rfm attends colour out of space part one: joe murray ruminates

November 22, 2013 at 8:38 am | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Performance Weekend: 8th – 10th November, 2013, Brighton, UK

COOS poster

Editor’s note: RFM had two roving reporters present at this year’s Colour Out Of Space festival down in that Brighton. Regular contributor Joe Murray, who also performed, enjoyed himself enormously.  Pascal Ansell, whippersnapper and occasional guest of RFM, ahh… not so much.  Copious enthusiasm from Joe first, a more exacting response from Pascal to follow.  Over to Joe:


Ahhhh Brighton…the sun, the sea, the squalor!  I’ve had a soft spot for Brighton ever since I was a wee kiddie with a vivid imagination, trying to piece together the violent Mods & Rockers legend with the twin-set & pearls crowd that strolled slowly down the pier huffing camphor-scented liniments.

These days of course it’s all about the hipsters and Bubble Tea but I’m not complaining; I’ve got my freak on as I meet my gracious host Bod for a pint or two before we lurch expectantly to the main venue, The Old Market.  Immediately adopting ‘Brighton time’ I missed the mysterious Occult Hand and outrageous Acrid Lactations who I both really wanted to see – please accept my apologies Occult Lactations, I was with you in spirit.

It was sometime around pint four I met up with my co-reporter Pascal Ansell and we immediately set ourselves up in a Hunter S Thompson style press-pack; silver-eyed Tuna darting purposefully through the flitting shoal.  We rejected the usual journalistic conventions to move straight from gentle ‘forming’ to chaotic ‘storming’ within minutes, swapping war-zone anecdotes, snippets of esoteric record knowledge and the loudly proclaiming the relevance of Sammy Davis Jr.  The result of such firm-calved bonding and reckless drinking resulted in a beery bonhomie for sure but also meant I pretty much missed every act to play on Friday.  Oops…I did it again!  The one that got away was the Enzo Minarelli.  Dressed in dark jeans and tight black T shirt, his hair scraped back, there was an air of the ninja in his vocal guffings.  Assisted with backing tracks of further mouth-chaff the precise and deadly Enzo sliced the air with steel-edged hissing and lippy smacks.  This was no po-faced sound poetry lark but a right old hootenanny with his piece ‘Poem’ being turned into ‘PoemMacaroni’ in the curdled air.  The rest of the bill was crammed with exceptional acts of legendary avant-gardary but to my shame dear reader I spent the remnants of Friday propping up the bar catching up with old friends and making new ones.  I’ve never been a good mixer Midwichers but I made up for 43 years of insecurity and introversion with full-strength good cheer and love for my fellow travellers.  You’re (hic) my best pal (hic)!

Saturday morning was an exercise in sickness, pain and remorse as I sheepishly ate brunch with family Bod and took the drizzly bus in disgrace to witness Gen Ken Montgomery in a Hove Oxfam shop.  The steamy windows of the Oxfam obscured the ‘standing room only’ crowd as I inched in and stood, stomach lurching, for this exploration of the 8-track tomfoolery.  Gen Ken, dapper in vintage Op Art shirt and tie manipulated old portable 8-tracks filling the damp air with warped 70’s AM rock all mashed and rotting.  The warbles and trembles on the tape gave the Bee Gees et al a sepia fuzzed-out logic as loops were found and layered up into the consistency of dusty blancmange.  He was a right card too, playing it up for the steaming crowd, making asides and throwing out hula-hoops of pulsating ‘waaahhhhoooosssshhhhh-voooshhhhhh’.  After Gen Ken’s performance I wandered round Brighton for a bit, drank some peppermint tea (swearing off the demon drink for the rest of the weekend) and soundchecked with the great Gwilly Edmondez & THF Drenching.

