Tags: amateur shoegaze, cam, constellation tatsu, crow versus crow, dictaphonics, emblems of cosmic disorder, feedback, grey guides, improvisation, joe murray, karl mv waugh, noise, skrat records, slayer, stuart chalmers, tape loops
Stuart Chalmers – In the Heart of Solitude (Constellation Tatsu)
Karl M V Waugh – Future Glows (Emblems of Cosmic Disorder)
Grey Guides – Beast Mask Supremacist (Crow versus Crow)
CAM – Mirror Confrontations (Skrat Records)
Stuart Chalmers – In the Heart of Solitude (Constellation Tatsu) cassette and Bandcamp download
Don’t know if it’s just me but this appears to be the perfect winter cassette of glum collisions. Imagine bad thoughts reverberating inside your skull; the sounds bounce and amplify and leave a sooty fingerprint. You shake your head but the dust remains however low and mellow the sun.
Regular readers will know Stuart manipulates tapes and tape loops with a sparse pedal set-up, mighty fists, secret knowledge and magical skill. But this time it’s not just the loopology that takes the starring role, it’s the singular tape content that snaps like an arrowroot biscuit.
Here Stuart uses Indian Swarmandal tapes pretty much exclusively for his palette adding a layer of glittering resonance and magnetic space to each gentle track.
The dulcimer-like tones vibrate and twang, sour as brass but with an unmistakable air of mystery. “Just what is behind those beaded curtains?” They seem to whisper, while a be-jewelled finger beckons you through a hidden door into a room heavy with musk.
I’m transported (can’t you tell?) but you need facts eh reader? The killer stand-out, the magnum opus has to be ‘reflection’. It shimmers like a Bagpuss episode viewed through sepia-specs. It builds slowly and metallically, fine interlocking coils spiralling ever tighter and tighter until sonic shrapnel bursts rudely from the shell.
There’s a slight panic, a speeding edge that propels each track into momentary discomfort. And it’s that intersection between mystic enlightenment and dangerous toppling that makes me come back again and again to this wonderful little tape.
OH YEAH…While we’re talking I’ve got to give an honourable mention to Tlon a fruity collaboration between Stuart Chalmers (cassette/pedals) and Liam McConaghy (synths). It’s now sold out in this realm but available for all you millennials on digital (e.g. not really there) editions. It’s boss alright but gone, gone, gone.
Karl M V Waugh – Future Glows (Emblems of Cosmic Disorder) Cassette and Bandcamp Download
Ultra atmospheric, lichen creeping from the South Coast’s very only K M V Waugh.
Lengthy opener ‘Fire snow (i), fire snow (ii), fresh grow’ stretches out as slow as bone growth. It starts slow and ends slow yet visits several distinct intervals on the journey: Meredith Monk on the Woodbines, bummed Didgeridoo guffs and the Electric Spanking (of war babies?).
Things grow darker on the even lengthier ‘Future glow (ii), final gravity’ that matches John Carpenter’s percussive judders over Space Odyssey’s floating-backwards-through-the-monolith-with-rainbow-brite-whurrrring . The disembodied voice offers no comfort.
Designed for the sort of snitchy mediation we can expect in today’s topsy-turvy world.
A statement? Perhaps. A coping mechanism? Very much so.
Plug in and remain alert!
Grey Guides – Beast Mask Supremacist (Crow versus Crow) Tape and bandcamp download
Encased in a top-notch Andy Wild photo-collage-art-piece (slate grey of course) this tape just fucking drips quality.
The Grey Guides hail from Morley outta Leeds and concentrate that satellite town dislocation that those city slickers just can’t replicate. The exquisite weirdness of the suburbs runs through this tape like mould in a stinky cheese.
The instrumentation is sparse. A gentle roaring (sounding rather like The Cramp’s Poison Ivy practising over in the next parish) becomes a backdrop over which indistinct keys, fetid tape grot and soft Dictaphone squelches hover on opener ‘One Eye Lower Than the Other’
The next two tracks, ‘Millipede in a Doll’s House’ and ‘Mushroom Heads are Turning’ are surely designed to spook; they come across like a Yorkshire Dead C with their sound-on-sound fullness, their squished-sonic wrongness. Black reverb ripples across backmasked guitar and throb in a fair approximation of a tape player actually throwing up; brown ribbons spiralling out, collecting in sticky ferric pools. It all ends in a grim repetition which baffles against broken ancient machinery. A woven howl (now sounding like a 16th generation tape of Kerry King’s amp fizz) smears as Gerhard Richter, using only charcoal tones and coal dust, comes up with his next masterpiece.
‘Just Burned Down a Care Home’ starts with some s-w-e-e-t tape-juggling, thumb on the soft pause squealing out fractured speech while that dude out the Cocteau Twins wonders why all his pedals now sound like elephant seals huffing petrol fumes.
Massed tape séance-traps are forced open on ‘Van Hoogstraten’s Big Pay Back: Gorton Poltergeist Revisited’ leaking thick magnetic ectoplasm with a “whurrr, whhorrr, whurrrr” rattling like an unsteady wind. It’s heady like good brandy.
Several ghostly interruptions later we happen upon the rarest of beasts, a No-Audience Underground cover version of a real-live tune (x2). The Grey Guides join the dots, reversed of course, between The Can and The Fall from a barely perceptible start; the faintest of pulses through to a garage-rock-recorded-through-codeine-infused-marshmallow finale.
I finally collapse to the unruly jaxx of ‘The Unlovely Acolyte Anointed at Last’ – Sidney Bechet clarinet played on Satan’s mouthparts and wonder. “Is this what passes for entertainment in Morley right now? “
Yeah it is?
Book me on the Mega bus boys…I’m coming down to jam!
These long-timers, Denmark’s enigmatic CAM, share six electronic improvisations with us on this classy vinyl offering.
It’s a noble three-piece set-up with Claus Poulsen, Anders Borup and Mads Bech Paluszewski-Hau on an encyclopaedic array of tapes, synth, processing, objects, things, toys, electronics and improbable occult practices.
Keen RFM-spotters will recognise the name Claus Poulsen from his work with Star Turbine (a duo with Sindre Bjerga – on tour in the UK late Feb/early March) but this is a very different animal to their ion-drive grit. CAM specialise in fast-moving tripod dialogue, texture and split-tooth wrangles ya’ hear.
