blood washed from the map: new from ashtray navigations

April 13, 2015 at 11:03 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Ashtray Navigations – Fluctuants (CD-r, Memoirs of an Aesthete, MOA 2014-1, edition of 75 or download)

Ashtray Navigations – Live on Planet Carpet (CD-r, Zanntone)

ashnav - fluctuantsashnav - planet carpet

[Editor’s note: see my review of Aero Infinite for part one of this story.  Sort of.]

This punch has been spiked,

thought the General.  She looked over at the band – hard rocking some deep psych – and allowed herself a moment of wry amusement.  She decided it must have been them, remembering similar pranks she’d played herself during a reckless youth.  It didn’t matter – she had military grade nanotech scrubbing her blood clean at all times but she’d dialled back her biosecurity a notch – it was a party after all – and some of the more interesting side effects were making themselves felt.  It was the second time today that she had been reminded of her childhood…

The invitation to negotiate had been a surprise.  Everyone had welcomed the truce that calmed their warring nations but all could see it was fragile.  Only the most optimistic strategists had thought it might be formalised.  Yet here they were: safe passage had been guaranteed, an opulent setting secured.  The week had gone well – teams on both sides were expertly prepared, aware of all the snagging points and ready with innovative compromises.  Blood had been washed from the map.

Throughout proceedings the General, her presence important but largely symbolic, had been observing the actual play of power amongst the attendees.  In particular she watched one man, modestly dressed in black, flit in and out of the shadows.  This man was always present when a decision was made, always at the ear of his superiors.  He knew what should be said, when and by whom and quietly ensured that it was.  Not wanting to show her hand by asking his name the General referred to him privately as ‘the Clerk’.

How do I get him to work for me?

She wondered.

On this, the final day of the talks, the General rose early, as was her habit, and on a whim walked down to the banqueting hall which was already being decorated in preparation for the evening’s festivities.  Her eye was caught by a large, deftly arranged wreath of flowers, stalks woven into a ring.  It was maybe ten feet across and was lying flat on the floor awaiting servants with ladders to fix it to the wall.  Her usual expression of unreadable authority – an accurate representation of her mirrorshaded soul – trembled for an instant.  The corners of her mouth twitched.

EVERYONE OUT!

She shouted and the servants scattered faster than if warning shots had been fired over their heads.

There were only two types of bloom in this arrangement, though huge quantities of each.  The first was the national flower of the host nation, common enough but only the most perfect specimens had been used.  The other flower was native to the General’s homeland and almost nowhere else.  It was difficult to cultivate and had become a signifier of power and beauty in that country.  Indeed, the plant featured in the General’s family’s coat of arms and the sigil of her army.  It’s scent was profound, delicious.  Once sure the room was empty she fell to her knees and buried her face in the petals.  She hadn’t smelt that smell in months, she hadn’t smelt that smell in such pure abundance since playing in her Grandmother’s palace gardens when she was a girl.  When she sat up after what seemed like hours – but must have only been a few minutes – her face was wet with happy tears.  Her self-monitoring bio-alert system scrabbled to process the unprecedented strangeness of this reaction.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a black figure silently exit the room through a door hidden behind a tapestry.

Back at the party, the General’s mild buzz was gently agitated by a polite cough at her shoulder.  It was the Clerk.

I trust you are enjoying the music?

He whispered, somehow perfectly audible over the cacophony.

They’ve been transported from 21st Century Earth just for this occasion.  My all time favourite band.

The General was amused at his informality, she gave a slight nod.

I understand you appreciated our floral tribute too,

he said, and this time the General glanced in his direction.

Well, well, a flaw! He is rather too pleased with himself for pulling off that stunt.  A useful weakness,

she thought, instructing her software to make a note of that point in the evening’s AV feed.

Perhaps we could have a word in private?  I have the only key to a fully cloaked ante-chamber behind the stage,

he said and held out his hand.  The General slid back her chair, rose to her feet and smoothed the lap of her dress.  She looked over again at Phil and Mel, both lost in the storm they were conducting.  Leaning into the Clerk she offered her opinion:

By the beautiful blue arse of the Interstellar Buddha, this band are fucking great.

—ooOoo—

Ashtray Navigations on Bandcamp

Zanntone [Editor’s note: at the time of publication this site is, as we used to say, ‘under construction’ and details of the release remain elusive.  The resourceful will find a way to contact Paul Walsh – for it is he – and I’ll update the link here when it is done.]

all that is left: people-eaters, aetheric records and invisible city records

April 9, 2015 at 12:39 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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people-eaters – The Only Thing Left To Fear (A5 chapbook, 16pp, with 3” CD-r mixtape, aetheric records)

people-eaters – The Only Thing Left To Fear (tape, Invisible City Records, edition of 30 or download)

only thing left to fear tape

people-eaters - fear 2

It amuses me to imagine aetheric records and Invisible City Records sharing premises. I picture a cross between the drawing room in Poe’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ and the well-appointed lounge where William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki gathers his friends to hear tales of ghost-hunting. The more decadent staff members drape themselves over the chaise longues and, deep in a fug of laudanum and absinthe, lose themselves in painfully thin volumes of German poetry. The more scientifically minded look on disapprovingly and return to their geographical analysis of Eastern European folklore, or a heated exchange as to the properties of ectoplasm.

