Records of Rochester, New York.  This is a rarity in that it has not been available digitally before and is one of my favourites of the first-wave midwich albums.  Forward looking, creamy.  ‘snows’ is an orchestra of hairclipper fuzz, the title track is a deeply penetrating 20 minute cardiothrob (at the time of writing a few of the original physical objects are also still available).

Next is a brand new live album, light industry, featuring recordings of my performances at the two Sheepscar Light Industrial summer shows, both of which took place at Wharf Chambers in Leeds.  The 2012 piece is a unique combo of the field recording from Eaves and the drone from ‘verdigris’.  The 2013 set is two tracks: a version of the title track from inertia crocodile and an as yet untitled track of heavy drone featuring a recording of Thomas the Baby gulping his milk as rhythm. The latter set was dedicated to Mark Wharton of Idwal Fisher in honour of his 50th birthday.  Links to more about these shows, and to a ten minute YouTube video immortalising part of the former, can be found over at Bandcamp.

Finally we have flint soul beach – a favourite from the back catalogue. This 18 minute track is full of hope that the broken can be mended and is perfect for the current heatwave. Originally released in 2003 by fencing flatworm recordings on a 3″ CD-r in an edition of 50 (ffr-e). For the cover picture the band name and title were chalked on the end of Littlehampton pier at low tide. It was washed away a few hours later…

I hope you enjoy what you hear.

midwich at Bandcamp

the compass will always point north

June 24, 2013 at 11:13 am | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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Sheepscar Light Industrial Presented:

‘The Compass Points North’

Petals, Aqua Dentata, Hagman, These Feathers Have Plumes, Midwich, BBBlood

Wharf Chambers, Leeds, Saturday 22nd June 2013

01 hagman hands

Dan Thomas is to be congratulated.  Again.  The latest of his biannual gigs, themed (more or less) around his microlabel Sheepscar Light Industrial, took place last Saturday and was, without quibble, a triumph.  Background and biographies of the acts that played can be found via the numerous links Dan worked into the original publicity so I’m not going into much context here.  All I want to do is give a brief and immediate impression of what was a terrific, life affirming evening (this will be accompanied by my usual terrible photojournalism, which this time gets all arty part way through when I decide to forego the flash).  The gig was also appropriated by Mark Wharton of RFM’s sister blog Idwal Fisher as part of his 50th birthday celebrations.  More on him in the section about my set.

Being the model of efficiency that he is, Dan has already edited, mastered and posted freely downloadable mp3s of each of the six performances.  These can be found zipped up in rar files on mediafire but you lot can’t be arsed with that can you?  Thus I’ve taken the liberty of hosting unzipped mp3s here in the cavernous RFM vaults too.  Listen by clicking on the little arrows you’ll see below or download by right clicking on the links and saving the digital goodness.

Due to childcare commitments I couldn’t be part of the committee welcoming our three guests from London: Andie Brown (These Feathers Have Plumes), Eddie Nuttall (Aqua Dentata) and Paul Watson (BBBlood) so I met up with them, Kev Sanders (Petals) and Dan at Wharf Chambers sometime just gone 6pm.  Setting up and soundchecking was in full swing and Dan had thoughtfully dragged my usual table and standard lamp into my preferred position.  Kibe (apologies – I don’t know the spelling, it was pronounced Key-Bee), our soundguy, was super helpful and accommodating and asked a question I have never heard someone doing his job ask in all my years of droning:

Would you like it to be louder?

I knew right there the evening was going to be a belter.

So here’s us setting up, tabletop electronics is a breeze, eh?

02 setting up

Once all was in hand we retired to the Wharf Chambers beer ‘garden’ to relax and listen to the gathering crowd of ecstatic noise-fans chanting our names as they waited outside to rush the doors as soon as they opened.  Here’s Andie and dapper Eddie rockin’ his trademark mod look.

04 and andie and eddie

… and here’s Paul and Kev, synchronising their Sam Smith intake.

03 chillin with paul and kev

That bit about the baying crowd was a joke obviously.  For some time the first and only paying punter was the mighty Pete Cann.  Looks well excited, eh?

05 premiere paying punter pete

So come 8pm a respectable crowd was gathering but many jaded regulars were alarmed to find that the gig was going to start (and run throughout the night) on time.  Dan needed to run a tight ship to keep it afloat.  He did.  First up was Petals.

06 petals prepares

Picture shows Kev indulging in a little liquid preparation.  The esteem in which I hold this guy’s work is second to none and the sheer quality of his set made me want to simultaneously a) lie face down on the floor, eyes closed, palms up and b) accost the general public, grab lapels and thrust Petals releases into the pockets of the bewildered.  Putting him on first is a crime really, but it set the bar almost comically high for the rest of us.