The spirit of Northern Europe Improv is strong with strains of cold-dark hiss, low-frequency gloop and singular vocal hummings woven together in pan of steaming mind-think.
The six tracks on this el-pee make these impressions on my Swiss-cheese mind.
- Squiffy beats ba-da-bump like Saaaaalllllt n’ Peppppper over a humpin’ vox (heavy on a delay). Snatches of field-recorded atmosphere are tucked up nice with an analogue-warm wave; reverse-hissing seems to be become a new Olympic discipline as breath gets sucked out a puckered pair of lips.
- More moaning: a creaky bridge caught up in high wind. The cables sing sorrow in a thousand different voices. The damp thump of workboots crossing the swollen planks adds a steady beat. But what’s that I hear? The dreams of the factory workers hoping for sunnier Spring days.
- Uncertain hymns via Robert Wyatt’s fractured, dust-dry larynx. There’s a real Rockbottom vibe with that watery keyboard (a gift from Julie Christie) lapping gently at your stubby toes. The oyster grit comes in the form of treble-heavy child chatter and bubbling electronic slime.
- Primary tones/chalk sliding over wet slate/Babbit-bobble/wrenched petroleum
- Confrontations in the afternoon, seeping prose and dramatic static ripples – don’t go chasing waterfalls.
- Mind-over-matter becomes a group practice. Three individual voices hum the theme from ‘The Bridge’ in different timezones, accents and languages so voice two arrives before voice one and voice three has an acidic hangover. Deep as an oil well and twice as sticky.
OK Travellers…a reliable signpost might say Supersilent but I reckon these dudes are looser and, without doubt, DIY to the core.
Memories reworked and remembered again: Sophie Cooper on Anla Courtis and Vollar/Murray Tag Team on Culver versus Fordell Research UnitFebruary 6, 2017 at 2:50 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
Tags: alan courtis, anla courtis, argentina, culver, drone, field recording, fordell research unit, heavyness, joe murray, luke vollar, noise, sophie cooper
Anla Courtis – Antofagasta (Beartown Records) CD
I’ve wanted to listen to the music of Anla Courtis for ages after reading that big article about him in The Wire, so I was thrilled to see this new CD by him on the Midwich review pile released by Beartown Records.
And a bloody good job of it they’ve done too!
I know Beartown for their distinctively packaged tapes mostly; high contrast photography, photocopied in black and white sleeves and this packaging carries on this artistic precedent but takes it to a very pro looking level. The artwork features Courtis’ own blurry shots of scenic views, which I assume, are of the area of Argentina that the music is concerned with.
The CD comes with a sweet ‘cut out and keep’ style individual photograph and a nice reworking of one of Courtis’ images treated with the Beartown technique. Really great work, I’m surprised they only printed 50 of these but anyway…
The music contained within this lovely packaging has been created using Courtis’ cassette-made field recordings dating back to 1998. According to the sleevenotes these were then sat on for almost 10 years, made into something else, and then were left for almost another 10 years until Beartown released them. Lucky for us that they did.
Recorded in an area of Argentina called Antofagasta these 4 long tracks depict intricate and meditative recollections of place. I was thinking it must be really interesting to come back to recordings made of a place so long after the event and then try to rework them into something totally different. For me, sound evokes memory. If anything is going to transport you back it’ll be a sound (or a smell, I’ve experienced this once or twice) and I wondered how much of the original trip Courtis would have actually remembered aside from what he heard on these tapes.
After such a long time does memory have anything to do with it anymore? Can the sound just be treated as what it is, a sound, or would the memories come rushing back and be important enough again to inform the piece? The track titles are named after the area, 1, 2, 3 and 4 . Are we to imagine Antofagasta based on this music?
Don’t get me wrong though, these are not postcards, nor are they straight-up field recordings. Interesting elements of the recordings have been weeded out, changed and manipulated into retellings of events. On the 4th track Courtis has utilised every field recordist’s nightmare, wind, and transformed it into a whirling sound tornado, a windy nightmare!
It’s not all nightmarish however, scraps and pulls of objects layered up and played back repeatedly form lush sonic dreams, track 3, in particular, is beautiful. From an outsider’s perspective, the 1st track is the one most likely recognised as an original event. You can make out man made noises: vehicle sounds, revs of engines and distant voices.
As the CD progresses it feels as through you slowly lose a sense of reality as those first recordings become more fragmented and obscure.
Memories reworked and remembered again.
Culver: Prisoner of F.R.U (Know Your Enemy) Limited edition cassette and Bandcamp Download
My Word! This collaboration tape from Edinburgh’s Fordell Research Unit messing freely with and augmenting Gateshead’s Culver was always going to be a heavy example of neat sarcophagus music – but I wasn’t expecting 4AD-levels of such beautiful fullness.
It is not the first time that Culver and Fordell Research Unit have joined forces; indeed Fraser Burnett (FRU) has made no secret of his admiration of the deep influence that Culver has played in his own music. As someone who has followed both acts for some time now I would propose that this is (if it ever was) not an unequal balance, Lee is no longer sensei to Frasers clumsy roundhouses, more of an equal partner who can stand back, solemnly running his fingers through his beard as Fraser executes an impeccable routine of high kicks, deadly punches and overall karate Zen whilst illuminated in the copper glow of a setting sun.
Fraser is joined on this project by sometime member Grant Smith, another Edinburgh gonk serving times in Muscletusk (Yeah!) and Shareholder (Hell Yeah!). It has been told that the two pored over the encrypted texts from the North East whilst enshrouded in intoxicating vapours, being sure to keep their chalices full at all times.
And so as the mission was passed onto Fraser so must it now be passed onto Grant if he is ever to grasp the weight of this devotional music. Whether in collaboration with Fraser or by himself; what we hear is Fraser standing back in admiration as the young Jedi levitates a series of metal bowls and discs in a room of deep red velvet amidst shrouds of sandalwood incense.
Sowatchyahearin’ ‘Torch Needles’ is a ripe fig glistening with fragrant, sticky juice // OR // It’s the silvery snakes in Donny Darko plunging through an eggy Turner painting. With a slow rudeness they show off their blubbery muscles. What we left with? A very flexible riot!