The pull-back-and-reveal (or ‘then I got off the bus’ moment – cheers Pete) in this scene occurs as the camera follows one of these chaps out of the main door and into… an anonymous, strip-lit corridor in a modern, faceless office building. What gives!? Well, despite my whimsical first paragraph I’d suggest both labels are solidly grounded in the present day and fully understand the ritual and psychological significance of the trappings they have chosen. Alistair of aetheric knows full well that his beloved photographs of spirit activity at Victorian séances are preposterous hoaxes, Craig of Invisible City knows full well that H.P. Lovecraft was a writer of fiction not a documentarian. Both can agree, with a shared wistful sigh, that there is simply no such thing as ‘cat people’ from the ‘old country’…

That said, the certainty that there are no tentacles under the bed is cold comfort. If these things don’t exist then the stories we tell about them are really attempts to explain unpalatable truths about ourselves and our place in an indifferent universe. In the absence of spirits and monsters all that is left is us, an infinity of nothing and the implications thereof. That is the only thing left to fear.

Which brings us through the woods to the album that ties the two labels together: The Only Thing Left to Fear by people-eaters. Released in two versions, on aetheric this comes as an A5 chapbook containing five poems, five automatic drawings and a 16 minute ‘mixtape’ on 3″ CD-r and on Invisible City it exists as a limited edition tape or download. You don’t get the chapbook with the latter but, beefed up with remixes, the amount of music included is more than doubled. Both editions are still available at the time of writing.

The poetry, written by Alistair using the pseudonym ‘slowthaw’, is grisly and bleak – part Baudelaire fever-dream, part Burroughs cut-up, all disgusted with the corporeal. It’s an uncomfortable read.  Some of you will appreciate that.  Regarding the artwork, I’m always tempted to ‘reverse engineer’ automatic drawing, to trace the lines with a fingernail or the tip of a pen and see what, if any, feelings fall out as a result. This time, appropriately enough, I got panicked – as if a spirit was trying to communicate something and getting increasingly frantic as it realised this ‘Ouija board’ had no letters on it, nor did the fleshy mechanism it had appropriated even believe in its existence.

Before accounting for the music, I should mention that all the creative aspects of this project are apparently inspired by the following quote:

Spirit sounds are usually of a peculiar character; they have an intensity and a character of their own, and, notwithstanding their great variety, can hardly be mistaken, so that they are not easily confused with common noises, such as the creaking of wood, the crackling of fire, or the ticking of a clock; spirit raps are clear and sharp, sometimes soft and light… (from The Medium’s Book by Allan Kardec published in 1861)

…as its influence is easier heard than seen. The quote is classic spiritualism – apparently saying something concrete and testable but, on examination, containing enough wiggle room to accommodate a salsa class. people-eaters play it straight, though (well, after an opening that samples a mindfulness meditation tape and thus returned me to early 90s ‘chill out’ ambient nonsense) and present a series of creaks, crackles and ticks drawn out with biomechanical rhythms for our appraisal. Anchor chains are cut and bows scrape against each other in a moonlit bay. Brass cogged difference engines strip oxidised gears. Parasitic organisms are hatched and scrabble at the walls of their red prison, the host animal oblivious.

Ghosts? We are asked. Monsters? Each time we have to look down and shake our heads: no, just us – just you, me and the fuckers on the other side of that bolted door.

Nothing else.

—ooOoo—

aetheric records

Invisible City Records

invisible dance for violin: chrissie caulfield on troy schafer

March 31, 2015 at 12:10 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Troy Schafer – Action for Solo Violin (tape, Dusty Grass Imprint, edition of 100 or download)

troy schafer - action

I’m a sucker for a solo violin piece.  It’s not the purity of the single instrument, oh no. I have no time for purity in music, for me hybridity is the way, but I love the idea of taking a single instrument and stretching it as far as it will go, or combining it with something unexpected. Like dance. Or, in this case, an invisible dance!

For that is what Troy Schafer has done here. It’s a dance for a violinist, but you don’t see the movement – just four tantalising photos giving a mere hint of what is going on in the course of this album. The reviews quoted on the download site lament that there is no video available of the performance but I think this is actually a feature and not a bug (as we say in software). By leaving the movements up to your imagination, Shafer is making you imagine what might be happening rather than giving it to you on a plate. If I’d seen the performance live I’m sure I would have been transfixed, but at home I’d rather listen to a recording and make my own pictures than watch them on a screen, at least where music is concerned.

Where the release does fall down, in my opinion, is that it seems to have been recorded with a single microphone so there is no stereo image to help you with your internal visualisations. A spaced pair would have added hugely to the interest in the sound here and given us a few clues, at least, as to what might be going on. Another thing I feel I would have quite liked him to do would be to detune the strings occasionally to give us more variety in the notes that come through.

And what is going on? Well audibly it’s mostly a lot of clicks, pops and scrapes, there’s quite a lot of scratching of the bow on the strings, plucking them behind the bridge. These are done with much variety, intensity and variety of intensity – he goes from barely audible scratches to sounding like he’s in a small aircraft about to take off. What you won’t find are any ‘normal’ notes. The few times the bow is drawn across a string it’s with such pressure or at such an angle that any semblance of a note is almost a figment of your imagination.

And imagination is key to this recording, I think. Both in Schafer’s idea to make it in the first place, and in your own mind as you listen. As I experience this piece I can imagine all sorts of contortions that the performer gets up to, with both violin and bow, and every time I listen to it those movements change depending on my mood. Of course all music sounds different each time you listen depending on mood, but here you have the four visual starting points to get you going with the dance each time too, and I do strongly recommend looking at the photos before beginning a session with this album.

