the intersection of machinery and imagination: marlo de lara on dj crackle and dj snip, kit downes and tom challenger, klaas hübner, matt rogers and laurie tompkins

August 6, 2017 at 8:50 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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DJ Crackle and DJ Snip – Broken Records Phantasy (Ono Records)

Kit Downes & Tom Challenger – Vyamanikal (Slip)

Klaas Hübner – Sog (Slip)

Matt Rogers – SK√-1 (Slip)

Laurie Tompkins – Heat, War, Sweat, Law (Slip)

crackle and snip

DJ Crackle and DJ Snip – Broken Records Phantasy (Ono Records) Cassette (sold out) and digital album

It ain’t nothing new to be a fan of Stuart Chalmers in these parts. From his 2015 Crater Lake performance to his recent show with BBBlood and Posset at Fuse, Leeds/Bradford is delighted when the Chalmers blows through the area.

It is of no surprise to me that he extends beyond his layered noise sets to the world of plunderphonics with such ease. In the persona of DJ Crackle, he reassigns sounds in rhythmic and parallel arrangements.  The sounds are sourced by Dj Skip (Michael Holland) whose projects include Ono, Keswicklemon, Fulbaechop, OnoTesla, Islington Mill Creativity Exchange, and Show and Thumb.

There is a balance of intention and improvisation in these tracks. The first, ‘Beach Clouds’ sounds exactly like its title, riding smooth continuous waves into the album. From here the tracks become more cut-and-paste based with beats that vacillate from halted/stilted to electropical.

The re-purposing of R & B vocal tracks with percussion in ‘Brandy Songs for Supercat’ to ‘White Moonglows’’ electronic bending of a stretched drum and time elapsed words/moans makes this album both playful and mind bending.

Ending with ‘Torch Song for Trumpet’, a high-tide call back to the first track, one is crashed on the shores with sonic waves licking one’s collapsed body.

In some ways, I find work like this more psychedelic than the psychedelic genre itself. Disorganizing captured sounds and setting them free in the air – the whole heart and soul of plunderphonics is captured in this release.

Once the sounds erupt, they become free and no longer are tied to their origins.
 

Kit & Tom 1

Kit Downes & Tom Challenger – Vyamanikal (Slip) CD and digital album

Upon reading their press release, it becomes clear this accomplished duo does several site-specific free jazz/drone tinted improvisations with saxophone and various organs/harmoniums:

“Recorded at five Suffolk churches during a 2015 Aldeburgh Music residency, Vyamanikal deftly explores the native nuances and acoustics of six organs and their surrounding environment.  Downes’ organ playing is alternately delicate and thunderous, teasing out unearthly vibrations from converted harmoniums and mighty, century-old, manual organs like Framlingham’s ‘Thamar Organ’. Challenger’s sax lines act as a conduit between the instrument and their locale, probing errant pipe tones for interferences, and embellishing distant birdsong.”

While the dual tones achieved by the organs are sustained, the saxophone flies with hummingbird silence and delicate presence. It is dream inducing and parasympathetically rich – anti-‘fight or flight’ music or perhaps at times, like in ’Sa,’ it swells into a disconcerted moment.

Yet these nightmare anxieties are delivered underscored by grounding chords. The saxophone in ‘Vistri’ becomes more central, and in its minimal interactions with the diegetic ambient sounds (of birds and wind) the track in some ways is mostly filled with places for listening. The architectures potential is audible and is by far the most site specific on the concluding track ‘Nya-Aya’.

I (not Radio Free Midwich) question the explanation, necessity, and usage of a Sanskrit word. It is a trend that is worth examining in experimental music when white Western music and art practitioners, use language or culture not of their own. There are elements of exoticism or cultural appropriation when language or culture is reappropriated for endeavours like these, especially without the presence of people which inspired the work.

Their press release states: “Named after the ancient Sanskrit term for flying machines – ‘Vaimānika Shāstra’. “  I ask, what is gained by using the Sanskrit word versus the wording ‘flying machines’? Does the album get mileage by this choice of making a nod to Sanskrit? I would argue, the album does not require a cultural derivative to be enjoyed. In its context and completion, it is well composed and highly enjoyable.

It demands repeat listens and room for wondering.

 
klaas hobner

Klaas Hübner – Sog (Slip) C50 Cassette, CD (sold out) and digital album
 

sswsw

Pictured above is ’sswsw’:

“Five laboratory oscillators that generate sine waves of different frequencies, each modulated in volume by mechanical metronomes. The metronomes rest on a light wooden board which sits on 2 aluminium tubes. This setup references Christian Huygens’ 1657 experiments with synchronisation. The free swinging board slowly synchronises the movement of metronome and therefore the modulation of the sine waves.  Spontaneous synchronisation with sine waves was developed as a performance within Corsin Gaudenz’s theatre work ‘Time is on My Side’.” (album notes)

Check out a video of all that good stuff here. Recorded at Rote Fabrik, Zürich, March 2013.

Upon opening the album, with its artist notes and images, I was extremely excited! The album description of the artist alone delighted me and the various media forms in which he explores: “SOG is the magisterial Slip debut of Klaas Hübner, the Berlin-based sound sculptor, improviser, and instrument-builder whose installations coax out uncanny chants from whirly tubes, ceiling fans, styrofoam, and cassette tapes.”

Hübner’s construction and composition are equally beautiful. While the sounds are merely one dynamic of the experiments, the process to its execution is intriguing. Hübner’s work takes up space.

They visually are stunning in their technological construction. As objects, they are intricate and shiny. Conceived as an extension or expansions of various sound and technological historical experiments, as in ‘sswsw’, the work is enthralling.  The work is the material.

One is very aware that these processes/objects emit natural sounds at times, they are built with hands and structures. Sounds meet at the intersection of machinery and imagination. The tape loops used in the ‘schwarzwald’ installations are ugly and light. This vacillation is what pushes the instrumentation beyond many tape loop releases/recordings.

music-for-ceiling-fan-tubes

Music for Ceiling Fans and Tubes: “Lying on their backs below a ceiling fan which rotates just above their bodies, Lysandre Coutu-Sauvé and Klaas Hübner play this composition. One whirly tube is attached to the fan generating a permanent hum, while the two play small tubes as flutes and percussion on the fan blades.”

Watch this goof here.  Recorded at T10 studio, Berlin, January 2015.

This not to say that the compositions lack melodic or traditional musical structures.  A constant beat is provided while flutes guide us to down a wandering path. It does not have a destination but rather like two flutes in conversation they move across various ecospheres.

Perhaps the best part of these compositions is the footage that accompanies the pieces in the notes. One can listen to a track, experience the sounds as they stand, and then revisit the actual set up and machinery used through Vimeo. I particularly recommend listening to the organ and welding track ‘Chateau Poulet’ and opening the footage of the performance. It is refreshing to see works like this in our review pile.

I enjoyed the well conceived nature and the sensual complexities of Hübner’s work.
 

matt rogers

Matt Rogers – SK√-1 (Slip) C30 Cassette, sold out CD and digital album

Press release description: “SK√-1 is the debut Slip missive from British composer Matt Rogers: a suite of solo scorchers belched straight out of the jack of a GravesEnd Casio SK1.”

If one were to take an orchestral arrangement and push it through a misfiring Commodore 64, you might get the sounds Matt Rogers fired in this album.

Unlike the overt sonic attacks of harsh noise, these compositions are strategic and evolve into several fronts. Don’t get me wrong, you are still being attacked. Perhaps it is the instrumentation evoking Cold War computerized technology or the laser-like precision of the ripples and oscillations.

One never is comfortable and even in the pauses and sustained notes, there is no peace. It is unrelenting in its persistence and yet sounds like it is crumbling in its execution.

While these are composed pieces, the affect is the immediacy of a live noise set in which danger and immediacy are integral to the experience.

Then track 5, SK√-1 ■■, arrives on deck. Like a circus-tent taunter or a hypnotic slot machine, it is joyous and bouncy yet still demanding…

 

  • Track 6, SK√-1 □□, is more pensive and thoughtful.

  • Track 7, SK√-1 ▪■, is a call to re-organize the efforts, a gathering and planning of resources.

  • Track 8, SK√-1 □, is the victory of the invaders, littered with small uprisings.

It is not difficult to imagine a space war of sorts listening to this album.