‘Weak Will’ and ‘What Does She Watch?’ are touched by a delicate vapour trail petrified then doused in dark glitter. Light is reflected back for sure but at eccentric, unnatural angles illuminating the dusty corners and forgotten stairwells of a cross channel ferry: a periphery of sound construction as dangerous and inviting as the below deck engineering.
The grim maritime theme continues in ‘Telepathic Torture’. A creaking nameless ship cuts through a freezing fog, as vile oily water laps mockingly at the crumbled veneer of the battered vessel. What remains of the crew stare with haunted and stricken eyes. They are little more than walking carcasses starved and half mad from many sea-bound days of cold misery. As the yellow acrid fog starts to part they see land in the distance, strange and unfamiliar but land none the less, perhaps it is here that the crew will find salvation though they know not where they are and how they came to be there…
Yikes! My first ever drone raga is revealed in the backwards-metallic-skullfuck of ‘Shark’. Those bass-clouds are looming, heavy and pregnant and once again the epithet ‘devotional’ stands out clearly. A submission to the one true god of drone!
But the enveloping hiss of ‘Head Serpent’ is a gentle closer. Soft tape micro-scribbles pepper and voosh about the place; presently an aching tone is gingerly inserted like a steel cannula until, in the dying seconds, it’s rudely wrenched out and the claret starts to drip, drip, drip.
A wise man once said,
“To understand the sounds that nourish the mind is to study the true path, to know truly what it is that you need, and what you don’t need, and to shed off the layers that weigh you down.”
Tags: depression, improv, new music, no audience underground, noise, robin foster, say cheese or die
Robin Foster – Shitty Noise Moon (download, say cheese and die)
Robin Foster – ADHD NEOWZ SCHWAB (download, say cheese and die)
Regular readers of this blog will know of my troubles with depression and, more lately, anxiety. I am suffering at the moment: what seemed at first to be a mild dose around Christmas took firm hold during four months of rolling physical illness and I am now proper fucked. A coincidental run of poor luck has only exacerbated matters. So what can I do? Hmmm… I know! I’ll count my blessings and cheer up.
Any fellow sufferer will shudder and/or crack a rueful smile at that last line. Heartfelt sympathy from the well intentioned is often harder to deal with than simple, uncaring ignorance. Any antediluvian HR idiot who tries that ‘well, we all get tired’ bullshit gets a curt and well-rehearsed critical beatdown from me and is banished from the room with a face like a well-slapped arse. But what do you say to a friend or loved one who is genuinely, if ham-fistedly, trying to help:
You have so much to live for! Your life is great!
…yeah, and yet I feel like this so why go on?
But what to you have to be depressed about?!
…you are mixing up two meanings of the word. I’m not depressed about something, I’m ill. Would you ask someone with diabetes what they have to be diabetic about?
…and so on. I’ve had polite, firm-but-gentle versions of this conversation many times over the years and it is getting easier as understanding of the condition widens and deepens. However, just recently I’ve been acting on a revelatory suggestion from my counsellor: maybe I should acknowledge what I have to live for. Maybe I should count my blessings. Maybe I could even pussyfoot around the idea of ‘cheering up’…
The idea goes something like this. I can’t stop having these thoughts and feelings but I do have some control over how I react to them. Consciously fighting them off is one tactic but can prove counter-productive. The illness loves a pagga because even if I win it knows I’ll be in a weakened state for the return bout. Depression doesn’t mind playing a long game. Better perhaps to crowd it out, to fill the headspace available with more positive thoughts. It’s akin to the much debated tactic of ‘no-platforming’ a political opponent – sure, I can’t ban you from expressing abhorrent opinions but you won’t be doing it at my rally – and each time the grimness is denied and the positive celebrated the latter is reinforced. Conversations with my counsellor have followed this pattern:
So how have you been?
Well, mostly pretty bad, I’m afraid.
‘Mostly’, not all?
I guess there have been a few good things, amongst the bad thi…
Let me stop you there – tell me about those good things.
On my own I have, somewhat sheepishly I admit, been consciously, literally (even out loud sometimes) counting my blessings:
1. Anne and Thomas, 2. radiofreemidwich, 3. jam doughnuts…
It doesn’t work all the time but it feels like steps in the right direction – into the light, away from the dark….
*Phew*, anyway, forgive me, it helps to write it down. The 500 words above was meant to be a brief introduction to a few reviews of what could be called ‘joyful noise’ and an explanation of why I might be receptive to a bit of cheering up at the moment. Shall we crack on?
Robin Foster – Shitty Noise Moon & ADHD NEOWZ SCHWAB
The charming Robin Foster got back in touch at the start of the year to steer me towards his new Bandcamp site (all aliases are his) and introduce his notion of ‘Happy Harshcore’ which he described in an email as:
…basically harsh noise without the dead babies and Nazi themes.
I was tickled by this as his label is perilously close to ‘happy sadcore’, one of the mythical sub-genres that Chris Morris used to befuddle witless interviewees when talking about the mythical drug ‘cake’ on Brass Eye (I think). Heh, heh – every possibility in music will have its day. I downloaded a bunch and… lost them down the back of the hard-drive for six months. Mea culpa. Anyway, their rediscovery was at an opportune moment.
Shitty Noise Moon is eleven genre-spanning short tracks from Robin’s fun-fur lined studio. Kinda like one of my toddler’s energetic crayon drawings converted to electrostatic squigglecore. Like the chatter of noise-punk dolphins disgusted at the new age appropriation of their culture and reclaiming the sea for break-fin, blowhole-flaring racket – that dreamy sunset poster mum and dad are on can fuck off. Like groaning, out-of-phase EVP muttered by a spook bumping along the virtual fences of the Ghostbusters containment facility. Plenty to make the listener smile here – not least the invitation to join a recording of a family enjoying what sounds like a backyard display of home-made fireworks.
Despite the title, the seven tracks of noise improv that comprise ADHD NEOWZ are longer and at least as coherent (make of that what you will) as those on …Moon. Perhaps this album is its older brother, perhaps the Ritalin is starting to have some effect? A couple of these tracks are addled and Usurperish, some feature a nostalgic gristly throb. The best of it is paddling in electric foam burped onto the shoreline by a mysterious, glowing shipping container, crowbarred overboard by suspicious crewmen. You open a soggy document wallet bobbing in the surf and read ‘Caring for your Shoggoth’ at the top of the waterlogged paper. Urgh, what’s that fizzing into being in the jelly around your flip-flops? Eyes?! Teeth!! RUN!!!