coos_dylan nyoukisCoos_maya dunietz

At about teatime I found myself outside the very proper St Andrew’s church for some right high culture. Old-guy Produktionsprozesse composer-guy Dieter Schnebel was interviewed by Ilan Volkov about his approach to music and personal history.  Dieter seems a game old bird, humble and gracious but with a sharp sense of humour…he somehow manages to call the audience stupid and make them love him for it…dude!  A bunch of doofs play some Schnebel pieces: Maya Dunietz world premieres the ass off a beautiful and catchy piece for piano, voice and tambourine.  Ilan and Maya throw some shapes in a gestural piece where composer and pianist struggle for supremacy like Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd.  Then Maya and Dylan Nyoukis get all serious and tackle a vocal piece for restricted mouthshapes and we end up with the most spellbinding piece of the afternoon.  Like air hissing through naked ribs, dry and crackly.  The pair, dressed in formal black, embrace at the end of the show, cracking hearts at CooS and letting pure love flow.  The only way to follow such an intense and refined performance is of course with some chips so I headed to Bankers (Brighton’s best Fish & Chip shop) for sustenance.

Energised by hot potato and grease I walk into the Old Market to see the friendly and familiar face of Sindre Bjerga coaxing gentle tape loops out of his mess of wires and objects, polishing them up and floating them on the breeze like water-filled balloons pulling gruff-clouds out the air.   Stepping round his desk he carefully wraps up a few people in abandoned cassette tape, hurls a miniature cymbal onto the deck and politely waves marking the end of a neat little set.  Next up were a bunch of A-Band/Ceramic Hobs/Zero Map/Smell & Quim refugees calling themselves The Y Bend.  The programme describes ‘no-mind sounds’ which pretty much sums up the Hawkwind out-takes vibe.  Personally I’m transported back to the days of Anti-Poll Tax benefits as this jam band takes a note and jiggles it proper between guitar, keyboard, violin and eccentric hand percussion making incidental music for the revolution.

coos_jon marshallcoos_charlie collins 2

Roman Nose take the stage behind them and win the rosette for ‘best band of Saturday’.  These days Roman Nose are very much a ‘band’ bridging the gap between rock’s looseness and tape/noise/jam’s love of overload. It’s almost funky with a pushing and pulling, a wrapping and un-wrapping of tape-fuff mittens across fluttering drums and breathy intrusions via flute and black-bamboo sheng.  Throw some horns for the Nose!

coos_sharon galcoos_sharon gal 2

Huge wineglasses are set up amid electronic doo-hickery for Sharon Gal and Andie Brown.  These glasses are Jeroboam massive, pregnantly full; delicate but comprising a thousand potential shivs.  Like an inverse Justice Yeldham the glass is thumbed to produce deep rasping drones.  It’s great to watch the deft hand movement turn into such singing and bassy mulch.  Gal uses her voice like some terror-choir re-enacting a trauma.  Electronic squash makes a Black Metal grunt adding to the dungeon gloom.  Wow…a Carpathian Forest sprouts from the floor as the thin rays of a dismal sun rise slowly in the East.  The bald guy with all the pedals is M. Stactor; his mask is a composite of Her Majesty Betty II and Saddam Hussein.  Slowed down speech goes ‘burrrrrrr’ and get shoved through a variety of whizz-bangs to come out ‘BURRRRRR’ anointed with contact-mic crackle and hand-palming crunch.  Brand new CooS trio Edmondez/Posset/THF Drenching adopt the dual Dictaphone position like a crouching Judas Priest. Gwilly bangs his head like Halford.  And seeing as I’m involved modesty prevents me for saying too much about this fine-legged beast.

coos_will 2coos_possetcoos_drench 2

I caught about 20 seconds of Bridget Hayden’s set but within that 20 seconds I heard the entire history of overblown fuzz-guitar from the Sonics to the Velvet Underground to the Dead C.  Rusty chainmail began clanking out the walls; rolling thunder crashed from the ceiling.  The very gods showed their pleasure in ancient, animalistic ways.  Oh boy!  I was still kicking myself when Greg Kelley & Dylan Nyoukis sat erect and purposeful on a pitch black stage.  Side by side they were, with Greg’s tubes augmented with cold brass and Dylan’s with moist flesh.  Snide hiss and scything tones crept almost guiltily from trumpet and gob, playing merrily between wet-mouth slappings and full jowl squelch.  This was no dramatic, overwrought, performance piece nor academically apologetic. The “my voice, your voice” mantra summed up a lot of the days sessions in a simple repetitive phrase.  Some jokers joined in on coughing and started a response group reflex (koff-KOFF-koff).  The optimist in me thought the spontaneous outpouring would lead to a scratch feral choir but no…it was a piss take…yet troupers Kelley & Nyoukis toughed it out cackling and blowing the third eye till it blinked all yeasty.  Lovers Ritual (Maya Dunietz & Ilan Volkov) used voice and violin to beguile, encouraging minimal and thin tones out the cracks in the light fittings. Not content with sticking to the stage both Maya & Ilan ended up on the floor, among the punters, stroking and keening their flexible bones in a tangled tableaux.