Another impressive release from Slip.

laurie tompkins

Laurie Tompkins – Heat, War, Sweat, Law (Slip) C25 Cassette (with fold-out A3 poster of ‘business wanker’ artwork) CD (sold out) and digital album

Laurie Tompkins work reminds me of early K Records, like Beat Happening on too many drugs.  Or maybe angry cats?

Embracing unprocessed sounds and the humanness of voice, it is absurd and yet structured. Without reading as intentional, each track is present to the sounds played with. The work is very human-centered, not like Carl Rogers’s psychology, but from where it originates.

It is pure play, touching objects, feeling surfaces, and hollering at friends. It is undirected and let loose to build, fail, and climb. Sometimes solidifying into group efforts and other times the mere audible process of attempting to connect and communicate as a group.

The lack of digital instrumentation is welcomed and with percussion often sounding like handclaps, snaps, and stomps, the definition of instrument seems to be made up on the spot. The last track ‘Regret’ is the most song-like in its structure. Almost like the party at the end of a chaotic time, the track attempts to find a harmony in the rhythms played like a broken hand crank machine.

The album is reminiscent of absurdist noise projects like Usurper and The Earwigs, something beyond intentional humour.

Unlike the rest of the Slip releases, it comes off like sonic polaroids after your best friend comes over to play and now the house is trashed.

Definitely a choice for those who enjoyed unprocessed sounds/recordings.

 

Stuart Chalmers’ Batcave

Slip Bandcamp

-ooOOOoo-

holding our treasure aloft: thoughts on facebook, rfm and the d.i.y. underground compiled by rob hayler

March 21, 2017 at 7:42 am | Posted in musings, not bloody music | 5 Comments
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facebook satire 2

On Friday 3rd March, as I was enjoying the opening of the Crow Versus Crow/Malorymaki art exhibition in Bradford, Joe Murray (who had been invited down to play at the event) mentioned to me that new RFM staffer Sarah Gatter (known ‘round these parts as Sky High Diamonds) had offered to create a Facebook page for RFM.

Without thinking too hard about it I gave my blessing.  By lunchtime on Monday 6th March the thing existed.  Blimey.  As the dust settled there began a lengthy and involved discussion amongst RFM colleagues about the merits, or otherwise, of Facebook and other social media.  This has proved so interesting that I have returned briefly from my sabbatical to compile these thoughts (edited to remove repetition, small talk and logistical stuff) and add some of my own.

Let’s start with Sarah and the rationale:

A brief online chat with Rob and Joe over the weekend suggested that an RFM Facebook page would be a good idea as it would exist as a ‘go to’ site for interested parties to get a rundown on RFM and the latest blog reviews. I am happy to manage this page but if any of you are Facebook users and would like to be added as admin (meaning you can then also upload the RFM blogs, add photos, monitor, add and remove posts, including posts or comments from other people etc.) then find me on FB and I can add you as admin.

As agreed with Rob & Joe this page will be a ‘copy’ of the RFM WordPress blog in its use of words and images, both of which will simply be an echo of the already published blog info. No new material or personal posting to exist here as it then gets confusing.

All business, right?  Nowt to worry about, eh?  Well… Marlo kicks it off:

Woah, really?! I think Luke, Chrissie, and I use it.  Both Joes, Rob, and Sophie don’t.

I was thinking RFM was purposely avoiding that platform…. Times are a-changing…

Rob and Joe, can I ask why? I mean, it isn’t really harmonious with what I though RFM mission statement? Or is it?

Chrissie is pragmatic:

I’m very much a semi-detached user of Facebook these days but I think the idea of a page is OK provided it doesn’t distract from the blog.

Is the plan just to post links to the RFM reviews when they appear on the Facebook page? This seems like the best way of doing it to me and allows for people to possibly discuss the reviews and share them easily on FB.

Sof then voices unease:

Know what you mean Marlo. I came off FB because I got so sick of everyone relying on such a massively corporate website to find out about underground DIY gigs etc (including Tor Fest – winds me up so much).  Don’t see why everything needs to have a FB presence to exist these days.

…which allows Marlo to expand her point:

Thanks Sophie for understanding. I feel torn myself constantly cause I cornered myself into the FB for Ladyz in Noyz back in the day and am stuck now or take the risk of losing the international audience. I should have just done a proper page in the past. Myspace to FB…sheesh…

I know it isn’t a collective and whatever Rob and Joe feel is right, I go with [Editor’s note – heh, heh].  Just wanted to see why the shift?

I will be here either way!

Time for me to weigh in:

I wasn’t involved in any discussion as such but Joe M did mention at the show on Friday that Sarah had offered to mirror RFM on Facebook and I said sure, if she’s willing to do the work then let’s try it.

I have never had any personal desire to be on FB, nor have I ever had an account, but since the blog’s inception the majority of referrals have been from FB links (twitter is catching up but FB still in front) so, like it or not, a lot of our traffic has come from that direction.  Thinking about the ubiquity and omniscience of FB makes my stomach flip but it is only one aspect of the corporate global evil that we are using for our purposes.  PayPal, Google, Apple, Twitter – bleurgh – even Bandcamp takes a hefty rake and WordPress charges me more for keeping the site ad-free than it does for hosting our actual content!  We wade waist-deep through the shit holding our little box of treasure aloft so that it doesn’t get caked in crap too.  ‘Twas ever thus.

Also, should you be concerned about such things, the numbers are down.  Mostly, I think, due to the breaks in regular posting last year caused by my burn-out/’real life’ issues, 2016 was the first year since RFM’s birth that number of visits didn’t increase.  I’m not fussed about a plateau – this is a niche concern after all – but this was quite a dramatic drop (2015 = 32k, 2016 = 23k) and I’m not above a bit of rattling the stick in the bucket.  Calling attention to your fine work is noble, and can be even if the format is grisly.

That said – some suggestions/requests.  Firstly, I’m not sure I want that photo of (some of) us from Crater Lake to be so prominent.  Makes me a little uncomfortable.  Secondly, I don’t want the text of posts just reproduced on the FB page – pictures, lists of artists featured, little summaries like those we tweet are fine but I want people to visit RFM to do their reading (or subscribe to the blog and get each post emailed to them directly – currently over a 100 people do this).  I don’t want the FB page to replace the blog.  I see that posts are being made as I type [Editor’s note: Sarah was cracking on]!  The format is fine like that I think.

facebook satire

Over two emails Sarah doubles down for practical reasons and stresses it can be a collaborative effort:

The page is easy to delete if having second thoughts. I personally think it is a good idea as FB really is the ‘go to’ site for getting information. Also, those of us on FB can like and repost the blogs (as we do on Twitter) giving each blog a bit more of a following and a bit more oomph and clout. Also, when blogs are just in a newsfeed (as on both Twitter & FB) they are easily lost and many people (myself included) don’t have the time to fully read a review, or even scan through it, when leisurely (or frantically) scrolling through a news feed.

However, if people are aware that there is a permanent page storing these blogs with a link to a whole heap of other blogs, then that instantly makes all of the blog posts more accessible.

I’m happy that everyone gets a say about layout and content and happier that there are many admin involved, also to make sure that everyone’s happy!

At this point Joe Henderson offers a forthright, brain-stirring intervention:

Will briefly say my piece. I think that, for me, the magic is instantly lost when Facebook gets involved in anything – to be honest. Given my own experience of it and the flow of research surrounding well being & social media I make a concerted effort to stay away.

I don’t mind using the word ‘poisonous’ to describe my attitude towards Facebook, however, I’ve seemed to deal a little better with Twitter, although I still have yet to use it myself (I went on there to get another News source other than the BBC, turns out I can’t get the app anyways on my old iPhone, so I haven’t ended up using it anyway).

Can I make a request that none of my articles are re-posted to Facebook?  And on a far stronger note – I do not want any of my writing to be subject to Facebooks content codes and control.

Part of the charm of things like Radio Free Midwich is their unwavering principles in the face of peer pressure.

Sophie, I know what you mean about lazy promotion. I came to think of Facebook promotion as really exclusionary – like, that you could miss out on so much by not being in a link or social loop. I have no solutions, but I think in general… good old hand-made posters and nerdy art stuff like that appeals to my DIY, punk sensibilities more. Things shouldn’t be eazy..