Surprisingly (well, it surprised me) there really is enough going on to keep you hooked for the full 40 minutes. Just. The interest comes from the subtlety of differences between the effects and the juxtaposition of them. As soon as you begin to wonder whether a particular gesture is going to go on forever, Schafer moves on to something else – sometimes literally as you hear his feet shuffling on the floor. It’s a hard listen at times, there are no long sounds here at all, it’s sparse and percussive for all of it’s duration. I got this as a download rather than the cassette but I think you still need the time between movements to rest your ears and, metaphorically or physically, turn the tape over. In my case I load the album one file at a time into my player software rather than using a playlist.

This album might be mainly a work for violin-nerds, I think I know how all the sounds here were produced and can visualise what is happening at least at the micro level of the performance – e.g. what the bow is doing on the strings – but maybe some ignorance or less detailed knowledge of the instrument and its extended techniques might actually help [Editor’s note: if you want ignorance of technique then I’m your man!]. Perhaps not knowing what on earth is going on adds even more to the mystery dance.  Have a listen and let me know!

—ooOoo—

Dusty Grass Imprint

Troy Schafer on Bandcamp

the radiofreemidwich random tape grab-bag experiment, or: joe murray empties his bulging sack

March 30, 2015 at 12:06 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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joe's bulging sack

[Editor’s note: Joe Murray, our resident beat prophet, has convinced his skeptical editor to temporarily abandon the usual formatting for reasons that will soon be apparent.  Thus there are no release details up front, pictures will follow reviews and links will be found where they lay.]

Like all my RFM comrades I have a teetering bunch of tapes to review.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.  It’s a privilege and an honour to hear so many dispatches from the No-Audience Underground.

But sometimes I feel I’m doing you a disservice my friends.  It’s the same old, same old format: slot tape in, listen thrice, make notes, look at any other internet gubbins, write up final copy, post to Rob and await his judgement a’ tremble.

But today I want to spice things up baby.   I’m going 50 shades on this shit.

So, in  order to make things (hopefully) more entertaining and experimental in spirit for you, my dear reader, I chucked all my review tapes into a drawstring bag and will pull them out, randomly, sight-unseen ready to slap into the cheap-o hi-fi.  No prior knowledge, no prejudice etc.

Mystery Tape One.  The first thing I notice is an ambient hiss, growing and forming, covering all the other electronic ‘chunk-ka-kuh’ like Spanish moss.  Things get less rhythmic and more drawn out (elongated gong strikes / trapdoor creak) creating a soundtrack feel with some floating voices chattering.  There’s a synth or something humming giving this a very European feel… a dark Froese perhaps?  Now there’s electricity in the air as the test tubes fizz and pop; a scientist twitches and mugs singing snatches of opera in a cracked voice.  Somehow the radio picks up their brain waves: forgotten memories of the seaside and music hall?  An Anthony Caro sculpture comes to life with deep space moans.  Blimey.  Who’s this?  I pop out the tape and check it.   Bless my soul.  It’s the ever lovely Claus Poulsen with Collected Dreams on Skrat Records.

claus poulsen - collected dreams

Mystery Tape Two.  OK…so far so good.   I fumble in my bag and pluck out the next offering.  It drops neatly into the wide-mouth slot and kicks off some dark rubbery knockings, slurm residue and spurks-thumb.  Oh yeah man…this is tremendous stuff!  There’s a treacle-like bubbling and whomping, like some living salt-water lake throbbing dangerously, searching out new tributaries with its briny fingers.  This is pure sound abstraction that builds layers of thick, dark sound-paint until a giant glove smears the oily pickle.   The noxious mixture spreads thin, lightening the hue and spreading the sticky mixture over frame, wall, floor and ceiling until we are all covered with the stuff – a burnt Rothko orange.  Side two opens up with a fling of ducks all ecstatically hawking and honking.  These sounds are passed though some electronic doo-hickery that seems to split and repeat certain quacking frequencies so sections of the greasy reverberations get plucked for presentation with a sheen and glimmer.  The water fowl retreat to roost as we dip our ears below the slick surface of water to luxuriate in music for rowing boat hulls; wooden creak and swollen pop.  Gosh, this tape is really hitting the spot.  Who do I have to thank?  I should have known…it’s ‘The Ambassador’ Tom White with his Reconstruction on Alien Passengers.

tom white - reconstruction

Mystery Tape Three.  This tape starts off with some nice tape gunk that moves unhurriedly between half-tunes played on fuzzed-out organ.  A female voice with the smoky cadence of William Burroughs tells a tale about some sci-fi travel (or something) while Working Men’s Club beats (tiss-be-be-bon-tiss…) flit in and out of the organ tunes.  And then found sound and field recordings get thrown into the mix.  Not in a haphazard manner, no sir, this is finely tuned and tweaked like the exact halfway point between a Radiophonic performance scored by the late great Broadcast and waking up from a particularly vivid dream.  I have to be honest with you readers… I’m stumped here; I have no idea what or who or when this is.  It’s certainly more lyrical than the usual shimmy but the narrative and structure are all over the shop giving this a delightfully Victorian psychedelic edge.  I can’t wait any longer; I crack under the pressure of not knowing and check the cover.  Ahhhhh….it’s that beautiful and wonderfully eccentric duo Winter Family who are playing here with their How Does Time tape on Psychic Mule Records.  It is indeed a play, a play designed to be listened to on a very particular train journey between Besançon in France and  La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland for very particular watch makers.  The ultimate commuter listen.

