oTo archive complete

March 15, 2014 at 5:01 pm | Posted in blog info, fencing flatworm, midwich, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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(oTo) – Ordnance, Tape Only

oTo archive pic 1

About a fortnight ago I announced the launch of the oTo tape archive project.  Today, much to my surprise, I am delighted to declare it complete.  That is: all fifty tapes that comprise the oTo catalogue, originally released in limited numbers more than a decade ago, have been digitized and are available to listen to and/or download for free here on this blog.  Haven’t I been a busy bee, eh?  Actually, hooking up a decent tape deck, via my little midwich mixer, to the laptop has made the task a breeze.  I’ve enjoyed chugging through it very much.

For further information about what this tape label was all about see the preamble on the archive’s own page.  This page is also where you’ll find all the links.  There are many gems hidden amongst the names you’ll recognize so please take the opportunity to dip your toes.  How about a terrific hiss-drone by The Dead Body?  Or the mutation of recordings made during the refurbishment of Leeds Railway Station into a Basic Channel-ish jackhammer dub by TK94?  I could go on: noise, electronics, folk-psych, dada collage – it’s all there for the taking.

May I ask a favour?  I’m usually loathe to ‘promote’ RFM, figuring that the right people will find it eventually, but I’m quite proud of the work done in presenting this bounty.  So… if you find something you like would you mind passing the link on to someone else you think might be interested, or doing one of them tweets or a facebooking?  Many thanks to those that did so following the initial announcement – your support is, as always, much appreciated.

The normal reviews based service you’ve come to expect from RFM will resume shortly with some great stuff dictated by Joe Murray to his children from the bouncy castle he uses as his office.  Scott is up to something calculated and evil in his mysterious undersea lair.  Me?  Well, having begun a phased return to work following my recent bout of depression I find myself in a near-constant state of bewilderment.  The muse is finding this most unattractive.  Hopefully inspiration will return as my energy levels increase as I am looking forward to doing justice to some exceptional releases on the review pile.

oTo archive pic 4

the oto tape archive

March 2, 2014 at 4:47 pm | Posted in blog info, fencing flatworm, midwich, no audience underground | 10 Comments
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(oTo) – Ordnance, Tape Only

oTo tapes

‘Ordnance, Tape Only’, or oTo to its friends, was a sound-art off-shoot project from fencing flatworm recordings, the micro-label I co-ran with Sean Keeble in the early years of this century.  There were fifty oTo releases, with each release limited to a numbered fifty copies, all on one-sided cassette tapes.  Apart from the artist name and the catalogue number no other information was included.  Inlay cards were made by chopping up various Ordnance Survey maps of this fair country.  Thus you got a random square of Britain, five miles on a side, to look at whilst listening to your near-anonymous tape.  Oh, and it is nowt to do with London’s Cafe OTO, which it predates by several years.

To my surprise, this insane enterprise caught the collective imagination and I had no trouble filling up the 50 slots.  It became a cross section of the UK noise underground at the time (2001-ish) and even attracted the attention of the international experimental jet-set with, for example, Thurston Moore donating some skronking.  Julian Bradley, who encouraged me to get started with the project, had tape number T01 and I took last one.  Whilst chopping up maps I was often left with some wholly blue squares containing just sea.  I kept those to one side and the 50 inlay cards for the midwich tape each cover 25 square miles of water.

In a lengthy interview with me conducted by Bang the Bore (read the whole thing here) I was asked a bunch of questions about oTo including this one:

Are you planning on giving oTo a digital after-life? It seems more suited to that format than the ffr releases, possibly… for one thing you can construct the eternally looping playlist implied by how the original releases were structured. It’s also easy to give it that “check it out then move on” response that you mention.

…and I replied:

Well, I can see the appeal for the reasons you mention but, no, I am not planning a digital reanimation for oTo.  Difficulty in finding the time would be a major hindrance – many of the masters are on tape themselves and would therefore need recording onto my laptop and mastering before acceptable mp3 versions could be created.  The bigger problem though is that I no longer have all the masters.  When ffr/oTo was wound up I offered to return masters to artists so they could reissue their work elsewhere and a few took me up on it.  Phil reissued the Zen Nuns tape (a collaboration he did with Lasse Marhaug) on BWCD, for example.  I realise that most of these reissues are now themselves unavailable but still… I returned this stuff on the understanding that oTo was over.  I’d also not feel happy about releasing mp3s of this stuff without the permission of the artists themselves and I’ve completely lost touch with quite a few of them.  No, reanimating oTo would be a logistical nightmare.  Best just to accept that the moment has passed.