I’m happy to hang back for a bit and maybe see how things pan out.  Very sceptical right now, but open minded for y’all.  My first article should be out this week (given a little tweaking in the mean-time).  Am happy for it to go out on the website but please don’t put it on FB – I hate that place and it’s toxic, damaging glare.  But, of course am happy for you guys to go ahead and frollick (in the dust & mirrors)

foghorn

Oh, is that Sarah wavering a little? <winking emoji>

 

I also think that hitting the delete button on the FB page would be weirdly very satisfying, and quite anarchic, at this early stage of gaining a few ‘likes’ and ‘followers.’

“Now you see us, now you don’t.”

Not sure what else to say!

Joe Murray shouts encouragement from the window of a moving train:

For me this is all about spreading the word. No more.  I think we are a valuable piece in the no audience crossword so a few more clues (like FB) help folk connect.

But still…we all have to be comfortable with it. I guess we can self-destruct this channel whenever we feel the need.

It’s always good to debate and have different views.  Let’s keep an eye on things and review in a month or so.

All our viewpoints matter.

Speak soon, and if I may gush for a second…we goddamn rule!

Respect as always…

Sarah, like all good academics recognizes grist for the mill when she sees it:

I’m loving this debate, currently attempting to put a PhD proposal together on this very stuff- the relevance of social media to DIY, so the varying perspectives on how we use and control/are used and controlled by social media platforms is intriguing. Many of the artists I know go through long/short periods of deactivating profiles and deleting entire pages of personal data and then coming back to social media on their own terms and for their own agenda when it suits them, I like that.

Sof, bit now firmly between teeth, questions the stated purpose:

Slightly related / aside – I saw this band in London last week and at the end of their show they made a massive statement that “clicks get gigs” find us on Facebook! If we have loads of likes then we’ll get more shows!  What a load of bollocks. Talent gets gigs not some website. People who work hard at what they are doing get gigs. It doesn’t make any personal difference to me if RFM has a FB page or not I’m just saddened that this is the way people think you have to be nowadays. I know it is the go-to for loads of people, the company I work for get loads of work via it but what a lazy state of affairs.  As if the Internet doesn’t make it easy enough for people already why not condense the info in to one accessible website ? Twitter is just as bad – argh! Please meet me down the pub or the library / send me a letter for further ranting opportunity!

I’m actually in talks with a web developer to create a sort of Cops n’ Robbers website [Editor’s note: for non-UK readers Cops n’ Robbers is a legendary Yorkshire-based listings zine with oodles of DIY and N-AU swagger]that would cover West Yorkshire (and maybe nationally) gigs as an alternative ‘go-to’ site instead of FB. For this gig I did on Sunday just gone I really wanted to just advertise without FB but actually got a complaint! Forced Jake to make a page – made it more legit I guess. Fairly confident that most people who showed up were at Pelt a couple of weeks before and picked up a flyer but perhaps that’s wishful thinking.

Clearly a Luddite technophobe over here, where are my DDDD copies?

P.S.  I really like Twitter btw. Not as personal.

evil twitter

In her typically quiet but laser-sharp fashion Chrissie makes the point that…

Contacts get gigs mainly – in my experience at least. It doesn’t matter how talented or brilliant you are, if no-one has heard of you then you don’t get gigs*. Facebook is just one of many places that can possibly be a help there. Ignoring it is a choice, of course, but you are cutting off a potential source of people. The platform on its own may, or may not, be evil. But the people on it mostly aren’t (with some exceptions).

* I’m not saying my band Helicopter Quartet are either talented or brilliant [Editor’s note: they are, both, in spades], but we don’t get any gigs because we don’t have any contacts and both of us are so painfully shy we never make any.

At this point Marlo and I both start thinking ‘there’s an article in this’ and ask if anyone wants to make a more formal contribution.  Marlo suggests:

Perhaps we could all string something together around the question:

How do different social media platforms feed or weaken the ‘underground’? What associations do different social websites bring to the table? What is lost or gained in ‘opening the floodgates’?

Chrissie responds first:

One of the nice things about social media is that it can bring together people of niche interests together – it’s largely what I do on twitter – in a way that’s almost impossible or very difficult to do in other ways.

Yes –  you can start your own website but how do you get people to use it in the first place: twitter/Facebook etc. are the funnel through which you can get access to people who might want to go there. Of course, there are all the arguments about centralisation and monopolies and I’m not happy about those things either. But principally I’m a pragmatist and that’s how these things are structured at the moment. To some extent they always have been, it’s just that the ownerships change over time.

As to ‘opening the floodgates’ – it doesn’t happen. Despite what I just said above, adding RFM to Facebook isn’t going to triple or even double viewing figures (if it does, please buy me a hat to eat).  It’ll bring in some new readers, yes. But it’s not a magic potion and it doesn’t make you popular overnight or even ever – it’s a small help.  I have Facebook pages for my two main bands, nothing has ever happened because of them.  That’s partly down (as I said in a previous email) to the need to be ‘present’ to chat with people on there and make contacts, and partly down to having contacts on the IN THE FIRST PLACE to bring in others.

For my personal opinion, I hate Facebook (for non-political reasons), and I only use it to publicise (unsuccessfully) band things and chat in some obscure synth groups where it feels more cosy and safe. I don’t post personal things on my timeline any more, but plenty of people still do and I have chatted with lots of interesting people there.

Luke puts his head around the door to add:

Hey folks – well for what it’s worth I use Facebook every day.  It has its drawbacks and I’ve sworn off it a few times.  Having said that it does allow you to keep in contact with groovy people chat about music, films, books, gigs etc. I guess it’s about making it work for you and keeping it real. I can’t be doing with Twitter.  So I guess I’m saying if RFM hits face-ache. I’m cool with it.

zucker 2

…then Sarah offers a more fleshed out statement of her position

My continued interest in the electronic DIY underground/no audience culture stems from the DIY rave movement of the mid 80s and early 90s.

I see the current No Audience Underground, as an extension of this movement and I am still fascinated by how it was documented through film footage, photography, music, art and printed/published writings by those who protested for the right to squat empty buildings, resist fox hunting, gather for music events etc. etc.  I did attend some events back then however, it was always pot luck to get to those events due to no social networking and reduced publicity (for obvious reasons) except for well organised word of mouth-those guys were good!

Those DIY activists made thorough use of the tools that were available to them at that time to promote their beliefs, ideas, celebrations and defeats into a wider consciousness and I believe that without those wonderfully documented processes (e.g. the wibbly-wobbly film footage of squats being raided, dancers in the street protesting the CJA etc.) this representation, and therefore a current understanding and contextualisation of that scene, would not be available to us today.  I see this as a cultural mapping of those times and I see social media as a contemporary tool available to us now to continue that cultural mapping.

Social Media is a site of production and reproduction but in many ways it responds to the DIY ethos in that it is free (most of the time), accessible (to the majority) and can be used to promote the individual, it is not entirely corporate like other sites of production and reproduction. However,  I like to think that at some point DIY will turn away from social media and re- ground itself into a less available scene, but I would be happier with this only once much documenting has been achieved and exists in some kind of accessible form.

Things that nag me are: Does the DIY underground movement become less ‘exclusive’ and therefore less underground when its documentary style footage is available to all to access online? How do the ideas of audience/participation/spectacle/active and passive viewing fit in with this? We are all passive audiences when viewing footage/sound/writing of the underground through social media. I also ponder how an attraction to a much larger and wider audience may well undo the emblematic DIY underground counter culture status, such as witnessed in the growth of the Glastonbury Festival, as well as contribute to a more general and overwhelming saturation of the arts.

In summary: For me, social media is currently a way of culturally mapping the continued growth of the DIY movement and is a tool available for us to use (and abuse) right now, but I am not entirely sure that it should or will have a monopoly on documenting the DIY movements for the long term.

I propose that we find a way to occupy the dark web!

…and that was that until over the weekend of the 11th and 12th when Joe and I received the following volte-face from Sarah:

Hi, I was in two minds about RFM on Facebook.

  • It seemed like a good idea to make use of it as a tool and to support the artists, whom I think want reviews about their work publicised.
  • It might be free, it might be accessible but it is a limiting platform and I am beginning to agree with Joe H, it makes us lazy and passive.