winter family - how does time

Mystery Tape Four.  Your typical Northern pub chatter sets the scene with clattering bottles and knowing laughter.  An on-stage introduction welcomes you and says, ‘This is for d boon’ before a proper guitar riff chugga-chuggas.   OK…that’s a reference to the wonderful Minutemen  – I get that; are we jamming econo?  Is this gonna be some tour spiel dude? But, at the same time I’m expecting some tape collage work to start up, a wonk-move or gurgled gob etc.  Some music concrete shit and all that doings.  But no…this is pure UK hardcore, recorded very, very  live, possibly from some archive with guitar/bass/drums and an angry attitude.  Think Heresy or something but with a bit more of ‘baseball bat to the face and neck’ feel.  The songs come in short, sharp blasts.  Three or four in a row – chunka – chunka – cheer – crowd babble – chunka- chunka.  It’s invigorating stuff and seems to get looser and more chaotic as the tape goes on (always a bonus for me).  I’m totally lost here.  No idea who it is or even how it crept into my review pile. Shall we look readers?  OK…it all comes flooding back.  This is Battery Humans on Fuckin’ Amateurs with their For D Boon tape.  It is recorded live and recently: 6th September 2014 to be precise and features one Guy Warnes AKA Waz Hoola, the unsung hero of the northern drone scene, on drums.  The usual F#A! standards of presentation apply with anarchy inserts, random gaffer tape sculpture and art fliched from Viz Comic.  Side B is another live recording but this time from Scurge in 1991.  You want rage?   You got it.

battery humans

Mystery Tape Five.  I press ‘play’ and an undulating, chemically insistent, flute trills with the sort of chaotic abandon that pins Old God MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI into a restful slumber.  A thousand chaffed lips puff noxious gas through human thighbone pipes while the jester dances merrily on (like he’s posing for a Marillion album or something).  Gosh…this is pretty intense.  The next track saunters by sounding like that crap ‘pre-computer’ computer game Simon hooking up to Terminator’s Skynet and crashing civilisation as we know it into a frosty digital sludge. Blimey…there’s a hard stop as I turn the tape over but as soon as I click things into life the holy racket starts again.  This time I’m getting something like a rouge Funkadelic jam; real cosmic slop rejected by Mr Clinton for being too out-there as layers of keyboard fuzz and squealing huff pile up and up and up.  A brief moment of calm (the keys ape Vangelis in blade runner tights) lets me breathe again before I’m pushed out a 30 storey window (metaphorically, dude – don’t panic, man) and, as I tumble, I catch snippets of Mexican TV, Concrete Noise, psychic experiments and terrible quiz shows as I hurtle past the apartments spinning dangerously out of control.  An uneven gravity pocket spares me a sticky end and I land, gracefully and precisely, into a pair of oxblood Doctor Martins – the world’s kindest bootboy.  Crows cackle around me, applauding with electric beaks.  I check the details, no wiser of this tapes provenance but washed clean by its synesthetic high, to find out it’s my old Papal Bull buddy Jon Marshall and noise-nudist Pascal Ansell cavorting under the No Thumbs banner.  This beauty’s called Slug Birth and is available from the brand-spanking-new Tutore Burlato label.  If TB is a new name on your radar the quality hallmark of its founder, one Ezio Piermattei, should seal the deal.

no thumbs - slug birth

Mystery Tape Six.  A hawking ceilidh – all X-ray gingham and a skilful cheek-slapping solo.  Reet…now there’s some ‘brum-t-t-tuh’ ursonating richly, fupping my sonics.  Gosh…this is a tasty oyster to be gulped down whole.  A general Scottishness takes hold with gristle and blum; stiff wire wool scraping and beautifully played Dictaphone garble.  I almost trip over my big feet in my rush to turn it over as I’m aching for side two.  And that’s where my experiment has to end.  No system is perfect.  It’s darn near impossible to ignore the fact a voice immediately states…

I’m Ali Robertson

…in Ali Robertson’s voice, soon to be joined by a variety of other familiar burrs. This side is one long ‘game’ of read personal biographies all overlapping (stop-starting) set to strict rules that our cuddly despot is keen to enforce.  Waves of casual voice and chatter settle into strange rhythms – probably some mathematical fractal shit, interlocking as neat as a Rubik’s satisfying ‘click’.  So yeah…durrrr…it’s Ali Robertson and his handily titled Ali Robertson & Friends tape on the always brilliant Giant Tank label.

ali and friends

So my excellent friends, I hope that worked for you?  Me?  I’m refreshed and re-born!  My ears are prickling with cleansing static and expectation.

But tell me: how are you doing?

—ooOoo—

the machine slowly unfolds: joe murray on star turbine, poulsen & klapper, rogaland hot club, forest of eyes

March 26, 2015 at 8:36 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Martin Klapper & Claus Poulsen, Rogaland Hot Club – Og Senere Pa Eftermiddagen / Rogaland Styrende Organer (tape, Gold Soundz, GS#125, edition of 25)

Star Turbine – Alterations (CD-r, SKRAT Records, skr-017)

Forest of Eyes – Leaf Litter (CD-r or download, self-released)

RFM Poulsen_Klapper 2

Martin Klapper & Claus Poulsen, Rogaland Hot Club – Og Senere Pa Eftermiddagen / Rogaland Styrende Organer

I picked this beauty up from the Goldsoundz gaucho himself Sindre Bjerga during his recent half-term jaunt to the UK with Claus Poulsen.  I’m always up for a trade but was doubly delighted to see the name Martin Klapper splashed across the carefully folded collage cover.  For me Martin’s sounds were an important entry point into an underground alternate reality where toys take a seat in the orchestra and accident holds an unreliable baton to conduct.