Download Petals

Next was Eddie:

07 aqua dentata one08 aqua dentata two

After championing his release March Hare, Kraken Mare this time last year I have been following the Aqua Dentata story with an almost unhealthy interest.  Eddie’s music has a quiet but unswerving sense of purpose and is constructed with such patience and confidence that its simplicity becomes exhilarating.  Like a clear blue sky, like a perfectly sharp knife.  This guy knows what to leave out and, in so doing, makes anything other than rapt attention impossible.  Smart dresser too.


Download Aqua Dentata

Then Dan had to relinquish his organisational duties for half an hour and take to the stage…

09 the solo hag man

Hagman, the duo of Dan Thomas and Dave Thomas (no relation) was exactly 50% short as the latter was not in attendance.  Due to Dave enduring an attack of ‘real life’ type stuff Dan had to play solo.  An intriguing start of cross-clattering rhythms (field recordings from his recent travels to Hong Kong?) gave way to the pressurised roar of a sleepless night in an aircraft cabin, augmented by the pots and sliders of the kit jumble you see above.  It was muscular but delicate too.


Download Hagman/Daniel Thomas

…and then something really magical happened:

10 andie's giant wine glasses11 andie in action

To my shame, I wasn’t up to speed with Andie’s work as These Feathers Have Plumes before.  Suffice to say I am now a fan.  She used the three giant glasses (vases? punchbowls?) pictured above, part filled with water, to produce gorgeous, haunting, tones by rubbing a moistened thumb around their rims (titter ye not).  This augmented a carefully underplayed selection of field recordings – birds, weather, water – to create an effect that was, in short, perfect.  Usually, the act before I go on is a blur as I pace around retching and coughing with nerves but Andie’s music held me transfixed.  The artist Joan Miro once described his life’s project as to ‘conquer simplicity’.  I’ve always been quite taken by that notion, despite the machismo of ‘conquer’, and was envious of Andie’s obvious and natural understanding of the idea.


Download These Feathers Have Plumes

My turn.  I didn’t take any photos of me performing, for the obvious reason, and my attempts to photograph the crowd at the beginning of my set were too rubbish to be used.  No matter, you can see my set-up at the back of the photo of Dan – sparkly scarf used as glamour table cloth, standard lamp, grumpy old mc-303.  The first of my two tracks was a version of the title track from inertia crocodile, my soon-to-released CD-r on WGGFDTB, and is mainly constructed from a rave stab noise filtered until it gets seasick and starts tripping over itself.  The second track is a new piece, as yet unnamed, in which a recording of Thomas the Baby drinking his bottle of milk is used as a rhythm track under a dense drone ‘lullaby’.  I was very pleased at how it turned out – good and loud and thick.  Now, I am a vain, self-regarding man and will shamelessly fish for compliments after a set but, to my delight, people I didn’t even know wanted to shake my hand and congratulate me.  My spoken intro got a laugh and most seemed charmed by my indulgent use of Thomas recordings.

I dedicated the set to Mark Wharton who, as mentioned, was there celebrating his birthday.  As well as being a friend, a comrade and an all round good egg, Mark has been an important influence on me over the years.  In a sense he taught me noise – no Idwal Fisher (and its predecessors) = no radiofreemidwich.  I’ve written about this before so I’ll just wipe the tear from the corner of my eye and leave it there.  He seemed touched by the gesture, which was my intention.


Download midwich

OK, time for Paul Watson to step up and obliterate this soppiness…

12 bbblood13 bbbloodier

Finally: BBBlood.  A performance by Paul is always a treat and an eager throng gathered, vibrating in anticipation, as he kicked off.  The first section was all scabrous electro-mechanical rhythms, building in intensity until the appearance of his handheld noise-o-tron (a tobacco tin with a mic in it) indicated that the point of no return had been reached.  Paul then flung himself into it, clattering his sound source onto/under the long suffering furniture and fiddling viciously with the pots and sliders of his patch lead orchestra.  Totally joyous: we all went fucking crazy and when the noise dropped for a burst of pop funk many audience members, notable Kev, couldn’t resist busting a move.  There was even an encore of sorts as a ‘highly refreshed’ Andie wanted to shout into the microphone.  A dizzying, nostrils-flaring, grin-inducing end to a great night.


Download BBBlood

Post-gig, the atmosphere of drunken revelry was such that leaving the venue was like leaving a wedding party: all hugs and promises.  The rain didn’t dare touch me as I ran for the last bus.

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