This has been echoed within another group that I am involved with [Editor’s note: The Unexplained Sounds Network] who have today proposed ‘silence’ in order to find new ways to communicate and collaborate other than Facebook.  I am in agreement with them.  DIY must mean DIY and Facebook takes that away through its controlled use of data, amongst other things. I did say in my last email that we need to find new ways and jokingly suggested the dark web but I am starting to feel that more needs to be done with searching for new and less lazy & passive ways. Sorry for the complete 100% U turn!!!

zucker

Heh, heh – the irony that this doubt as to the appropriateness of one form of social media was sent via a twitter DM was not lost on me.

So, where are we now?  Firstly, let me just comment on the loveliness of my colleagues – a multiway discussion carried out over the internet that remained civil and useful for an entire week.  Have you ever heard the like?  Secondly, it strikes me that there are three questions to consider with answers to the first two informing the answer to the third.  I’ll begin with a stab at the moral/political question: is Facebook evil?  Next, the pragmatic question: does it actually work as promotional tool?  And finally, the overarching question of whether it is ‘appropriate’ for our slice of the DIY underground to use it.

Despite not holding an account I have, of course, spent plenty of time dodging the demands to sign up in order to see gig info or otherwise lurk.  If RFM is being discussed then the hits coming from FB feel like a partially heard conversation happening in a room with the door ajar.  I’ve never been tempted to walk in, however, because what I hear about Facebook outside of Facebook is predominately negative.  I don’t doubt that there are lovely people using it (like those members of Chrissie’s synth discussion groups) but friends talk about it with exasperation, torn as to whether to cut ties as you might with a needy and bullying family member.  The final straw for a mate of mine was when he was disinvited from a stag do following a row caused by him daring to confirm his attendance with, y’know, his actual voice and not via Facebook.  It’s become like shopping in a supermarket, or reading The Wire – something none of us actually enjoy but which we grudgingly accept as part of modern life.  Imagine spending the evening in a gigantic, soulless, city-centre chain pub, one which has an unsmiling bouncer on the door demanding ID before letting you in.  The beer is crap, the décor unpleasant, neighbouring tables are full of braying idiots but, hey, it’s here that we have agreed to meet.  Evil – on a personal, individual level?  Probably not.  Fuck that shit? On balance, yes.

That’s not to say that the information you provide to Facebook can’t be used for straight-up evil though.  As these thoughts were congealing in my head I read this article, published on The Guardian website on February 26th.  I’m genuinely concerned that if I name names bots will be released, like flying monkeys, to come and destroy us but the gist is that an off-the-radar software company is busy analysing hundreds of millions of FB accounts and using that data to target propaganda furthering the hard-right agenda of their billionaire backer:

These Facebook profiles – especially people’s “likes” – could be correlated across millions of others to produce uncannily accurate results. […], the centre’s lead scientist, found that with knowledge of 150 likes, their model could predict someone’s personality better than their spouse. With 300, it understood you better than yourself. “Computers see us in a more robust way than we see ourselves,” says […].

This team worked both with the Leave campaign and with Trump.  Was it enough to swing both elections?  Maybe us complacent liberals wouldn’t have laughed so hard at those ‘dumpster fire’ campaigns if we’d known this Black Mirror style PSY ops was occurring in the background.  Evil – on a worldwide, political level?  Yeah, I’d say so.  Fuck that shit?  Absolutely.

But, the pragmatist asks, does it work?  Leaving aside the moral qualms and given that everyone is in the crap pub, what happens if we put our poster up on the noticeboard?  I think I’m with Chrissie on this one – the answer is: nowt much.  The reason is, I think, to do with the size and structure of the scene and not where the noticeboard is located.  In an article I wrote five years ago about the, *ahem* ‘economics’ of the no-audience underground I said:

OK, leaving London to one side as it has its own rules, experience has shown me that most UK conurbations of city-ish size can rustle up 20 people interested enough in the type of experimental music RFM covers to turn up to gigs.  10 or less if you are unfortunate, 30 plus if your scene is thriving.  Should you wish to perform in this ‘arena’ then these people are your audience: the subset of this crowd who can turn up on that evening.

dislike

Marketing and promotion do little to alter these numbers.  This is because music of this type will always be a fringe interest (ignoring little blooms of hipster popularity every now and again) but that fringe is well-informed and inquisitive.  As long as the gig is plugged in whatever the usual places are (for example in Leeds we have the essential Cops and Robbers) then the cognoscenti will find out about it and do their best to roll up.

…and, despite the Facebook gig listing becoming ubiquitous in the meantime, I still think this is about right.  Had I been stood next to Sof when that band made their ‘clicks mean gigs’ announcement I would have groaned but at some level I guess it might make a difference nowadays – just not at our level.  Chrissie is right about contacts to a certain extent too – those who hustle for shows do generally get more shows – but within the no-audience underground any attempt at hype or unwarranted self-promotion is usually met with at least a raised eyebrow if not all-out hilarity.  Given the absence of money, the unit of currency ‘down’ here is goodwill and it is earned, exchanged and repaid through being active in the scene.  Perhaps this is our equivalent of <dry boke> ‘networking’ <coughing retch> and it strikes me that this can make more of a difference than any particular means of spreading the word – look, for example, at the love showered on Crater Lake or Tor Fest (“Call something a festival,” says Jake Blanchard, mystified, “and people just turn up.”).

For us, Facebook is now one of the ‘usual places’ where we find stuff out but its prominence has not noticeably affected attendance numbers either way.  When not specifically concerned with discussing Facebook itself I think most people consider the format transparent and ‘see through it’ to the information itself in the same way you don’t consciously think ‘this is a poster’ but instead just register the date, venue etc.  To be honest, I’d have been grateful to have it back in the Termite Club days when I was stuffing envelopes with flyers (<Noel Fielding voice> Imagine that!) to send to a postal mailing list or badgering magazines knowing full well that their attention was far less important than whether or not it rained on the night of the show.

To the last question then: given that we are at least justified in having misgivings about using Facebook and that as a promotional tool it is little better than other means (necessarily so given the nature of the scene we are part of) how appropriate is it to use it at all?

vomit

Firstly I’m going to dismiss a couple of related concerns more or less out of hand – that it is inappropriate because it is ubiquitous or ‘mainstream’ and that it is inappropriate because it ‘makes things easy’ – then I’m going to end the whole thing really abruptly.

If something so nebulous and subjective as ‘mainstream’ culture can be usefully defined (I’m not sure it can, but that is for another day) then Facebook is unarguably part of it.  Your mum is on Facebook right now, discussing her favourite tracks from the Stormzy album.  I don’t care.  One of the great strengths of the no-audience underground is that is does not define itself in opposition to ‘mainstream’ culture but largely just turns its back to it and cracks on with the work.  The belief that DIY culture needs to be antagonistic to popular culture is a quaint stained-glass window surviving in the Church of Punk – very pretty, but I can’t help thinking it is orders of magnitude more radical to not engage with popular culture at all.  I’ve rehearsed these arguments several times over several years (starting here) so I needn’t say any more right now.

evil facebook

I also have absolutely no time for the argument that Facebook, or any other form of social media, ‘makes it easy’ or ‘lumps it all together’ as if that were a bad thing.  I’d be delighted if access to everything we do was made as easy as possible so that anyone who is interested could find it at their fingertips.  When I think of the golden age we live in now and compare it to the time and resources I had to spend as a teenager getting even part-way sound-literate I could cry at the waste.

For example: I grew up in a small seaside town called Littlehampton on the South Coast of England, near enough to Brighton for me to misspend much of my youth there.  As a teenage fan of Spacemen 3 and Loop, Can loomed large in legend.  My fellow heads and I did what we could to track down stuff from libraries, second hand shops and borrowed stuff from the rich kid whose dad bought him the first batch of CD reissues.  In that way we built up a patchy knowledge of the band and their context.  Contrast this to the situation in January of this year when Jaki Liebezeit sadly passed away.  In celebration of the man and his unique achievements links to YouTube clips went flying around twitter and anyone could listen to hours of the band’s music for free whilst reading exhaustive accounts of its history and influence via Wikipedia and innumerable blogs.  May I respectfully suggest that anyone who thinks the former situation is preferable to the latter (not with regard to Jaki’s passing, of course, I’m talking about access to the material) is, at best, misguided.  There is a tendency, especially amongst middle aged beardies, to cry-wank over their box-sets and pristine collection of Melody Makers from the late 1980s whilst whimpering nostalgically about finding a copy of Fun House under a hedge and ‘discovering’ The Stooges.  Jesus wept.  I could go on but I presume my feelings about anything that could be perceived as ‘gatekeeping’, or the raising of artificial barriers, are perfectly clear.