Heh, well I thought it was funny and I am very grateful to Robin for the distraction. Plenty more where that came from, thankfully.
Tags: altar of waste, cory strand, domestic recording, drone, field recording, invisible city records, joe murray, luke vollar, midwich, new music, no audience underground, noise, screaming party, shameless self-congratulation, swifts, tapes
Midwich – The Swift (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR11, edition of 40 or download)
RFM is delighted to announce that The Swift by Midwich has been reissued by the essential Invisible City Records and is available as a beautifully packaged tape or convenient download.
The album was originally released as one 65 minute track on CD-r, presented in another beautifully designed cover in a tiny edition of 15, by highly-regarded American noise label Altar of Waste. Here is the very flattering blurb written by AoW head-honcho Cory Strand:
Gorgeous and tidal cascade of gentle droning sounds that become something akin to a crushing roar from the between the cracks in the sky and the broken limbs of trees, Midwich’s epic construction “The Swift” is a piece that flirts with both natural ambience and HNW severity without fulling giving over to either. Created from field recordings of swarms of swifts procured by the artist, the sounds here recall both the bleak pastoral harmony of the English landscape and the encroaching rumbles of black clouds swarming the sky. Similar in tone to the work of Richard Skelton with a goodly dose of Daniel Menche’s and Clive Henry’s approaches to manipulated field recordings, “The Swift” is an amazing composition that demonstrates both the awesome power of the natural world around us and the possibilities inherent within electronic manipulation. An incredibly creative work that blurs whatever genre lines you’d care to draw.
Altar Of Waste is very pleased to release this latest missive from one of the UK’s finest practitioners of underground drone. Succumb to the swarm and feel the tense beating of thousands of wings buzzing around you. Breathe in the awe.
My colleagues here at RFM dug it too. Joe said:
The Swift is a single hour long piece in three distinct movements.
Movement one: It starts like the soundtrack to ‘Evolution…The Movie’ as grey gloop is replaced by lazy cellular dividing and static, internal egg-memories. Things settle on Mothra’s mating ritual – long drawn-out breaths gradually moving out of synch as feathery lungs push huge volumes of air through Sperm Whale baleen.
Movement two: A rhythmic ticking and the clatter of ghostly forklift trucks start to creep in. The Swifts chirrup, skittering in the air warmed by the horny Mothra. Listeners note: this section accompanies the flock of stately wind turbines near Chesterfield spectacularly.
Movement three: The final five minutes heave like the tides, slowly encroaching on an abandoned city; washing through the deserted streets, clearing the human junk for a stronger, fitter civilisation floating slowly through the brine.
No question this is Rob’s most immersive and ambitious piece of Midwichery yet. You gotta have it!
..and Luke made it his album of the year:
Utterly sublime floating tones, get your cranky toddler off to sleep in minutes, limited to 15 copies only?! Madness.
Teacher’s pet, eh? The lad will go far. Positive comment written by those outside the RFM ‘office’ can also be found but, you may be surprised to learn, there are limits even to my vanity. You get the picture: it was well received and I am proud of it.
Despite the eye-watering cost of shipping copies from the USA, the edition sold out sharpish. I might have been happy to leave it there but I had one or two enquiries about reissuing it and, after falling in love with North East noise label Invisible City Records, I just couldn’t resist reaching out to label boss Craig Johnson and planting a seed. Given the catalogue already amassed it seemed like the perfect home for The Swift and, to my delight and relief, Craig agreed. The track has been carefully halved to accommodate the change in format and the new artwork captures the atmosphere of the piece exactly. It is a high quality item and, in my entirely trustworthy, un-conflicted, un-self-interested opinion, an essential purchase.
Finally, a word to those trusting souls who swapped hard cash for a copy of the original edition. If you are among that elite please forgive me for diluting the experience with a reissue and remind me of the fact when the Aqua Dentata CD-r on fencing flatworm drops later in the year. I’ll sort you out proper. If you are mad enough to buy both editions then as well as the Aqua Dentata CD-r I’ll see if I can secure you a freebie of the next midwich project which, in stark contrast, is likely to run 18 minutes and contain 12 tracks. Punk rock, eh? More news as it breaks, but for now…
Tags: crackle box, improv, lo-fi, new music, no audience underground, noise, patrick cain, phong tran, power moves label, tapes, true bedroom recordings
THE SHOUTS FROM THE SEA – s/t (tape, Power Moves Label, PML 010, edition of 53 or download)
The UK General Election result is a disaster. On a personal level, as a clerk employed in the public sector and suffering from a long-term, disabling medical condition, that’s me fucked. A few ‘challenging’ years ahead, no doubt. For society as a whole, well, there are many commentators far more astute, articulate and stronger-stomached than me picking apart the implications and the internet is awash with their analyses. Suffice to say I follow the Zanntone line when it comes to the Conservatives and their supporters. Ugh. Shall we throw open the windows, change the subject and hope to find some small solace in the work of our friends? Please.
Noise is a joyous, life-affirming, heart-bursting business. At least it can be – I know there is a reactionary old guard who insist that true underground noise has to be ‘transgressive’ and ‘confrontational’ but fortunately they are dying out (auto-asphyxiation accidents whilst wanking over Japanese bondage porn, mainly). Anyway, those cantankerous curmudgeons are, as ever, missing the point. In these troubled, jaded, cynical times what could be more revolutionary than heartfelt and sincere enthusiasm? Radical, eh?
Speaking of which, if friendliness and public displays of appreciation were crimes then Phong Tran would be trussed up like Hannibal Lecter on a day visit to the fava bean farm. Here the Washington DC based musician, digi-crate digger and twittervangelist for transcendental sound is joined by fellow traveller Patrick Cain and between them they tear it up over nine tracks of relentless noise improv.
The tagline of Power Moves Label, the host of this party, is ‘true bedroom recordings’ – a spirit that is gloriously represented by this release. Problem tooth? Can’t get an appointment at your dentist? Stick this on, lean your jaw against the speaker and the aching peg will be shaken out of your head before you flip to side B. In a tradition within lo-fi music stretching back to at least the 80s/90s tape underground there is no bass to these recordings – just a scouring, cleansing wash of electrostatic treble. I don’t know if this approach was a result of shonky recording equipment, choice of instrumentation (crackle box, prepared guitar, electronics etc.) or an artistic decision to simply not give a fuck. It doesn’t matter. Once recovered from the initial shock of the spanking, the listener’s cheeks begin to glow red with a warmth that is, *ahem*, strangely ‘stirring’.