I asked Claus with my eyes ashine:

How did you hook up with the Klapper man?

and

Martin?  He lives round the corner from me,

…came the nonchalant reply from Claus.

Good golly!  I almost ran home to jam this silvery prize right there and then but resisted like a good human and took my time.

The seven short tracks from Klapper/Poulsen are total knockabout junk-core of the highest order. No moment is left un-squirmed.  The pace is busy like a chicken-pox itch with layers of ‘huzzzzz’, ‘hok-ko-kok’ and ‘charrrr’ expertly mixed so it’s almost tumbling into chaos but pulls itself back from the brink every time.

The attendant floppings are not in any way naive or frivolous.  Using toys, doo-dahs and soft furnishings in your music is no easy option.  You’ve got to search the possibilities as lovingly as any extended technique merchant.

The stop-start, juddering of micro-musical moments ticks my Tom & Jerry box in thick black marker.  It’s delightful to surrender to the ‘quacks’ and belches letting my brain process this particular Technicolor moment, and another, and another, and another until the grey stuff is left panting and fagged out.

I will never tire of this approach.  It’s the very sound of spontaneous invention for heaven’s sake!  It gives me the same warm glow as discovering that the sonorous snoring behind me is actually the start of a vintage Usurper or Drenching jam randomly selected for my rusty earbuds.  Turn on, Tune in, Flop out.

Rogaland Hot Club are another name I’ve wanted to catch up with for a long while now.  A Norwegian super-group (Sindre Bjerga, Anders Gjerde and Pål Asle Pettersen) made up of only Ginger Bakers this 21 minute collage of live/non-live jams all smeared together is a master class in group improvisation.  Most of us agree that music is a social activity and, as a result, the interactions between individuals in groups are one rich area of both business and pleasure.

The Hot Club play on the skronk, the sound of overloaded equipment peaking redly and knead it into unselfish group moaning and caterwauls; a King Midas of agonies hawked out by specially trained sea lions, so close you can almost smell their fishy rewards.

At the 9 mins 30 mark exactly the scene changes to a surviving audience recording of Suicide’s only Scandinavian date.  Those tricky voltage differences pitched all their Casio beats too low for a US crowd but it was perfect for the winter walkers who break out the hjemmebrent to dance like their sensible shoes are covered in foul-smelling glue.   A paddle-puddle-battle takes the place of an interval until the show gets closed by the cops, hauling in their own sound system playing Barrington Levy at ear splitting volume – backwards – as they take turns to ‘singjay’ the pages and pages of overtime claims in a newly discovered Atlantian dialect, incomprehensible to us land dwellers.

One lone voice remains, spoiling the ballots in a confused tone.

Gosh…this is one heady rush.  Available in tiny quantities; there’s only 25 copies in the whole wide world.  Move swiftly my dear reader, move with sureness and speed or let this opportunity pass you by forever.

RFM Star Turbine

Star Turbine – Alterations

This upstanding duo of Sindre Bjerga and Claus Poulsen have come a long way in the last few years. Their collective name Star Turbine is well chosen as their first set of recordings were very much the sound of the ion drive, the Dylithium raga and ‘Set the controls for the heart of the sun’ omni-chord workouts.  But all things change, even in the field of deep space research, and in 2015 we hear a very different sound-world pumping from Claus and Sindre’s sci-fi drone pipes.

The two live pieces that make up this ‘tour only’ disc are real heavy journeys into the unknown.  The lengthier ‘Leiden’ starts in the foothills of some imagined country and hikes carefully up a frozen mountain.  Electrick brooks, bubbling happily down below, become ferocious and dangerously sly underfoot the further you climb.  The pretty, crisp frost gets deeper and sloppier until each boot crunch sends up explosive plumes of fine white dust, peppering the air with paranoia and panic spores.  The trees, naturally, become spare and sparse.  The odd rough limb points skywards, blackened against the snow pointing an accusing finger to some jealous deity in the clear night sky.

And then… it’s all calm.  The occasional goat bell chimes mournfully and echoes across the valley.  Your shortwave radio picks up astronaut interference; they could be reciting poetry or sending a panic-flaming SOS, but you’re too worn out from the day’s exertions to really care.  The ‘clicks’ and ‘burrs’ of speech just manage to fight through the static, lulling you to sleep to dream of Spanish guitars played with lobster claws and melting butter.

‘Dawn Voyage’ seems to pick up the journey mid-dream with that familiar ‘same but different’ trick my subconscious loves to play on me.

Skip loads of the river bed silt are brushed and combed by some gently purring machine.  For hours it labours, occasionally letting out a gasp of steam or erotic sigh of pleasure.  By morning the silt has all gone, processed away and the machine slowly unfolds, like a lotus flower, to reveal a small statue of Niels Bohr shimmering like some solid state disco ball.  Steve Lacy asks to borrow my headphones then complains loudly they are not the Beats he expected.  I wake up with a question on my lips…

forest of eyes - leaf litter

Forest of Eyes – Leaf Litter

If you check out the link to this beguiling new record from Forest of Eyes you’ll notice Mark Wardlaw’s mission statement for his FoE project:

Rescuing folktronica from the blahs

After a good old listen to this collection of songs and environments, at home and on the move, I can conclude that ‘yes’ Mark has accomplished this mission.  Folktronica consider yourself rescued!

But Leaf Litter does so much more than that.  Forest of Eyes has re-engaged the underground ‘folk’ debate to such a new level he demands a fresh chapter in Electric Eden.