But what about RFM?  Reading through the above I see much of what I’ve written is fairly abstract or from the perspective of gig promotion.  Does it help answer the question as to whether a blog dedicated to documenting weird music produced by a fiercely independent d.i.y. scene should have a presence on Facebook?  Well, much as I understand Sof’s frustrations, Joe H’s reticence and the personally negative feelings shared by me, Chrissie and others I’d hesitate to say, as Joe H does, that Facebook drains the magic from everything it touches.  I don’t find it fun, for sure, but I’d like to think that the magic of the art we cover (and, let’s not be too modest, our descriptions of it – we are part of all this) shines through the murkiness of the medium.  If we proceed with caution then …nnnnggghhh… OK.

We are camped way uphill from the floodgates, a few signposts can’t hurt.

 

—ooOoo—

 

twitching like a rope: joe henderson on marlo eggplant, dtub and bowditch

March 9, 2017 at 7:05 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Marlo Eggplant – Callosity (Fractal Meat Cuts)

Dtub – Midi-Drum Compositions-1 (Fractal Meat Cuts)

Bowditch – Southend Objectified (Fractal Meat Cuts)

(Ed’s mumble…buckle up, buckle up readers for this first dizzying and deconstructed ear-report from our new bean Joe Henderson.)

FRACTAL MEAT POST-VALENTINE SPECIAL/Jan-March Streets Edition (Marlo Eggplant, Dtub & Bowditch)

First post. It’s a cold & drizzly Sunday afternoon. Listening to the radio.

The industrious Graham Dunning, head-honcho of Fractal Meat Cuts label, delivers a small-packaged bomb of audio pleasures (including his own limited edition, custom made, generation-loss cassette – which exists in another Universe as of now, and to be reviewed when time catches up with me – but can be perused via his catalogue).

Marlo EggplantFirst up, Marlo Eggplant. Baltimore-born, Midwich reporter & SPA. Title: Callosity. Edition of 40 cassettes.

The world turns in the right direction. Valentines Day. The most fucked up day of the year. It’s grim. It’s cold. It’s loveless. I’m dialing in Dr. Eggplant.

The ashy clearing; she strums it whilst the birds go low. Animals pitch in. Marked by their slow heavy breathing. Unseen but heard. It’s always cold, but in her warm cocoon. I get so introverted, listening to music like this. Opening drawers in corners of my psyche. I’m in a stupor. Dusty softly done. Expanse throbbing. Ray-gun echoes. Like a solemn hymn to a mutant future generation (what’s wrong with X-Men?). Moving the man-hole cover away. The street lamps are a way to see at night – don’t ever forget that. She snores from another life. The quality of being led with ones hands tied behind their backs down a corridor of gloom. Footsteps all around you. Music flickering in your memories, all around you – like crowds. Fake ghosts turned off and on. Hounding by a beated rhythm. Iron curtains coming down, repeatedly. Running into the horizon without a care in the world. A white bag flapping around you. You’ve lost your memories. You riffle thru them. Like old car tapes. Chewed and sticky. But enchanted. You just never quite know for sure what the Universe says of you. It’s your little old self and the entire realm of possibility. The end coming again, and again, and again. Dusting off a little time piece, found in the dirt. A microcosm of tiny delights. Ticking down the days. Moving the man hole again. Those adverts played on me. The ones for ghost writers. Lulling those. It’s fake news. Make you question your reality. Backwards rolling tongue thru two rolling pins. Imagine waking up to a forest. All the world is twisting like a rope. Glitching small primates handle mechanized wooden mallets. “Is it normal to lie there and cry?”

QVESTIONS:

What’s your favourite brand of light bulb?

Fake candle bulbs

How often do you regret your future?

Constantly and with insistence

What’s black and blue & red all over?

I believe the answer is a newspaper but arguably several tropical fish

Helicopter drifting with a broken wing thru the jungle

Love is not a tomb

The sky has been that torn yellow colour

For so long now, like alleys that never change

What burns hotter than the sun?

My looooooove

Where do the birds go?

To the moon and back

What is your favourite colour blue?

Midnight

What’s your favourite penny-sweet?

Licorice/Liquorice

 Side 1
1. Roots
2. Cautionary
3. Distillation
4. Embers
5. Par

Side 2
6. Incident
7. Lines

8. Voice(d)
9. Songed

Format: Cassette & Download SOLD OUT

Want some more?  Click on this beautiful beauty to watch Joe’s stunning video interpretation of Marlo’s track Embers.

Dtub

And then, Dtub. Electric drummer. Live album. Title: Midi-Drum Compositions-1. Edition of 60 tapes

Love this. I was lucky to see Dtub play at the Cowley Club in February on tour with Dunning & Eggplant. A self-contained motorized human-man, riding the unstoppable cycles of his beats, focussed on propelling the rhythms. Snippets of vocals samples woven into wooden timbre. A man engulfed in his unfolding creation. A train. Can’t stop, Can’t get off. Was reminded a week later of standing in the middle of London Road with Tom Roberts of Bolide & Aeolipile – cars driving ‘round us. The bar-maid offering me the choice of a pint or a jug of Cowley beer. Missed work again the next morning. Can’t remember what was on the news that day..

  1. Clockwerk
  2. 2. Newbark
  3. Faucet Dub
  4. Bubble Freak
  5. Pump-1989
  6. Hi-Tec House
  7. Jibber-Jabber
  8. Warehouse Jam
  9. Music By Numbers
  10. 16-Bit Funk Machine

Format: Cassette & Download SOLD OUT

bowditch

Bowditch. Likes to explore the mysterious and conflate it to highlight our cognition of place, experience, space. Prolific human. Title: Southend Objectified. Edition of 60 cassettes.

Sounds like thumbing a live cable. Juttery, jongery, galloping horses disintegrating, distinctly metallic in regions.

Stuart Bowditch appears inside his website wearing his field recording gear, in front of some stately home. There is horse, a man in armour and a man who has thrown his arms in the air and is hollering, dressed in medieval garb.

I begin to tap my fingers in time to ‘Bear pit’, unaware of myself doing this until I begin to write about it: “found some different tools and got to work on objects and recordings from my home town.”

 What’s your favourite breed of pig?

Side A
1. Town Crier’s Bell
2. The Railway Hotel Gents’ Toilet Hand Dryer (Broken)
3. Kenco Coffee Tub

Side B
4. Flooded House
5. Bear Pit (Point B)
6. S.O.U.T.H.E.N.D.
(Sewage Outlet Under Thames Hides Even Nastier Discharge)

Format: Cassette & Download

Jan- Mars Streets Mix is as follows:

Ndolwane Super sounds ‘Umph’ahambe’, Steely Dan ‘Steely Dan God’, Amr Diab ‘Tamally Maak’, Radical Dance Faction ‘Borderline Cases’, The Fall ‘I am Kurious Oranj’.

Put yer listening devices here

Egyptian Dream Book says: “It is the duty of the kidneys to see that the blood keeps pure. Not to make pure blood – the food we do not eat does that – but to remove from the blood all the impurities it has gathered up during its circuit of the body”

“I know, Ben mumbled. “But I didn’t have a motive” – Pg. 17. Mystery Detective.

Over an’ Out Com’s xx

 

Marlo Eggplant

Jaxson Payne/Dtub

Bowditch

Fractal Meat Cuts

-ooOOOoo-

 

 

many at their windows: marlo eggplant on ‘an electrical storm’

February 19, 2016 at 4:48 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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various artists – an electrical storm (CD-r and badge or download, aetheric records)

elec

The 1968 album An Electric Storm by White Noise is a sound classic, inspiring avant garde/experimental pop bands such as Silver Apples and Stereolab who aimed to approximate the primitive, vestigial sound experiments curated by American electronic engineer David Vorhaus.