Don’t expect a uniform chalk-white cliff-face though. Flinty protuberances catch the light and texture the skronk. The nine tracks are easily differentiated on repeat listens and there are gaps between them in order for you to clear your throat and straighten your tie before P&P crank it up again. At a couple of points the chaps even (almost) settle into what I believe is called a ‘groove’. Overall the album is like harsh, shade-defying, mid-morning Summer sunlight, come to boil away your hangover and leave you invigorated enough to consider restarting the session at lunchtime.
The last couple of seconds are noteworthy enough to merit their own paragraph. The racket cuts to an amused/bemused voice asking:
What are you guys doing?!?
…and Patrick or Phong replies:
Just playing music, heh, heh
…in the half-sheepish/half-defiant tone of an already stoned teenager who has been caught rolling a joint by his mum. Aww… busted! It is a beautifully self-deprecating celebration of bedroom recording and tickled me as hard as listening to Robert Ridley-Shackleton talk to himself as he struggles with his kit or, a favourite moment from back in the day, Rob Galpin audibly deciding to answer a ringing phone mid-track.
I chuckled as I repeatedly rewound this moment before flipping the tape. What was that tingling sensation cutting through the fug of depression? That sudden lightening of my spirit? Could it be? Yes, I think… Despite everything I just might be… Yes! It is! I… am… having… FUN!
Tags: council of drent, david birchall, dictaphonics, improv, joe murray, new music, no audience underground, noise, phillip marks, thf drenching
David Birchall, THF Drenching & Phillip Marks – The Ludic Clamp (CD, Council of Drent Recordings, CoD007)
MTHRFCKR! FSN HS BN DRTY WRD FR LNG TME. FCK STNL CLRK & HS BSS SL SHT. THS S TH RL DL FSN-WS. DPE S CDE MNY DD.
BRCHLL – GTRS: XPLSN, CRCKL & SQL. FST & RSPNSV. DRNCHNG –DCTPHNS: FFW SCR, FDBCK WHN & DFT THMB. TH GNRL. MRKS –PRCSSN: TNKL, CRSH & SNSTV FLTTR. CNG N TH CKE. SPR-FZZNG BLL F RMSHKL NRGY; LK WTHR RPRT XPLDD N CLD F CRSTL MTH!
FNS LKE BTCHS BRW? THRS SMLR VB & FL, GRT PLRS BNG LLWD T PL T TH TP F THR GME MTHRFCKRS!
CSCDNG CLTTR, SKTTR, N NSCTS N TH FRTZ. WHN TH GRP PPS RGHT LKE PP-TRTS TS N RGT HLLCNTN – PRWNS SHVR. WHSKRS TWTTR.
WHN BTFL STPS, MKNG SNS F LD PNTNGS JST DNT CT TH MSTRD – NW JGGD STHTC, SHRP S STR.
FRSH LKE RN-RCH SPNCH. RSPCTFL CHS.
DNT B SQR. BY BY BY AT CNCIL F DRNT.
Tags: andrew fearn, bird people, bridget hayden, c. joynes, claire potter, dervishes of khartoum, drone, electronica, extnddntwrk, fort evil fruit, free folk, improv, jose guerreo, new music, no audience underground, noise, rastrejo, sleaford mods, sophie cooper, tapes, the restless dead, ulrich rois
Bridget Hayden & Claire Potter – Mother To No Swimming Laughing Child (tape, Fort Evil Fruit, FEF036, edition of 100)
The Restless Dead and Bird People …Meet the Dervishes of Khartoum in the Confluence-of-the-Nile (tape, Fort Evil Fruit, FEF034, edition of 75)
Extnddntwrk – By (tape, Fort Evil Fruit, FEF035, edition of 100 plus download only extra tracks, second edition of 100 in preparation)
Rastrejo – Fractura de Miramientos (tape, Fort Evil Fruit, FEF033, edition of 75)
Bridget Hayden & Claire Potter – Mother To No Swimming Laughing Child
Mother To No Swimming Laughing Child is a new collaboration between author Claire Potter and musician Bridget Hayden that gives a voice to text from Potter’s 2014 publication Mental Furniture. On this tape, extracts from the text are read by Potter, combined with sounds from Hayden and the results are fascinating. This deeply considered union works to produce a very whole sound and together they inform the narrative rather than it being a straight forward ‘words read over the top of music’ approach. On ‘Still Woman Cold’ Potter reads the text in hushed tones and creaking floorboards are heard in the background giving the impression that she is hiding from whoever is making those sounds happen. It’s a difficult and unsettling listen but uniquely compelling.
Potter and Hayden address trauma and deflection during Mother To No Swimming Laughing Child. It’s hard to discuss trauma, both your own experiences and those of others. It’s difficult because in some cases people are so quick to hide what they are actually feeling rather than address things that are not OK, choosing to internalise the experience and protect others from hearing it, which is an easy way to hide from judgement. The track, ‘Brendan Brady’ is named after a tragic character from the soap opera Hollyoaks. Brady is a murderer, a drug dealer, an abusive partner, a typical bad guy who the writers of the show later revealed was the victim of incestual abuse. The album takes this, and other examples from the show, as source material through which to deliver the topic of trauma and projection of unknown events. In addition to the words, static, aggressive guitar and incidental sound are included maybe to mask the story and stuff it down the back of the sofa.
Given the topic, it’s not an easy listen. Someone described this tape as “distasteful” on Rate Your Music (my most hated music website) and although I disagree I can understand why they might have written that because bringing up subjects like abuse are considered distasteful by some. This is an uncomfortable subject but this tape doesn’t worry about that. I congratulate Potter and Hayden for broaching this issue and for creating one of the most intriguing and thought provoking recordings I’ve ever heard.