Sure enough you have the sound of wide skies, painful loneliness and horizontal grey sleet recorded direct to mobile phone.  Yup…you’ve got medieval instrumentation: your dulcimers, your fiddles your concertinas and of course your good old bowed psaltery.

But this very ordinary looking disc takes the sonic disturbance of folk (the jarring frequencies in voice and subject matter, the stubby finger in the ear) and overlays them with a carefully attuned appreciation of the everyday noise of life.  It does this in two distinct ways.  Firstly there are the songy-songs tinkered with gently, ribbed for your pleasure.

But a new world is opened with the longer pieces.  They tip their hat to the traditional song form of course but quickly kick its shins with a steel-toed clog.  But it’s not leg pain that keeps you awake at night; it’s the mead-based Mickey that you can’t quite forget.  The deft shift of brain waves that calls you back for more over the freezing hills.

So first the songs: the scene is set with an apocalyptic instrumental ‘Regeneration Scheme Cancelled’ – a choir of thin keening tones played on a tortured dulcimer and pipe contraction (the atomically powerful bombard perhaps) making medievalists weep with its delicious modern primitive style.

You want a murder ballad?  Well all you Nick Cave types take note to check out ‘Edward’, a cyclical tale that sets a new low for misery with its plaintive verse over a deep breathing drone.  Both beautiful and disturbing.

And the father’s lament ‘Weary Cutters’ is sung a capella with a forlornness that’s magnified by its cliff hanging ending.  There’s no happy ever after feeling… it just tails off into an agonising emptiness.

So what’s left?  These are the meaty chunks…

Riot batons crash against police shields in a direct act of provocation to open ‘Strike Breaking Bastards’ a stunning, but very grimy, very cellular song-within-a-song that seamlessly incorporates the traditional Blackleg Miner with the sort of clank you’d expect on a Prick Decay record and the aforementioned politically-tinged faux field recording.  This is brave work!

A brief noise interlude that begins ‘Poachers Killing Police’ clears the head with a sharp and creaking concertina and explosive machine-breaking, then words courtesy of North Yorkshire Police add a social commentary that’s far more powerful and thought-provoking than any Dog-on-a-string nonsense. (Baton down the hatches Ed – that’s bound to upset the punk primadonnas [Editor’s note: not fussed]).

I’m pretty sure this is turning out to be a god-damn IMPORTANT record before I even sip on the final, black psychedelic slush of ‘Mouldering Vine’.  This is an hypnotic and nauseously overlapping tune that’s as truly twisted as a Sun City Gurls ram-jam spliced with Richard Youngs’ innocent weirdness (Lake era).  The killer fade-out, like a pale sun disappearing over a damp horizon, is the perfect melancholic masterstroke.

—ooOoo—

Gold Soundz

Skrat Records (yes, the disc was ‘tour only’ but no harm in asking…)

Forest of Eyes

unplayed, unheard, unfinished: michael clough, joseph curwen, namke communications

March 25, 2015 at 8:35 pm | Posted in art, musings, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Michael Clough – unplayable 7” vinyl art object in cardboard sleeve (plus various miniMA publications)

Joseph Curwen – Lurking Fear (self-released download)

namke communications – 365/2015 (ongoing self-released download)

clough - unplayable 2clough - unplayable 1

Up in my well-appointed office I sink into a white leather sofa and swirl the ice in my whisky glass in time to the racket emanating from downstairs. My underlings are joyously singing along to the latest Stuart Chalmers tape whilst chipping away at the cultural coalface. I want to join them but you know how it is when the boss sits in… Hmmm… maybe I’ll do some work on the long-promised aetheric/Invisible City round-up, I say to myself, then jump as a polite cough from my beautiful Turkish manservant (how long has he been standing there?!) directs my attention to several releases from both labels that have joined the pile since I last picked up the pen. Ah, next week perhaps… How about some editing then? Strewn across the marble desktop is the latest submission from Joe – a series of potato prints in primary colours apparently inspired by Jazzfinger – accompanied by an expenses claim for 40 litres of latex glue. I asked him about this earlier and he just looked up from his Spirograph, beamed that irresistible grin, shouted:

IT WAS NEEDED!

…and bounced into the grounds on his space hopper, high-fiving a startled Chrissie on his way. Perhaps I should look at this later…

It is a sadly inevitable trajectory: lone genius embarks on a project of enormous worth and significance, is overwhelmed by the love and success it attracts, hires staff happy to be paid in karma to help with the workload then is shunted, slowly but inexorably, into an administrative role. What should I do when I want to write but have little time to adequately listen to the object of that writing? The answer, of course, is to review three releases that are (almost) literally unlistenable.

Objects by Michael Clough

Pictured above is an intriguing object received from old friend and extraordinary artist Michael Clough. My love for this man and his work does not need repeating – I simply urge you visit his Soundcloud page, his tumblr account and to track down his every release. Your life will be enriched as a result. OK, what we have here is an anonymized and repackaged vinyl 7″ single onto which Clough has inked a narrative with silver pen, thus rendering it unplayable. Both sides have been decorated in this manner, two different stories. Clough offered his own explanation in some accompanying notes:

The first in a series I’m planning of altered records.  The ‘concept’ is alluding to rare records (remember way back, when some items attained legendary status, and second-hand shops were scoured in the hope of spotting one?).  Also reviews in mags raving about things, only to lead to disappointment when actually hearing said item.  Sometimes what one imagined the record to be like outshone the article itself – the power of words to evoke a sense of what music may sound like.  Object fetishism: this is a record you can have, imagine, but never hear – produced in such limited runs that the chance of obtaining one is almost zero.