Having attended a lecture given by Delia Derbyshire, Vorhaus joined forces with her and fellow Radiophonic Workshop composer Brian Hodgson and the result of locking themselves away together is this classic psychedelic pop album.  An Electric Storm is playful and cinematic, filled with altered samples and tape spliced salads of circus melodies, special effects, French dialogue, sexual exploits, and screams of hell. The aetheric records 2015 compilation, an electrical storm is a ‘tribute to the experimental spirit’ of White Noise’s masterpiece.

whitenoise

All artists were given a field recording of an electrical storm made by aetheric records’ Alistair Thaw (a.k.a slowthaw.) They could use the track as they wished to create their own compositions. One could reason that conceptually inspired by the White Noise album, this compilation is a celebration of the technique: repurposing sound or ‘tape splicing’. And it isn’t just a bunch of musicians using the sample in similar ways or even using similar procedures. Each track has its own flavour and approach to the initial recording, resulting in a true tribute to ‘how-and-why’ the White Noise album was born.

With a collection of international musicians rolling the dice with the storm, the result is an enjoyable and dramatic film journey accompanied by an unconscious familiarity with the source material.  The tracks are well ordered, leaving the listener enjoying the rain.

elec2

The compilation opens with So There’s xylophones and nuanced, quiet beckonings. White Feather’s Nocturnal Storm leads us into the glowing, pretty space where the listener opens their eyes refreshed. Kek-W‘s STRm walks us on to the train tracks into a dance party, climbing past metal riveters and pulsations. Troy Schafer’s fixed emission makes me seriously homesick for shows back in the States in sweaty spaces filled with unexpected distorted shouts and dark human stimuli. The Revenant Sea’s charge separation cluster is the static that makes the baby hair on arms stand at attention, possibly receiving transmissions from the galaxy. The Heartwood Institute’s aetheric recursion did not remind me of the massage school with the same namesake in Northern California. Rather it reminded me of the The Repo Man soundtrack [Editor’s note: high praise indeed!], the listener being pursued by chain smoking UFO hunters. le pleasure beach by Benjamin Shaw washes one with watery ascending piano ripples.

bshawalarson

April Larson’s decaying dream (electric storm mix) delivers yet another cinematic track, this time with escalating David Lynch eerie suspense. as clouds accumulate by stapperton bounces a rubber ball intermittently walking through rain storms and swarms of whispering cicadas, inducing ketamine flashbacks. black_ops pushes one through a monochromatic static void, repetitive waves of great gravity surround. Echoes …. Leytonstone concretizes one’s senses again putting them into order with shushing reassurance to move through the gap. BURL attaches you to the outer space debris floating through ancient unknown civilizations, all being swallowed slowly into a black hole. One enters another dimension on a single sound. two cars passing by Hollows is a misty-eyed moment of mortality, organs and piano keyboards reminding us that we all grow old. Broken Shoulder’s holiday’s ruined is honing in on almost nautical transmissions and resonance, the ship is brought into port after a long voyage. Coming back to the source, and nature, with the clean, sharp field recording made by slowthaw.

The compilation comes with a badge with the same disturbing, beautiful album art. I recommend listening to an electrical storm late at night with a jug of red wine, lying on a Persian rug and duvet for emotional comfort.

—ooOoo—

aetheric records

other needles of infinite length: joe murray on ladyz in noyz

January 19, 2016 at 12:28 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Various Artists – Ladyz in Noyz 3 (2 x CD-r, corpus callosum distro)

Various Artists – Ladyz in Noyz 3.5 (CD-r, corpus callosum distro)

lin3

These three discs, split across two releases, form part of the cutting-edge Ladyz in Noyz series – a long-running, on-going, world-wide celebration of female experimental and fringe musicians – and pretty marvellous it is too.  Series 3 is compiled by our very own marlo eggplant and is an explosive introduction to Twenty Eight exceptional artists.

Regular readers will know I love a compilation; and for me the more varied the better.  I’m very happy, in fact I’m delighted, to be thrown from one hermetic sound environment to another – letting sense collapse around my ears as (for example) cool, gritty reductionist harp is angrily shattered by hissing-pissy Black Metal.

First up on the cheap-o stereo is the double pack LiN 3.  It’s a fairly weighty tome and as wonderfully varied as I dreamt, shifting the rug from bleak harsh noise to psychedelic guitar-picking to hydrant-rousing rhyming all with the crisp distinctive pop of a jar of fresh pickled onions being prised open. Ready?  Sit back, pick up a fork and dig in…

Disc One

  • Wolfesule – Sabbath-strength groan. Like deep ridges and howling canyons.  I’m clinging to a secluded mountain ledge.
  • Lyrels – Dub yomp through marsh-land with heavy boots and backpack leaking nitric acid. In triplicate, uphill.
  • Ladyjam – Spooked sheep gut and horsehair; a simple waltz round a gasping sink-hole.
  • Lucy Bonk – Gin-soaked electronics and tape cacophony. Then the organ grinder puts the monkey in the blender!
  • MINIM– Stainless steel poetry. Short vibrations set up a chain reaction of lonely pluck and subterranean ripple that take us to pre-revolutionary Russia.
  • Alodi – Ear-shattering in the way Einstürzende Neubauten would crack the brittle brown plastic of my Fisher Price tape player.
  • Sekret Dyke – Heavy and wobbling with one foot in the club and the other jammed into a malfunctioning leaf blower.
  • Lady of Situations – A reefer rolled with Godflesh. A Hammond toke (Jimmy Smith) – and the walls close in like prehistoric ferns.
  • VIA – Glass Harmonica full of silverfish flipping backwards in a wriggling cascade down the table and across the floor turning bare concrete to a shallow bristling sea.
  • Yohimbe – Backed up potato-exhaust nightmare.  Creeping rumbles set to stun.  Chances of survival?
  • Guggenheim Doppleganger – Radio waves bounced off a gritty satellite; the original signals are scrambled but marbled into a wonderful chaos. The band plays on (naturally).  KISS covers I think?
  • Pony Slut – Pure boiling hell. Absolutely no-nonsense harsh noise delivered like a fist-full of wet clay.
  • Multifungi – Thin needles ‘ping’ against other needles of infinite length. The tin reverb drowns out the ocean.
  • L Soulio/S Lee – Classy guitar pluckage becomes a million points of light. Eventually the sound of a rosy shadow is smeared into wet grass.
  • Chica X– Super innocent and joyful and gosh-darn F.R.E.S.H. The Double Dutch revival starts right now!
  • Panoptic Cyst – Obnoxious tunnelling noise. Rocks and debris rush past ‘the mole’ as it descends into shale gas deposits.
  • Berberine – A skilfully erased song. Wide swipes with a damp cloth make the chalky equations melt into a grey paste.  Beautifully vague.
  • Milch De La Maquina – Owls cast in bronze! The Sirens join in on thigh-bone cello and cloaked vocal jaxx. Soundtrack to The Secret History?

Disc Two

  • Hobbyknife – A very live sounding Noise Aktion piece paced as carefully as a chess match. Checkmate!
  • Poundland – Shimmering exotica, an orchestra of lucky trinkets and gee-gaws. Like those novelty birthday cards that play a tune…but re-programmed to The Twilight Zone theme.
  • Secrets – Hum-bubbling beats that just don’t quit become the Burundi under clear digital ripping and vocal harmonies really saying something.
  • Motion Sickness of Time Travel – Ritual electronics using repetitive lurching like a shaman with a palmed frame drum. The full-on perfumed smoke makes my eyes water and nostril sting…but what’s that shape moving in the corner of the yurt?
  • Future Ex-Wives – Solo guitar bounces between twin peaks of heavy reverb into marmalade gloopiness.
  • Mass Ornament – The insistent glockenspiel and gently running water make me think about the glamour of 1950’s Air Travel and Bongwater backing tracks (circa Double Bummer). Both wonderful reveries.
  • Chic Gala – Electro-punk or something that rocks the Casio ‘tom’ sound like German Disco. Condenser Mics make the voices compressed as slick carbon and powerful beyond measure.
  • Jane DaPain –What is it about the deadly unpredictability of electricity that draws us like fleshy moths? Just over two minutes of perfect overhead-cable-drone
  • Foxdye – An unbalancing music to knock your gravitational centre. The glitch is well and truly the star as bass ‘whoooms’ detonate in each ear making me physically limp as I try to walk to Superdrug.
  • Concrete Diva – a beautiful recording that seems to capture the action going on in another room. Heavily processed guitar; part hi-life jitter, part psych-pond ripple makes time an oily slick.
  • Poundland – A darker side to the abstract is mined with a bass-line thrum. Above ground the feedback squeals as gulls do.

lin35

I take a day or two to recover from this mung-barrage and then slip in LiN 3.5, which I am guessing is a stop-gap until LiN 4 hits the shores.  This mix is pulled together in bunches so we get a couple of depth-charges from Sharkiface, Phantom Chips, our marlo eggplant and one from TAHNZZ.  OK… let’s roll.