The Restless Dead and Bird People …Meet the Dervishes of Khartoum in the Confluence-of-the-Nile
The concept behind the creation of this release is really interesting. The story is that UK folk musician, C. Joynes, during one of his many travels round the world spent some time in Sudan where he recorded a weekly Sufi Dervish conference. These recordings provided the basis for this release which were dubbed over by two groups – Side A by a curious sounding improvising collective that operates as part of a commune in East Anglia called The Restless Dead and Side B by ever evolving Austrian free folk and drone collective Bird People. Bird People, for those who don’t know, are ‘fronted’ (I’m sure he wouldn’t like that word but for want of a better phrase…) by founder of Feathered Coyote Records, Ulrich Rois. Feathered Coyote and Fort Evil Fruit share a lot of common interests in the artists they work with (and the managers even look alike!) so the partnership makes sense.
Side A is probably the more successful in achieving a seamless collaboration between the Sufi recordings and the UK artist’s contributions. Listening carefully you can pick out additional out of tune guitars (I suspect homemade versions), drums, repeatedly bowed strings and percussive elements jamming along to the original recordings. The recording is respected and the ebb and flow of the piece is considered well within these jams resulting in a great, but not ragged, clatter.
Side B sees Bird People take the recordings and make something quite different with them, which I’m into. We hear gorgeous Indian instruments produce drones that accompany the Sufi singers but also come into their own throughout the 23 minute piece. At one point the drones perfectly match the volume of the original recording rising and falling then eventually leading to a point of silence before coming back to the vocalists, this time with even more drones and an audible banjo solo. This is brilliant and thoughtful music.
Extnddntwrk – By
Extnddntwrk, aka Andrew Fearn, is now best known as the guy who makes the music for Sleaford Mods but he has been making music since well before he joined Jason Williamson. I’m really pleased that he has started to release his own solo music again including this new one on FEF.
This huge collection of songs spans about an hour and a half (if you include the bonus tracks from the digital download) and a lot of ground is covered in that time. My first thought on hearing it was that it would make an excellent soundtrack to a futuristic horror film and in the way that some great horror soundtracks, like Marc Wilkinson’s Blood on Satan’s Claw for example, have an overarching theme running throughout so does By. This is seen not least in the track titles, which all have the word ‘by’ contained in them, but also in the grim, downbeat, and sometimes outwardly scary atmosphere these pieces conjure. I want to be the first to be told when the film to accompany this tape comes out.
On By Fearn employs a range of acoustic instrumentation and high quality production to evoke dark imagery. His computer generated beats are of a subtle brilliance that provide a base for a variety of other components including piano, harp, bells and worked-in field recordings to name just a few. Some of the tracks such as ‘By Myself’ sound like they could have been generated by lo-fi software. This track has a weird and unsettling melody line that wouldn’t be out of place if found in an early version of the video game Doom (wow, the memory of that game just made me shiver!). In another moody track, ‘Death by’, Fearn plays subtle guitar lines that complement light keys. I can’t get over how delicate this release is and what a stark contrast is it to the music Fearn makes in his other band! This is very intense work and shows Fearn to be an accomplished musician and producer.
Rastrejo – Fractura de Miramientos
Rastrejo is a new artist to me but a quick look at Jose Guerreo’s back catalogue reveals he has been involved in several projects in Valencia, Spain for a long time. Rastrejo serves as his experimental dance project and this release is really toe tapping. It’s a short but sweet affair, totalling only 19 minutes.
Guerreo uses stark drum machine patterns and sings in a dramatic way on ‘Malgastando’ before launching into a wild, droney, synth solo that all works really well. The fully-fledged songs that involve singing are definitely this album’s strongest point and these are sandwiched between other musical ideas. I kind of wish the release was a bit longer because the last track ‘Mercader de Sencillos + Ballesta sin Fisuras’, which seems be influenced heavily by Talking Heads particularly in the vocal delivery, is a real banger and it feels like the album really takes off at this point. Oh well. I’ll be checking out other music by Rastrejo for sure.
Tags: brian lavelle, drone, dust unsettled, extraction music, hairdryer excommunication, ian watson, kevin sanders, new music, no audience underground, noise
Ian Watson – Caermaen (CD-r, Dust, Unsettled, DU09, edition of 50 or download)
Messrs. Sanders & Watson – Cumulative Undulations (2 x CD-r in gatefold sleeve, self-released, edition of 50 or download)
Ian Watson – Caermaen
Dunno why I’ve slept so long on this one. An intriguing album of heavy electrics by the second most charming guy in noise released by the most charming guy in noise – you’d think I’d be all over it, wouldn’t you? My apologies for the inexplicable tardiness. Allow me to make amends.
What we have here is a four track CD-r (long gone – sorry) or free download (still available – woo!) by Ian Watson – artist, polymath – released on Dust, Unsettled, the label run by definitive good egg Brian Lavelle. It was composed using ‘cymbals and feedback’ manipulated through bosky layers of electrics and is apparently inspired by the writing of Welsh mystic and Lovecraft influence Arthur Machen. So far, so perfect.
A satisfyingly viscous low end and a refreshingly untamed crackling at the top act as river banks containing the current’s flow. Could that be a torrent of fluorescent ectoplasm combed clean by the bones of skeletal fish? Sure, if you like. I can certainly imagine Ian’s kit producing a cool, flickering, ghostly green light:
Brian: err… is that supposed to be happening?
Ian: mate, it isn’t even plugged in! Perhaps we should leave the room…
Brian: press ‘record’ first though.
Ian: oh yeah, of course, NOW RUN!
…but what this called to mind for me were happy times I’d spent as a teenager staring at a lump of dirty metal.
One of my first jobs was operating a solder bath in a factory that manufactured printed circuit boards. Boards were loaded onto a conveyor belt, subjected to a terrifying liquid that cleaned the copper (so corrosive that I dropped two pence coins into it to see the queen’s face dissolve), covered in slime to help the solder stick, hung on a hook by me, dunked into a bath of liquid metal about three feet deep, blasted with air blades on the way back up, then placed on another conveyor belt. Repeat for eight or nine hours with frequent breaks to sit on chemical drums outside and smoke cigarettes.
On Fridays we would be paid in cash in little brown envelopes around 11am. At lunchtime I’d race to the nearest pub, drink as much as possible, smoke a spliff on the way back and spend the afternoon cleaning this machine – heated to 250 degrees centigrade – in my shirtsleeves because, y’know, it was too fucking hot for overalls and a certain amount of scar tissue looks manly and suggests character doesn’t it? The spray and overflow of hot solder dripped down into the guts of the machine and coagulated there into something magical.