It’s Sunday.  The Lords day.  And me & Bod celebrate with a visit to a typical Brightonian Car Boot sale; he picks up some Colombian tapes, I nab a Fantasy Island fridge magnet and we both head happily to the Sallis Benney Theatre for the famous CooS film screenings.  I really loved what I saw but I soon discovered it’s hard to take notes in the dark so am relying on musty recall only.  Standouts…the bonkers The Handeye (Bone Ghosts) by Anja Dornieden & Juan David Gonzalez Monroy which coupled 19th Century taxidermy with digitized commands and the bumbling chunter from Patrick Goddard’s charming Free Radicals.  As the films ended, us gaggle of cinema-goers milled around, checking maps and GPS systems to find the next venue, giggling over being able to genuinely say, ‘See you in church later man.’  A walk along the cold, crisp sea-front takes us back to St Andrew’s Church for a session of spooky Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) from CM von Hausswolff & Michael Esposito.  I’m really excited about this one.  Since I was a kid I’ve been in love with that flexi disc that came with the first edition of ‘The Unexplained’.  Of course I never knew these supposed ghost voices were EVP but I totally dug the hissy weirdness.  The two gents open with about 15 minutes of static tape hiss with the occasionally clunky ‘chump’ like ghosts dropping wooden marbles in a bucket.  The fuff was pretty damn immersive and had some of the flagging hordes crashed out on the pews.  CM and Michael then took us through some of their EVP recordings (cue demonic chuckle) made in this very church.  What could have been (possibly should have been) spectral and creepy turned into a bit of a laugh as the particularly chirpy Michael introduced second-long sound-clips of the dead calling us ‘assholes’, urging us to ‘get out’, that they ‘are in love with married men’ and…to much hilarity…‘it’s all shite’.  Wow the ghosts sound like angry jakeys!

COOS Jooklo Duo 1COOS Jooklo Duo 2

Back in the Old Market I strained limbs to find my comrade Pascal.  It was Jooklo Duo next and I was pretty sure he’d be right up the front for this.  Some lazy sleuthing revealed Pascal had packed up and gone.  He’d had enough and trekked back to Leeds earlier in the day.  Oh Pascal…you would have loved what came next!  Jooklo Duo were absolutely amazing.  Now I know that’s trite, lazy journalism but I was too busy picking my eyeballs up off the floor to concentrate on clever words.  This was a 100% lung-bursting blowout with drumming as agile as a crack-fuelled squirrel.  I’m no jazz buff but I like my brassy honks and squeals.  Jooklo one, Virginia Genta, plays like Pharaoh Sanders with some nifty Arabic scales quickly releasing that cheeky kundalini from the base of my spine.  Woah boy, I said Woah!  Not one or two but three casual acquaintances said this was ‘better than Brotzmann’. Heard that?  Promoters…book ‘em now.

COOS f ampism

Brighton local f.Ampism loops and loops and loops domestic clunk, mbira tones and gentle sighing all engaging and releasing softly like the briny blue sea just 100 meters down the street.  A film is projected behind his hat and beard; cut-up collage sourced from what seems to be the family Nyoukis archive and Martha Colburn’s paint splattered horror-core.  I have to admit I’m a total fan-boy of Amp’s choogle-leech-warp but this was a whole new saltine!  Fordell Research Unit sat like a couple of chess masters and manipulated a pretty damn heavy drone with micro-movements.  So far, so good.  In tiny, tiny increments the drone gets grunty and somehow slower and fuller until we’re faced with a monolith – a black slab, playing the theme tune for the world’s most evil super villain.  There’s a growing feeling of excitement for the next set from noise-monkeys Spoils & Relics with Karen Constance.  Faced with a table full of gizmos and wires the quartet sat in quiet contemplation building a Jenga house of quivering tones and darkly-twinkling steam.  Like some giant engineering puzzle, pieces are interlocked; a spark starts a fire and is extinguished ruthlessly by the hobo fire brigade.  After a time the factory klaxon calls and the workers down tools and melt into grease.