It’s a wry take on the obsessions of the collector, an ironic (and nostalgic) nod to pre-internet scarcity and a subtle, entertaining and personal take on the odd relationship between music and the reams of text written about it.  Like much of Clough’s art, macro-simplicity masks micro-complexity (try saying that after a few) meaning that under a cool, minimal surface the attentive will find an undulating mesh of smart, rigorous thinking and absorbing detail.

As further illustration, a handful of beautifully produced ‘zines’ containing Clough’s art came in the same package, self-published by his miniMA imprint. These document his ‘totems’ series for scanner and photocopier in which jiggling the source material as these technologies do their thing creates strange alien symmetries and haunting instances of pareidolia (yes, I was so impressed I went and looked up the proper word). Further examples can be seen reproduced in recent issues of The Barrel Nut here and here.  Essential stuff.

joseph curwen - lurking fear

Joseph Curwen – Lurking Fear

Next we have an album that is perfectly listenable in principle but practically unlistenable in my current circumstances due to it being twelve fucking hours long.

Back when I could often be found standing on an allotment, leaning on a spade and staring contemplatively at redcurrant bushes I reviewed an album a mere nine hours long, having listened to every second of it over a few days. Now: forget it. I have not the time, energy or attention span to make such a commitment. This is a shame as what I’ve heard of Joseph Curwen’s previous output is cosmic (see, for example, Scott’s review of a tape on Cruel Nature Records here). Their H.P. Lovecraft obsession is more than window dressing – these cats (of ulthar?) can really lay down a cyclopean drone, twelve hours of which would be more than sufficient to soundtrack, say, the raising of a sunken nightmare corpse-city from the depths of the Pacific.

I wondered whether ‘dipping in’ would suffice for purposes of review but decided that would be shamefully half-arsed. This had to be all or nothing, I decided, thus: nothing. I offer a wholehearted recommendation of this album whilst admitting to not hearing a moment of its 720 minutes. Perverse, I know, but then…

What language can describe the spectacle of a man lost in infinitely abysmal earth; pawing, twisting, wheezing; scrambling madly through sunken convolutions of immemorial blackness without an idea of time, safety, direction, or definite object?

Indeed.

There is perhaps a discussion to be had about how the internet and, in particular, gateway services like that of Bandcamp have refashioned what can be considered an ‘album’.  What seemed like the ‘natural’ length for a piece of recorded music whilst I was growing up has been shown to be nothing but an artifact of the media used to contain it.  I wonder what pioneers of the hypnotic groove like Morton Feldman and La Monte Young would have done with the opportunity.

namke - 365-2015

namke communications – 365/2015

Finally we have another album which exploits Bandcamp’s fluidity.   365/2015, by old-friend-of-RFM John Tuffen in his namke communications guise, is unlistenable in the sense that it cannot be heard in its entirety as it is still being recorded and won’t be finished for another nine months. However – get this – it is already available for download. What John is doing, 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 as the calendar marches on.

This isn’t an Aphex Twin style dumping of offcuts, 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. I suspect by the end of the year John will have had to reinvent music just to keep himself sane. He has taken to tweeting a brief description of the day’s work and one of the pleasures of this project is the opportunity that affords for the curious bystander to poke it with a stick. For example, in response to John copying me into a tweet about a guitar drone track he thought might appeal to me, I replied:

@namke_ heard this now, good and chewy. Thinking of writing up yr project alongside an unplayable 7″ single I’ve been sent. Two extremes…

…and added, with regards to the project as a whole:

@namke_ it’s insane but I wish you luck. Looking forward to months where each track is a version of 4’33” with you sobbing in background…

…which tickled John and led to all of February’s tracks being field recordings with the duration 4 minutes and 33 seconds. In an era of desperate, endless hi-fi reissues of any album revered as a sacred text it is ice-bath-refreshing to be able to alter the course of a recording with a joke.

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 – more fun than The Archers, guaranteed.

—ooOoo—

Michael Clough

Joseph Curwen

namke communications

pride of the potteries: sophie cooper on saboteuse, subs(cribers) and stoke on trent

March 23, 2015 at 4:52 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Saboteuse – Death, Of Course (CD-r, Poot Records)

Subs(cribers) – Finger Fighting Basics For The Socially Inept (CD-r or download, self-released)

saboteusesaboteuse 2subs(cribers) - finger fighting

The City of Stoke on Trent is a place that on the surface looks to be completely dead. The town of Stoke itself has a High Street consisting of a few charity shops, boarded up failed businesses and an occasional nasty looking pub.  It doesn’t look like much is going on but, if we delve a bit deeper, there is evidence that the city is on the cusp of a renaissance: art will save this place. In September 2014 arts organisation B-Arts received a whopping grant to develop their vision of Stoke on Trent as ‘Art City’, aiming to induce a positive change in how the city’s cultural profile is viewed. Activities are already taking place: B-Arts themselves have taken over a giant warehouse close to all those boarded up establishments and will offer cheap studio and exhibition space for artists to use, last year Supersonic organisers took over Hanford Park and presented a day’s festival, outdoor performance organisers Appetite have put on a series of free events across the towns bringing new work to locals and AirSpace Gallery in Hanley continues to curate fantastic contemporary art exhibitions in a disused Post Office building. These are just a handful of activities that I know about.  Stoke is a place to watch and deserves this attention after having its original industry so brutally treated.