This mass of waste solder – the size and shape of a child’s torso, almost too heavy to carry – was a mesmerising landscape of clustered globules, of organic micro-castles blistered with irregular crenellations, of needle sharp, filigree wire work. All glistening a muddied silver, hopelessly polluted with the scorched scum that boiled from the boards as they were dunked. These random accumulations of melted metal remain some of the most beautiful objects I have ever seen, even accounting for how stoned I was at the time. Something about this album took me back to that sight and that made me very happy.
Messrs. Sanders & Watson – Cumulative Undulations
Also available from a neighbouring stable is this two hour long, two track, two CD-r set, by two collaborators: Mr. Ian Watson (as above) and Mr. Kevin Sanders (see below).
Imagine a large ruined house in a forest, swamped in ivy – each luscious leaf as deep green as cooked spinach, as shiny as patent leather. Now imagine the root severed and the gradual death of the above ground plant, its draining vitality and increasing brittleness. A high quality digital camera is making a time lapse film of this process. Once complete the memory card is removed and Kev and Ian bath it in a a cool, flickering, ghostly green light. This ‘develops the film’ with an occult power that reveals the usually invisible creatures of woodland folklore that live around the ruin: dryads, fairies, elves, horrifying, robotic horseshoe crabs, their scrabbling legs the stuff of nightmares, their carapaces as black as a dominatrix’s whip, and so on. Now play the film in reverse and compose a soundtrack to it using just rust and magnets.
Tags: ben morris, chocolate monk, disillusion.dot.dot.dot, duncan harrison, field recording, improv, joe murray, karl mv waugh, lost wax, musique concrète, new music, no audience underground, noise, reckno, tapes
Karl M V Waugh – unnamed murk (coagulated detritus may 2014 – january 2015) (download, disillusion.dot.dot.dot)
Karl M V Waugh – Varnish Crease EP (download, disillusion.dot.dot.dot)
Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God (tape or download, Reckno)
Lost Wax – The Poacher (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.304, edition of 60)
Karl M V Waugh – unnamed murk (coagulated detritus may 2014 – january 2015) and Varnish Crease
A lazy, taking a line for a walk, kind of listen. That’s no criticism readers. I’m loving this particular ramble with Karl; round the town, out past the betting shop and onto the Downs, chatting and shooting the shit as we wander.
These unnamed murk pieces are poor orphans (coagulated detritus indeed) with no home to go to. And for me that makes things all the more interesting. Are you telling me these pieces don’t fit into your soundworld Karl? Man…I gotta check out these oddballs – they are going to be the nuts.
The modus operandi remains classic K M V Waugh – an object or technique is picked up and fiddled with for a while and each possible combination of rubbing, striking, bowing and blowing rained down until all options are exhausted.
‘Bread Failure’ dances with some close mic rustle, jazz-gob, fake sine wave feedback loops and acoustic guitar fumble as crispy as an early 2000’s Usurper jam. ‘Close Net’ starts with a slo-mo rave synth trapped in a bathysphere; the two Navy SEALS having it large while contact with the surface is registered in day-glo Morse and trippy emoticons. Outside the Angler Fish get anxious with stress-harps. Blimey, Jacques Cousteau couldn’t get this low. ‘Nada Test’, the most lovely one of the lot, is an untutored, unconscious guitar/balalaika/mandolin (?) improvisation heavy on the Korean and Rembetika influences. There’s pure innocence in this playing, a passionate exploration and experimentation that’s scrabbling but at all times searching for a melody to grasp out of the clear blue sky. The last 2 minutes of this 21 minute piece add a slight distortion giving you a soft landing destination.
This mini-album, the wonderfully titled Varnish Crease, is an 18 minute smeared collage, a bold painting in Bovril hues.
Industrial grot (a malfunctioning PEZ dispenser perhaps?) and novelty dice dropped into a chunky whiskey tumbler form the base coat to KMVW’s meta-poetry. Like several porridge-slugged mouths reading their dreams simultaneously this has a head-fudge quality. Ever been lost in a crowd? This mimics that slight panic and claustrophobic feel exactly.
Wonk-hop snatches of sound are introduced like RZA’s all blunted on Funeral Dance Party; a South Coast One Wobbly Egg. In fact this whole crease has a real Cidershed feel with that slight tint of threat added to the vulnerability.
Essential listening for any young dream-voyager.
Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God
Pearls dipped in butter swirling round the palm of a brown giant. The slick tones fill the smooth handful; fingers wiggle to spread the flutter.
This is a disarmingly charming and hypnotically beautiful opener from his holiness Duncan Harrison.
Gurble-gobs, slop and slobber the lazy consonants and sighs that very skitter with finger-manipulated tape skank. It soon turns into pigs grunting quick enough (oink oink oink) and a sonic Richard Scarry cartoon of crash-bang-wallop.
A water butt slowly fills with rancid treacle as tiny black imps dance around the bloated barrel, slapping their bulbous bellies and blowing crimson smoke rings. A watchful Duncan scoops up the imps and ingests them all a-wriggle, recording their hapless plummet down his gullet.
But please don’t take my sub-Stan Lee dribbling as evidence of sonic goofiness, cynically used to leap-frog to the desired ends (freedom, bliss, ecstasy etc). Repeated listens to this humble tape reveal this to be a mature work, a self-assured work, a personally resonant work floating slowly into my consciousness. There’s no reliance on underground clichés here. The psychedelic-domestic of bus number recital, buffeting wind noise, slow chip-pan ‘pop’ and throaty Gatwick roar have filled my heart with honey and my head with sleepy nutmeg.
Side one ends with another real-life vignette, this time trad-jazz busker (think bowler hat and pinstripe waistcoat) overlaid flinty guitar pluckage (think sloppy Arran jumper and orthopaedic shoes) bringing two worlds together – the beach front and the bedsit – into a tangy-sharp fragment.
Side two opens with a wanking mumble, a half remembered dream of the time John Noakes applied Chopin’s poesie sonore methods in the Blue Peter garden (don’t bother to ‘YouTube’ it. This nugget was never televised and then destroyed on direct instructions from Biddy Baxter.) as the tape edits flutter around his West Riding glottal stops.