Phantom Chips favours a crisp sizzled interface; like an electrocuted typewriter.  In fact I can do no better than hurl the title ‘buzzoidcircling’ at you as a resume for this particular micro-style.  Crinkle cut!

Sharkiface looms with a slow and low bass throb that comes across like spooky Penderecki on ‘Down the Mountain’ and moves into deep-fat-fryer territory with a wicked bubbling and dust-bin drum solo on ‘Blood Transfusion’ reminding me of something on that Cosmic Kurushi Monsters comp from donkeys ago.

The single track from TAHNZZ is an intense 15 minute (harsh) wall of rubbery fluctuations and bass-heavy rumble.  So… hot gravel gets shovelled into large house-sized piles only to get knocked down by giant lobster claws.  Both peachy and pneumatic in heavy doses.

marlo ramps up the Cthulu on her pieces ‘Shursh’ and ‘Buzz Spling’.  These two pieces sound like something ‘unnatural’ escaping from a cage and poison gas bubbling through a phosphorescent marsh respectively. An undersea kingdom is discovered by rusty bathysphere (springing a hull breach) in ‘Theadle’ and then the stunned survivors join in with the dripping-wet Old Ones booming a bass-choir of massive conch shells on the ‘Sous’.  Best of all is the all-too-brief ‘Martial’, 1 minute 42 seconds of warped tattoo and bowed golden keys.

All these sounds (and more, more, more) available at the corpus callosum distro Bandcamp site.

—ooOoo—

corpus callosum distro

the 2015 zellaby awards

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

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

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

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

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

Fleshtone Aura

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

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

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

Right then, time to pop some fucking corks…

sof's pina colada

—ooOoo—

Radio Free Midwich presents the 2015 Zellaby Awards

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

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

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

Sabrina Peña Young

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

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

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

SPY0

Joe speaks in italics:

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

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

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

rook

Sof’s joy in discovery:

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

sonotanotanpenz - 3

Luke forward/slashes:

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

tessellation

…and I say:

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

SPY1

4. The “Stokoe Cup”, given for maintaining quality control over a huge body of work making it impossible to pick individual releases in an end of year round up

Sof ponders:

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

delphine

Chrissie scratches her head too:

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

No doubts from Joe:

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

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

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

crowradio

Luke starts on a theme:

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

robbie7

…and I say:

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

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

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

embers

3. The Special Contribution to Radio Free Midwich Award

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

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

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

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

Luke picks an outlier:

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

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

Yeah baby!!!

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

Joe rallies the troops:

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

…and I say:

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

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

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

posscat

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

2. The Label of the Year Award

Sof sticks to the point:

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

fort

Luke whittles on the porch:

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

winebox

Joe’s takes a turn:

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

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

cclub

…and I say:

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

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

icrpower

1. The Album of the Year Award

Chrissie kicks us off:

1. R.A.N

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

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

RAN_-_Her_Trembling_Ceased

2. FAKE Mistress – entertainted

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

entertainted

Luke casts his net wide:

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP

Charlotte Braun – Happy Being Sad

Absurde, Chier – Absurde VS Chier

Skatgobs – Pointless

Blood Stereo – The Lure of Gurp

Alec Cheer – Autumn

Ali Robertson & His Conversations

Guttersnipe – Demo

xazzaz – descent / the crusher

VA AA LR – Ping Cone

Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks 3/4

Anla Courtis – B-Rain Folklore

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

Jon Collin – Wrong Moves / Dream Recall

Whole Voyald Infinite Light – Uncollected Recordings

Ashtray Navigations – Lemon Blossom Gently Pixelating In The Breeze

Melanie O’Dubhshlaine – Deformed Vowels

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

half an abortion / yol – the designated driver

Shareholder – Jimmy Shan

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

lemon

Sof’s impeccable taste displayed:

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

Originality is the theme of my list –

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

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

Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God

Guttersnipe – Demo

Rosemary Krust – Rosemary Krust

Sam McLoughlin & David Chatton Barker – Show Your Sketches

Delphine Dora – L’au-delà

steven ball - collected local songs

Joe selects:

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

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

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

yol - er

…and finally, your humble editor:

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

Culver – Saps 76

David Somló – Movement

Delphine Dora and Sophie Cooper – Distance, Future

Dominic Coppola – Vogue Meditations

Hagman – Inundation

Hardworking Families – Happy Days

Ian Watson – Caermaen

joined by wire – universe allstars

Luminous Monsters – The Sun Tree

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP

Saturn Form Essence – Stratospheric Tower

Shredderghost – Golden Cell

yol – everyday rituals

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

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

10. E.Y.E – MD2015

md2015

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

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

9. AAS – Balancing Ritual

aas

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

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

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

ineluctable

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

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

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

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

7. The Piss Superstition – Garage Squall

garage squall

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

Mag-lev trains.

The very best form of bluster.

As gentle as breath on a mirror,

Predator’s Answerphone message

The Velvet Underground trapped in a matchbox.

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

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

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

Forbidden Planet strained with nourishing iron-rich greens,

A dream-tractor changing gear on the endless road.

Immense power restrained by gravity

A hit of strong, clean anaesthetic,

I’m counting backwards.

10, 9, 8…

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

lp1

Joe again, not sparing the superlatives:

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

What?  Like…ever?

I hear you ask.

Yes

I answer with a calm, clear voice.

Like in the whole 100 year history of recorded music?

You probe,

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

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

You must listen, you must listen to truly understand

I chant with glassy eyes.

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

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

5. Ashtray Navigations – A Shimmering Replica

ashshimmer

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

4. Melanie O’Dubhshlaine – Deformed Vowels

mel

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

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

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

3. Helicopter Quartet – Ghost Machine

ghost machine

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

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

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

2. Guttersnipe – Demo

guttersnipe

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

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

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

1. namke communications – 365/2015

namke - 365-2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

In conclusion…

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

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

All is love.

Rob Hayler, January 2016.

—ooOoo—

direct cerebral invasion: marlo eggplant on duncan harrison, bbblood and aqua dentata on tour

December 15, 2015 at 12:55 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Duncan Harrison, BBBlood, Aqua Dentata – “Ineluctable modality of the visible”

(self-released tour CD-r, edition of 60)

ineluctable

INELUCTABLE MODALITY OF THE VISIBLE: AT LEAST THAT IF NO MORE, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot. Snotgreen, bluesilver, rust: coloured signs.

Ulysses, James Joyce

The title of the compilation, “Ineluctable modality of the visible” is a direct quotation in which the protagonist has just free associated, eventually entering into the subjective/objective questionable space. Perhaps that would be the best way to describe this convergence of the works of Duncan Harrison, BBBlood, and Aqua Dentata. Despite thinking that all three are righteous talented dudes, I think this title is a very clever framework in which to curate a collection. The title demands a questioning of the senses: what is the visible, or rather, what are the boundaries of the experience of vision? When an object is observed/witnessed, it exists outside of that experience. There is the form, what we experience in seeing, and the substance, what is actually sitting in front of us. This is an extrapolation of Aristotle who felt sound was different than vision: in the process of hearing and making sounds, a mixing of substance and form are more entwined and mutually reliant [Editor’s note: errm… blimey… if you say so]. Although I may be going a little bit off on a tangent here and letting my academic brain interrupt my appreciation of just a freaking good comp [Editor’s note: ah! Gotcha].

rod

But, damn you, Duncan Harrison! The first track immediately gets me back in my academic head! ‘(Je suis) La Loi’ makes me think of psychoanalytical linguist theorist Julia Kristeva and deconstructionist scholar Jacques Derrida. The use of breath and physiological sounds makes the listening an embodied experience. The listener feels present. It is hard not to notice if one’s lips are dry or if you possibly had too many coffees. The repetition of the words ‘la loi’ meaning ‘the law’ provides the only semi-structure. It is loosely yet intentionally reapplied throughout the piece. I once saw Harrison do a performance at Splitting the Atom down in Brighton in which he stood uttering words barefoot on broken dishes. The tension of harm and presence was so intense. That’s what it is about the track. It has an immediacy to it. Almost like if Houdini were trapped in a room, struggling with a word puzzle. Using recorded voice and live improvisation, the piece feels historical like an old lecture. Maybe the whole thing is a nod to Trevor Wishart or Ellen Moffatt. Or maybe Duncan is losing his mind. Either way, I am sold on this track.