COOS Usurper

It’s no secret; I’m a little in love with Usurper. Ali Robertson and Malcy Duff have been making the most singular no-input music for half a decade at least.  Writing about Usurper is always a tough gig; their total lack of any of the regular handholds makes the amateur pamphleteer work hard, busting chops to describe their occasional cutlery pings and tales of Auld Reekie.  Tonight they are joined by Dora Doll, one half of the legendary Prick Decay, on scissors as a circular story unfolds on twin tape recorders.  Narratives intertwine as a regular haircut turns into a meditation on the seaside and seaside ritual.  A grumpy Ali gets wrapped in ribbon like a maypole, Malcy crawling on the floor streaming the red and white tapes behind him.  Hairy objects are presented to Ali & Dora for snipping.  A guitar FX pedal, a pair of glasses, a descant recorder are shorn of hair and (in some cases) indecently rubbed beneath the barber’s shawl.  Apart from the taped stories, folding in and out of phase there is a rare skronk-interruption on contact-miked yard brush ‘Shussssh, shusssh, shussssh’ as Malcy coughs up hairballs.  Any traditional ideas of what performance is are dashed.  Any preconceptions of what underground art should be are delightfully roasted.  Usurper are right out on a limb, doing their very own thing and making up a whole new set of parameters.  What on the page seems like random vignettes has a strong sense of direction and pace…and most importantly fun.  I’m laughing like a drain and looking round to see a crescent of bemused yet joyful faces.  No one is really sure what they have witnessed but pretty much everyone agrees it was damn fine.

The tapes spool to an end, Usurper and Dora bow and grin, and my CooS adventure comes to an end.  It’s been a trip and a half Midwichers.  Brighton itself is a beautiful backdrop to this very psychedelic weekend, the bands/acts/performers have all brought their own slice of oddness with a spice and professionalism the naysayers often miss.  But for me it’s all been about the people…the floating and transient chats, the laughs and the in-depth conversations.  There’s that quote about the Velvet Underground isn’t there?  They didn’t sell loads of records but everyone who bought one formed their own band.  Well this weekend might have been an intimate affair but I wonder how many projects and plans were hatched, how many ideas were sparked and alliances formed.  CooS brings the no-audience underground together like a giant think-tank…but what’s gonna occur?  I can’t wait to find out.

Editors note: a comprehensive selection of band bios and links can be found on the COOS website here.  Photos by Joe or Marc Teare.

“excuse me, can you show me where the ‘yorkshire experimental’ section is please?”

January 29, 2013 at 7:14 am | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | 10 Comments
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Leeds University Union Music Library

Panelak – Arnica Eyebright (Cassette, Crater Lake Sound, CL#22, edition of 50)

untold excitement

I am not sentimental about the physical objects on which music can be stored.  I recognize that a CD or whatever has a crucial role as a ‘place holder’ for the music it contains, of course: an object demands contemplation and packaging and presentation can add a dimension to the experience of listening.  However, I’ve moved house too many times to be misty-eyed about shelves of vinyl.  The CD jewel case is one of the crappest pieces of design that decadent late period capitalism has come up with.  Tapes are cute – I’ll give you that – but, even after throwing hundreds of ‘em away in-between their last burst of popularity and this current phase, they still gather in drifts…

…and yet I have serious misgivings about download culture too (not regarding copyright or piracy of course – I couldn’t give a toss.  Those arguments are over.  You may as well discuss theories of phlogiston.) and I have written at length about how having what-might-as-well-be infinite access was actually detrimental to my organs of musical appreciation.  It led to the compulsive amassing of as much ‘archive’ as possible, almost all of it unloved, heard once if at all.  Discernment, connoisseurship both went out the window taking enjoyment with them and were replaced with a miserable frantic desire to ‘keep up’.  Ugh.  It took a concerted effort of will to discipline myself and re-establish a balance.