Valhalla opens its gates to welcome another fallen hero. For a time the drunken revelry quietens and the bard’s horn plays mournfully through the mist. Shields become bronze gongs beaten with a soft as the captured skald drones on.
Back in the studio Duncan dons his silk gown and adopts the Crane stance blowing on flesh bassoon until a feeder tape of allotment gristle joins the sound mix like it was the most natural thing in the world. Birds aimlessly chirrurp and flapper and cast iron tools are tinkled like collectible glass bells. I can feel the late afternoon sun in this recording baking my neck and making me sleepy. This. Is. Delicious.
A game-changing tape from D Harrison. It looks innocent enough for sure; but this tape’s got a confident swagger that’s unmatched right about now.
Lost Wax – The Poacher
Super-classy Musique Concrete from Ben Morris that takes full advantage of the far-flung places he’s laid his loveable mop-top over the last couple of years (China, Vietnam and even Derbyshire).
The Poacher is split into three parts, each third revealing a different side to Lost Wax, that unlock and fold out on hidden brass hinges. Let’s look inside…
The first third, ‘The Sun is a Hammer’, takes clear recordings of tin parakeets, smoke-train rumble and happy-clapping ritual and slices them up nice with a razor like some heavy radiophonicia dripping secretly out of 1970s Bulgaria.
The pace is stately, like a nurse on a bike, as Ben adds layers of hiss and schloop weaving them into a tapestry fit for a medium-sized town hall. But before we can even jiggle a heavy chain of office beautiful voices creak out of the floorboards. They soar and float like rainbows. Flutes trill. I swoon.
Next we visit the watch menders convention for ‘Time Travel Corrodes the Mind’. A hired drummer fiddles with his high-hat (fairly obsessively tiss-tiss-tiss) as the cummerbunded MC beckons in a phalanx of beach balls full of gaseous hippy crack. The massed horologicalists look up from their chaotically ticking handfuls but relax as Ben, safely at the controls, squeezes out a rhythmic pulse for the cast-iron disco crowd. Tapes of paranoid mumbling (source: CIA bugs, Cuban Missile Crisis?) bookend the track as several men bend aluminium picture frames in your left ear.
This tasty trio is completed by ‘Home, Exhuming a Shed‘. Imagine F.M. Einheit getting ready for a date (checklist – red rose, lump hammer, rusty chain, trumpet, gas canister) dressing in his best dungarees with bear-grease controlling his wanton quiff.
Gnarled hands rip up steel casings and pummel a brass boiler with oranges. The bright zest fills the air and this sudden change in atmosphere calms our man…his fingers caress the splintered keyboard moving from black to white. Digit-shapes transfer from 3D geometry into calm sound-pools that sit gently rippling in the citrus breeze.
Tags: drone, extraction music, hairdryer excommunication, joe murray, kevin sanders, new music, no audience underground, noise, petals
Kevin Sanders – Aladdin, al-Bireh (CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)
kevin sanders – a study in pink (3” CD-r or download, hairdryer excommunication)
kevin sanders – live in berlin, 2015 (3” CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 9 or download)
Kevin Sanders – Aladdin, al-Bireh
High-in-the-mix scraping, like I’m scooping the last remaining smears of thick yogurt from an earthenware bowl, beckon me into Kevin Sanders’ felt yurt. I remove my shoes and adopt a cross-legged pose to match my host whose steely gaze has not left mine.
His intensity is replayed in the heavy fugging drone that sweeps gently over the initial scrape. Two notes are lazily fingered, ‘AHHHhhhhhhhhhhh OHHHhhhhhhhhhhh’ – a cosmic call and response to a distant god.
All the while a ball of tangled steel wool is unravelled at a snail’s pace. Watching the slim pale hands move with purpose, but without fussy haste, manipulating the thin wire, unwinding, untwisting and smoothing it out is…making me….s…l…..e…….e………p………….y.
Dreams, so often a blessedly heavy velvet vacuum, are now full of distant howls of creatures yet-imagined. The fear of the fear jams my mouth open and eyes wide. Roaring voices pour from my throat as I am the vessel of the lost souls. Each life left in limbo protests limply at being held like a fly in amber. But the numbers! The countless number of them leave my throat sore as the last snivelling heckle dribbles down my damp chin.
But all things must pass and I awaken beneath the poplar trees, glittering with marvellous frost.
kevin sanders – a study in pink
This is no-nonsense stuff. Some electro cardiogram briefly splutters and we’re catapulted into a see-sawing sinewave swoon. It’s dogtooth check rough up close but smooth as alabaster from a distance.
And that’s the stand-out thing about this 3 incher. There really is so much going on in here you can, in the right state of mind, project yourself into the landscape, stand among the slowly peaking waves of static or ride the rolling ocean of thundering grumble like a tiny Norrin Rad.
The space analogy gets stronger as about half way through this 19 minute piece planets and stars begin to hurl themselves about, bending gravity and swooping perilously close to each other. The solar whoosh of the near miss is felt as gentle pressure on the balls of the feet. The last two minutes slowly unfold like some docking sequence; two rusty old Soyuz modules that got pimped-out by Grateful Dead fans to better honk the Dark Star-brand kif pipe, kiss silently with a sigh of compressed air. Two become one.
Kevin Sanders – live in berlin, 2015
OK readers. So far we’ve had two different approaches, two different moods showing two different sides to Mr Kevin Sanders.
But this micro-diskette, recorded in a flat on Sonnenallee is my personal pick of the bunch. The notes say:
A broken organ in the flat was used to create two tape loops which were processed.
This all seems simple enough eh? But the super-exciting thing about this 21 minute set is that the process is left clear and unadorned. The tape loops are cut with confidence and make an extremely satisfying gristly crunch each time they turn back on themselves. This becomes both rhythm and off-kilter melody as the singing-bowl-ring builds in intensity in the background.
Overtones become undertones become slumber-tones. Each successive loop, as bright as copper, slides down a shapely neck to rest on lightly furred shoulders. They collect in metallic piles on top of each other, shifting with faint tinkles.
By the 14 minute mark everything gains a superheavyweight quality. What once was sunny and bright becomes black like lead with a similarly dark purpose. What seems like the dawning of a dark inevitability eventually plateaus out into a shimmering crystal desert. Geysers spew their hot dust, the polished sand flickers with heat haze. The organ spits its last dirty electric cough and sadly clicks off.