Solid reasoning, I’m sure you’ll agree, but then I found myself shifting a stereo upstairs to the RFM offices here at Midwich Mansions and my thinking began to change…  My current opinion is as follows:

Ahh… fuck it!

So, with that in mind, please see the oTo tape archive page (also tabbed above) for a list of the fifty tapes.  The blurbs are from the original FFR website.  I thought about putting it on Bandcamp or doing something like Jeff did at Union Pole but neither of those options felt quite right.  Let’s keep it a private affair for readers of this blog.

The page is being launched containing a random selection of about half of the catalogue (mainly those I had CD-r masters for) in best quality mp3 format.  In due course I will add more until all, or as close to all as I can manage, are archived here.  Your patience requested – this archive is a work in progress and progress may be glacial.

Apologies in advance if some of the sound quality isn’t crystal sharp – such is the nature of the exercise.  Amazingly, I am digitizing tapes via the Pioneer tape deck that I originally duped these tapes on.  It is still working fine – <appreciative whistle> – they don’t make ’em like that anymore, eh?  Where I’ve created mp3s from a CD-r master there may be multiple tracks, mp3s from tapes will be in one lump.  Playing and/or downloading options are both available.

Comments welcome.  Much more to come…

apfrod and aphasia: a review, a story, a request

November 1, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground, not bloody music | 4 Comments
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As I am fond of mentioning, one of the great rewards for writing this blog is to have someone I once knew stumble across it, get click happy trawling through it all, then drop me a line to re-establish contact.  Paul Money is the latest to do just that.  Paul was an associate back in the fencing flatworm days and contributed two oTo tapes to that crazy project: T10 freshwater angling in britain (‘a robot menagerie documented with electro collage’ I wrote at the time) and T19 bla (‘four/floor techno as she was supposed to be’).  He also ran the short lived but high quality micro-label Blank Audio which presented, amongst other things, more frenzied, hilarious, collage noise by Le Liberateurs and The Argos Fiasco (a band name that still makes me laff now).

Paul tells me that he is still involved in music, now mainly under the name apfrod, and also writes games and apps for them fancy iThings too – more on that in a minute.  The badly-in-need-of-updating apfrod SoundCloud page contains some entertaining tweaks, variants and homages to various sub-genres of bass music.  May I recommend ‘Ken u Bleep‘ which is a loving and accurate recreation of one of my favourite moments in the history of UK techno.  If it doesn’t make you smile then I can only throw my hands in the air, roll my eyes theatrically and exclaim: “gah!”

He has also recently ventured onto that Bandcamp and posted a rather lovely album of drifting electronics called Fog Caching.  I’m very taken with this title and the impossibility it describes, like trying to file smoke.  It captures the difficulty of expressing reality via art or, indeed, the more humble exercise of writing about music.  Like what I do.   The music is dense, bassy but not heavy – it passes through billowing clouds but without ever becoming waterlogged.  It is robust enough to survive being listened to on the walk home in the rain but delicate and nuanced enough to reward a bit of close listening in more comfortable surroundings.  The central track ‘Draft Capture’ is a nine minute epic of tuned-down, quarter-speed, clockwork rave.  It is basically a glorious pull-back-and-reveal as the clouds part and you realise that throughout the album you have been the guest of Lando Calrissian.  I recommended you check it out.

Another of Paul’s projects that might be of interest to readers of this blog is his musical instrument app ShapeSeq.  However, before going any further with that I need to change tack and tell a story.

In the Summer, my friend Rob had a very serious stroke.  Aged 28 and apparently fighting fit this was shocking and unexpected.  One week he was helping us move house and taking part in lengthy fun runs, the next he’s collapsing at work.  Given that the condition was life-threatening and that he was subject to a near-miraculous, experimental medical intervention in the early hours of his treatment, his recovery so far has been remarkable.  As well as having a team of experts, friends and family swarming around him much credit must be given to his (heavily pregnant) partner Sarah and to Rob himself for the determined way he has tackled the consequences.  No-one knows the limits of his recovery but, being realistic, I suspect he’ll never be back to exactly how he was.  The situation has changed irrevocably and it is up to us to negotiate and redefine what is ‘normal’.