So what now?  Well, I am in the super-privileged position of having many lovely, talented friends and acquaintances happy to give me their work in return for the possibility of review on this blog or just because they are keen for me to hear it.  Recommendations come my way for the same reasons.  It is beautiful.  But what about stuff outside my areas of expertise?  Do I clog the hard drive with downloads, or fill the house with objects?

Well, perhaps neither because my luck extends to having a music library in the Students’ Union at the University where I work.  The Union Music Library (hereafter: UML) of the University of Leeds, a repository for some 7000 items, has been around for donkey’s years – indeed I was a member myself as an undergraduate back in the early 1990s.  I was recently reminded of its existence due to the evangelism of Pascal Ansell.

Pascal is well known within the Leeds ‘experimental’ ’music’ ’community’ for his tiggerish enthusiasm, his enviable youth and his limitless capacity for starting projects.  He occasionally bites off more that he can chew and one of us older, more jaded types has to administer the Heimlich manoeuvre but he is so personable that if a plan comes to nought it is hard to be annoyed.  You just want to ruffle his hair.

Still, he is notching up a few undeniable achievements: a tape of his solo project Panelak is available (see below), he is promoting a very interesting looking show and has his own label in the works too.  He also came to me before Christmas with an idea which is now reaching fruition.  What the UML needs, he suggested, is a new section dedicated to experimental music from Yorkshire.  After overcoming my amazement that such a thing as the UML still existed in these internet-enabled times, I agreed to give him a hand selling the idea to the people in charge and to donate a bunch of stuff to kick it off.  The idea of getting stuff out of the crates at home and into circulation has a strong appeal to me.  I baulked at his request to write a guide for it, instead offering up whatever bits of this blog he felt like appropriating.

So, a few weeks and a bunch of emails later I found myself with Pascal and Daniel Thomas (along for the ride) delivering a couple of carrier bags full of goodies to the charming people who run the enterprise.  We were met by Evelyn, Lorna and a third girl whose name I didn’t catch (please forgive this lapse, most unchivalrous) who were smiley, grateful and enthusiastic and made the experience totally life-affirming.  Here is some dynamic photo-journalism documenting the place and the ‘handover’:

lunchtime rush

A lunchtime delegation from the Leeds Noise Underground arrives at the Music Library.  Lorna of UML: left foreground, Evelyn of UML: behind Lorna, Daniel Thomas (Hagman, Sheepscar Light Industrial): right, mysterious third girl of UML: behind Dan, Pascal and me: out of shot.  Check out how fucking cool the Music Library room is.

but what to choose

Stock, glorious stock.

sensible cataloguing

“Excuse me, could you explain how the indie rock etc. section is organized?”

sun ra commands awe

Pascal pulls out a vinyl Sun Ra album and we all gawp in awe.

try before you borrow

Billy Joel guards the ‘try before you borrow’ turntable.  Vinyl only – doesn’t work for CDs.  Handwritten note implies these librarians like to party at work!

new acquisitions

New acquisitions board – I’ll be asking for more midwich, obviously.

the handover

The handover!  Evelyn and Rob enjoy the magical moment.

i explain that no-one will be interested

I explain that no-one will be interested but, frankly, it is so hard to say ‘no’ to Pascal that sometimes it is easier to just humour him.  Everyone else nods earnestly.  Pascal, too excited for words, takes photos and then…

pascal hands over his tape

…hands over his own tape thereby crowbarring himself into musical history.  Nice work!

Well that was all very exciting, eh? Some of the acts represented in the bundles I passed over include: Astral Social Club, Spoils and Relics, Early Hominids, etai keshiki, Half an Abortion, Inverted Nepal, Lanterns, Legion of Swine, Brown, Ocelocelot, Petals, Posset, Ashtray Navigations, Julian Bradley, Human Combustion Engine, Human Horses, Klunk, Neck vs. Throat, The Piss Superstition, prpGroup, Vibracathedral Orchestra, Aqua Dentata, Sindre Bjerga, Deadwood and Petrels, amongst others (and, yes, I know some of these have no Yorkshire connection but I was straight up with the librarians about any liberties taken). Dan dropped in the last copy of his collaboration with Kev Sanders and this weekend I bought a copy of the terrific Helicopter Quartet CD-r to add to the pile too.