With the second track, ‘The Rye’, there is an experiment in what sounds like tape manipulation and mouth sounds. Great mini-silences and pace. What Harrison demonstrates here is a patience unafraid to allow disconcerted emissions. Metallic whirring transmissions, water flowing, movement sounds, shushing, scratching on surfaces, wind/inhale/exhale… layers and whistles. It is a great follow up to the text-sound playfulness of his first track.

jane

Next up: BBBlood.  Paul Watson, like Harrison, has explored different methods and techniques over the years and one can clearly hear his mixed genres spilling and building. I associate BBBlood with capital ‘N’ noise due to his early work or perhaps because of his epic 2013 Crater Lake set. In ‘Xinbad Rapid’, he erupts and flows into processes. You can see his love of patterns and repetition playing with more fully embraced samples. Despite the constant layering, it is not saturated. It still gave me the low ends and rumbles that this old grrl is a sucker for but with measured application. The track feels live yet framed. In ‘Nexistence of Vividence’, BBBlood returns to more of the crunchy reeling and wheeling and dealing. It is a typhoon that builds and waits. Never fully collapsing, the sounds peters out like attempting to catch water running through fingers. Yet there is an ethereal resolution to the struggle and the listeners are laid to rest, an aural wiping of the brow. Time to rest after the long haul.

freddie

Eddie Nuttall, a.k.a Aqua Dentata, is not from this planet. I honestly don’t think he is. His music feels like extraterrestrial communication from outside our universe. Like binaural beats and subconscious interfering hypnosis, his untitled track sounds like it is made of laser beams. As a listener, you feel like you merge with the frequency and question your ability to make cognitive sense. It isn’t because of a reliance in bombarding one with several sounds but rather a direct cerebral invasion. To call it a drone would be a disservice because it is mechanistically minimal in texture but complicated in its building. I cannot tell if the sounds are all intentional but my mind hears a widening of sensation and a pleasant obliteration. Nuttall does not back away from higher frequencies but does not accentuate their presence within the composition. I really like the way he uses volume in slight shifts. Sometimes the resonance makes my teeth hurt in the best way possible.

“Ineluctable modality of the visible” is an excellent comp with smart tracks. If one of my friends back home in the States were to ask me for a contemporary recommendation of an album of my favorite sounds in the UK, this would definitely be on the top of my list.

—ooOoo—

[Editor’s note: this CD-r was produced by the contributors to be sold at a trio of Northern dates last September.  The run was mainly snagged by attendees.  Perhaps you could try Electric Knife?  Or did I hear Duncs say he had a copy or two still?]

from kanazawa to west yorkshire: marlo eggplant on kirigirisu recordings on tour

December 14, 2015 at 12:46 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Asuna, Sonotanotanpenz, Broken Shoulder – Kirigirisu Recordings Tour Compilation

(CD-r, Kirigirisu Recordings, edition of 100 or download)

kiricomp

Winter in the Yorkshires is a pensive, slow, moody time with weather shifting, all in the direction of foreboding downtime [Editor’s note: yes! Glorious isn’t it?]. Musical interludes are greatly appreciated in order to avoid the abrupt shortening of daylight and growing durations of pure darkness. Captain Hayler made a call out for reviews and in my usual fashion, I clamoured for the opportunity to hear compilations from labels which I had little familiarity with. I like to think of compilations as curated soundtracks from strangers, intended to take one away from daily living into the logic and minds of others.

Kirigirisu Recordings Tour Compilation released in October of 2015 is an excellent example of such a voyage. I had never heard of the Tokyo based label before nor any of the projects [Editor’s note: though it isn’t entirely new to RFM – see Sof’s piece here]. A precursory enquiry into the label revealed that it was assembled by Neil Debnam, dealt in limited edition CD-rs and had previously released the work of Core of the Coalman.  This four track mini-album is an audio archive of the first day of a tour featuring label-mates Asuna, Sonotanotanpenz, and Broken Shoulder.

asuna

Sound artist Asuna’s track ‘South Pine School’ opens with a melodic train of folk-like quality. The organ sounds mix with recordings of a crowd and church bells, blending into a musical toy exploration. The toy sounds are articulated into a sonic arcade game where the player struggles to move to the next level. Saved by glitches and a guiding musical line with slight percussive bells, the listener is taken safely across. Progressing with slight electronic accents, the crowd recordings, and symphonic elements, Asuna disrupts and guides with song. Sonically it forces the listener to imagine visualizations of distance and varied ecospheres. Samples and instrumentation hold hands as one is safely delivered to another land.

sono

Sonotanotanpenz is made up of Hitomi Moriwaki & Hitomi Itamura, two women who banded together in 2012 in Fukouka, Japan. Their performances are playfully theatrical. The project has fluency and connectedness, demonstrating their practice/experience as consistent collaborators. The two tracks are instrumental travel layers. The first has stringed instruments and small percussions, a slightly psychedelic improvisationally free space . The unclear spoken voice in the second track takes us into an astral plane with low electrical melodies. There is an insistence of movement in the use of rhythm and a sense of wandering. I most certainly want to see this project play live.

broke

Broken Shoulder is the project of Neil Debnam (Fighting Kites) who describes his origin as “Holloway to Tokyo”. I know I should probably be familiar with this artist. The track opens with an urgent pulse. An electronic message must be delivered. It reminds me of old time ticker tape and early computers. A descant of trio of notes builds across the top of machine sounds becoming more complex as it progresses into harmonies. Like a swelling orchestra, the melody is warming and enclosing the listener. Yet the electronic pulse does not die away till what sounds like an electric guitar washes us on the shore.

Maybe this review is more just me wanting to go on a holiday or get away from this dreary weather [Editor’s note: you mean bracing weather, of course]. This compilation though is cheaper than a flight and a dreamy way to feel hopeful in this grey climate.  Three more compilations to come…

—ooOoo—

Kirigirisu Recordings

the edge of the tar pit: haiku on selections from the hairdryer excommunication catalogue

September 17, 2015 at 1:02 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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kevin sanders – reducing ideas to words (CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)

kevin sanders – the physical resonance of attraction (a.m.) (3” CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)

Marlo Eggplant – Jutted (3” CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)

kevin sanders – Sounds of separation (3” CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 11 or download)

Kay Hill & Kevin Sanders (tape or download, hairdryer excommunication)

Seth Cooke – Christ of the Abyss (business card CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 100 or download)

Hardworking Families – Happy Days (CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)

Kevin Sanders – hyperhypercritical (3” CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)

reducing

1. reducing ideas to words

Scratching the paper,

we trade precision smears

for hard company.

physical

2. the physical resonance of attraction (a.m.)

Albino lizards

lick the air – cavers approach!

A feast of tanned flesh…

jutted

3. Jutted

Brine, creosote, blood –

stir with rusting screwdriver.

Cut tethers, start work.

sounds

4. Sounds of separation

Waking innocent,

like it had never been said.

Then we remember.

kay kev

5. Kay Hill & Kevin Sanders

From edge of tar pit

to aeon-bled exhibit –

petrified moment.

christ

6. Christ of the Abyss

Petri dish culture

of tainted agar reveals

face of the prophet.

happy

7. Happy Days

‘Sit on it, Winnie!’

says Fonz, buried to his neck.

Sammy feeds the shark.

hyper

8. hyperhypercritical

Each tide’s rasping breath

a fraction of Moon’s release,

or: “saying goodbye.”

—ooOoo—

In summary…

Prodigious output:

teeth, gears grinding

– reflected in silver bullets.

—ooOoo—

hairdryer excommunication

crater lake festival 2015

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

—ooOoo—

(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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Culver

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…

—ooOoo—

…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.

—ooOoo—

Photo credits:

Agata Urbaniak: performers

Sophie Cooper: workshop

Mark Wharton: Team RFM

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