Relevant to this story are two issues that need accommodating: Rob’s right arm and hand do not work and Rob has aphasia.  Aphasia is a common consequence of brain injury and entails difficulty with language and with communication.  It appears that all the knowledge of language that Rob had prior to his stroke – his vocabulary, his unique web of associations that gives words the meanings they have for him – is still there.  He just doesn’t have any kind of easy access to it.  Reaching for a word is a frustrating, occasionally fruitless business for him.  He must feel like he is trying to file smoke, to cache fog.

With this in mind, I’d been thinking of things we could do together.  He is a big music fan, well into electronics, Krautrock etc., and has always been interested in midwich so I invited him over to do some recording.  It was a very pleasant, non-verbal (well, for him – I talked non-stop) activity where we could communicate by laughing, nodding and pointing.  I thought beforehand about what I could do with three hands at my disposal, rather than two, and we got busy with the MC-303 and duelling monotrons.  The results were genius, obviously, but rather too guided by what I’d already planned to be a proper collaboration.  He has an iPad, I thought, I wonder if we could shift some one-handed/aphasia friendly software on to it that he could play with in my absence and then bring to the party the next time we got together.  If only someone had recently emailed to point me at just such an app…

But they had!  Serendipity, no?  Paul’s app ShapeSeq totally fits the bill and was apparently downloaded and enjoyed by both Rob and Sarah (although Sarah has understandable misgivings about Rob now being bleep-enabled).  I asked Paul for recommendations of other apps that might be suitable and he suggested the following:

Singing Fingers might be good. Also Nodebeat (very ambient), Sampletoy (very glitch), Figure (very techno). Figure is by Propellerheads (Rebirth) and pretty much makes techno for you when you hit it.

…which I’ve passed on and now I’m asking you lot the same.  Any ideas?  Just think: with one small comment you could amuse my friend, annoy his missus and possibly even contribute indirectly to a new midwich sound…

wired for sound part 20: julian bradley – oto/t01

October 24, 2011 at 7:57 am | Posted in fencing flatworm, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Julian Bradley – oTo/T01

Julian Bradley – oTo/T01

Not sure what you are looking at?  Here’s a primer: an account of the oTo tape project can be read here, it is mentioned again at Bang the Bore here (and elaborated on in part two here), thoughts on my erratic bromance with Julian are here, and an evaluation of his recent endeavours here.

Once you’ve digested that little lot it will become obvious that the mysterious glow emanating from this post is the light of historical significance.  What you are seeing is literally (a scan of) the very first oTo tape: number 1 of 50 of T01.  Click the link below the scan to hear its contents in glorious 320kbpsmp3orama.

I was inspired to dig this out after reading a review of Alan Splet’s wonderful soundtrack to Eraserhead in the October, ‘Halloween Special’, issue of Hiroshima Yeah!  Didn’t I once compare Julian’s oTo tape to Splet’s sound design?  I did:

24 minutes of geological lo-tek. Guitars, tape loops, document a sound heard deep under the earth, or deep inside your head. Alan Splet meets Vibracathedral Orchestra. Tick the ‘other’ box and leave the comments blank.

From the original oTo sub-site at fencing flatworm recordings.  Pretentious, probably, but accurate in my humble opinion and Julian was flattered by the comparison (obviously still is as he has used this description on his discography page).

So I lit a candle and headed down the greasy, treacherous, stone steps to the vault underneath RFM Towers.  After tossing the place I eventually found it hidden behind my copy of Unaussprechlichen Kulten by Friedrich von Junzt (a dog eared translation, not the German original – alas) and whilst among the grimoires I noticed the rest of the oTo tapes looking smart in a regimented row upon a high shelf.  I was asked recently if I planned a digital afterlife for oTo and, in short, my answer was ‘no’.  Perhaps enough of my finite and irreplaceable life has been sunk in this direction already, but favourites and oddities may surface here occasionally…

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