So now we finally return to the themes of my opening paragraphs.  I appreciate the value of the physical object but don’t necessarily need (or even want) to own them.  I do want to take chances on more mainstream stuff, or rediscover back catalogue gems, but without testing my pathetic willpower by opening the download floodgates.  Thus the music library offers a lovely compromise solution.

The set-up encourages a healthy discipline in two ways.  Firstly, you must choose from a large but finite collection.  Secondly, your membership allows you to take out just one item at a time – a restriction as delightful as fur-lined handcuffs.  Better still, you get to mull over your decision in a friendly environment then engage in a genuine face-to-face social transaction with a fellow music fan – the librarian – before exiting with your booty.  Finally, there is a pleasing ‘survivalist’ aspect to all this.  When the aliens invade and destroy our server-based culture with one gigantic electro-magnetic pulse the objects herein, the vinyl at least, will still be usable.  I exaggerate for comic effect, of course, but as my Mexican cousin Miguel has sadly found out recently, the hard-drive is not a heritage medium.  In short then: it is all good and deserving of support.

Thus, if you are a student or member of staff at the University of Leeds you can, and should, join.  If you do not fall into either category but find yourself on campus now and again then you could ask about ‘guest’ membership.  I dunno if this is possible but no harm in asking.  To join there is a £10-per-academic-year fee and a returnable £10 deposit is required to make sure you don’t run off with anything.  Membership can be bought online via the Union website – you will have to create an account but that takes a matter of minutes.  See the Music Library page for details, contact info, opening hours and the like or go visit them in their secret turret.  I am told the new noise section (I’m presuming: a cardboard box with some tapes and CD-rs in it) could be up and running as soon as the end of this week.

For those of you unfortunate enough not to live in this fair city I suggest you frequent your council run libraries – always grateful for business in this desperate era of swinging cuts – where CDs can be hired and/or ordered for smallish fees or see if there are private or educational libraries, student-run or otherwise, that you could blag access too.  I’d be interested to hear about other such endeavours.  Keep up the inter-scene trades too.  Good circulation is necessary to keep the extremities healthy.

EDIT: UML membership open to all – see comments.

EDIT AGAIN: check out the Forgotten Vinyls blog – a one-woman alphabetical odyssey through UML’s LP archive.


 …and whilst Pascal is front and centre let’s round things off with a quick look at the Panelak tape:

panelak - arnica eyebright

Here are some snippets from the blurb that Pascal passed on to me:

…pass through scattered suffusions and billowing noise, detouring into heavy ambience, harsh mouth utterances and piercing mbiras scrapes … draws heavily from recordings made at the Bates Mill in Huddersfield which manufactures synthetic fur fabrics … Throbbing keyboards and squiggling mic feedback as well as scraping tremolos are bundled together with the aim to emulate the devotional nature of mandala gazing…

All in 28 minutes – blimey.  Note the use of samples from The Wire and, erm… Boney M (!) are not mentioned.  Now, I wouldn’t normally be so lazy as to quote promo material but the description above nicely illustrates both what is good and what is not so good about this tape.  Pros: it is ambitious, joyous and packed full of ideas that are occasionally realised in a great, rolling rush of fun.  Cons: it is all over the place which leaves some of the ideas, pretty good ones too, feeling sketchy and unfinished.  The chap does not lack imagination and talent, what is missing is patience.  I’m sure his work would benefit from doing fewer things at greater depth.  Kids, eh?  I am reminded of that ‘two bulls on a hill’ joke.  Anyway…

This cassette has apparently been released in an edition of fifty by Pete Cann’s Crater Lake Sound imprint, though no details have made it to the CLS blog as yet.  Get it direct from the Panelak Bandcamp site or, hey, borrow it from the record library and try it out!

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