Radio Free Midwich is a music blog, of course, so what of the music scene in Stoke? The city has an interesting musical past and today when I look to its experimental fringes I see individuals from the area creating music and art largely because of an instinctual need to do so.  I’m so thankful for this scene because, as I grew up in Stoke amongst constantly creative people, it taught me not to sit about and do nothing with my time. There’s a hell of a lot of talent in the Potteries and for now I would like to draw your attention to the following two releases.

Saboteuse – Death, Of Course

This CD-r came out sometime in 2014 on Poot Records and I’ve got to say, I find it a bit irritating that I didn’t know about this release until Joincey gave a copy to me personally in February this year. As the sleeve notes bear no mention of Poot Records at all I assumed it was self released but Joincey informed me otherwise. If you enter this title into a search engine it does pop up on Discogs and if you have a nose about there (and in the rest of the Poot Records catalogue) you’ll see that Luke puts out some awesome titles.  I just can’t help but wish more people were able to know about this stuff when it first comes out.

Saboteuse is a duo of Andy Jarvis and Joincey. The pair have been making music together for a long time and it just gets better and better. Death, Of Course opens with ‘Yearning, “Rosebud”’, which is a brilliantly savage introduction.  Starting with a quiet beat, like slow footsteps going into a dark cave, dirty looped bass then lays a foundation for a barely in control electric guitar ‘solo’ that sounds like it’s being beaten to pieces to make way for a clattering percussive ending. It’s terrifying.  The sound puts you on edge and I can’t imagine anything I would like to find less during a cave exploration than the creatures summoned by this track.

On ‘Cheeking the other turn’ instrumental melodic lines interject, perfectly complementing the lyrics delivered by Joincey who loops words and sings over the top of them. It is difficult to work out what the words are about but I know they can’t be meaningless as the whole record has a strong sense of control over chaos. On ‘Blackened Pool’ the lyrics are more audible but still completely surreal:

I think I can take this heat because I’m wearing the white hat, which side are you on now? Cinnamon bagel, raisin bagel.

I’ve been listening to this record intently since I got it trying to work out what the lyrics mean but have got nowhere.  It doesn’t matter though because this is the language of the Saboteuse world: better to just listen in.

What I find most interesting about this release is how smartly some songs segue into one another. It’s a “I wish I’d thought of that” moment between ‘Burying Yourself on a Desert Island’ and ‘You, Holding My Breath’ where the two tracks become one and a natural break eventually comes part way through the second. It reveals a well thought out and really intelligent approach to the construction of this record.

Saboteuse produce consistently innovative and compelling music.  I can only hope that eventually some clever, fancy record label will cotton on to their brilliance and sort them out with the flash release they deserve.

Subs(cribers) – Finger Fighting Basics For The Socially Inept

The first time I saw The Subs play live was at their ‘comeback gig’ at Andy Jarvis’ hen do a couple of years ago in Stoke. This was Marky Loo Loo’s first time performing with Mika De Olivera on additional vocals and I’ll admit, I didn’t really get it at that point. I was nursing a particularly monstrous hangover after drinking too much gross lager in Newcastle’s The Full Moon the previous evening and just wasn’t in the right mood to understand the band. I mentioned this to Joincey who advised me not to be so dismissive because this was Mark’s “life’s work”. It wasn’t until I heard Finger Fighting Basics For The Socially Inept that I got what he meant.

Finger Fighting Basics For The Socially Inept was self-released on Valentines Day this year. It could just be a coincidence but I like to think of this album as a gesture of love towards Subs fans and to themselves. You couldn’t make this type of beautifully cute pop without being completely into it and the entertaining good times that come with it. There’s an ecstatic energy throughout the album that celebrates the overriding mission of creating joy for themselves and their listeners. It must have been so much fun to have made this.

Paradoxically, despite all this love and happiness the subjects covered by The Subs are dark and macabre and even death gets playfully joked about. My favourite track has got to be ‘A Day Out With The Aphids’ which on the surface comes over as a super sweet, toe tapping, pop tune but when you listen to the lyrics the aphids aren’t having such a great time: “what will the future hold? Death under plimsoll”. There’s a lightly morbid theme that runs throughout the album, I mean, light in the sense that the music is so blimming upbeat and happy that it takes your attention away from the grim subject matter. Check out these titles: ‘Killed By A Bath Nap’ (genius), ‘Next Spring You Will Die’ (charming) ‘Necro Supermarket’ (what??) ‘Dead Mans Jeans’ (where Mark picks up some new clothes from the local cemetery) and you know what, these songs are DEAD funny! Dark matter presented in rainbow wrapping paper, how could I have not seen how amazing this band were before? Is The Subs’ “Life’s Work”, to bring joy to all who listen? To remind us that it’s OK to just have a laugh sometimes? They are doing very well if so.

So there you have it, two contributions to the sound of Stoke on Trent – “Art City” in the making. I wish the place the very best.

—ooOoo—

Poot Records [Editor’s note: yeah, good luck with that.  Be resourceful though – it’s worth it.]

Subs(cribers)

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

turkey

cables: untangled by marlo eggplant and benjamin hallat

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

rammel club flyer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[D-C]- by pieterLastIMG_2826

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

johnmacedo - by pieterLast johnmacedosetupIMG_2861

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

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

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

ianwatson-by pieterLast

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

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

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

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

I just got drunk after that!

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

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

dalecornish - by pieterLast

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

party music

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

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

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

mel by Pieter LastIMG_3068

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

philjulian by Peter K rollings phillyj

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

trans-human

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

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

—ooOoo—

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

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