wired for sound part 31: reports from the fordell research unit

November 8, 2012 at 7:05 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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Fordell Research Unit – Heavy Petting (C30 cassette, Krapp Tapes, Krapp2)

Various Artists – Songs About Dying (CD-r, Pjorn72, pjorncd0023)

Now, that Fraser Burnett – who records as Fordell Research Unit and runs the micro-label Pjorn 72 – is a guy who grooves his own way.  In the past he has said some very kind things about the influence of midwich and fencing flatworm recordings on his endeavours, but I suspect an independent spirit such as his didn’t need to be set an example.  His wit is dry, self-deprecating, mordant.  His attitude is somehow uncompromisingly cynical and open-eyed with loving enthusiasm at one and the same time.  I’m envious of this neat trick.  Scene-savvy, culturally literate and joyously foul-mouthed he obviously cares deeply about the things that are important and couldn’t give a shit about the rest.

Here’s his contribution to a recent facebook thread about the ‘Simon Reynolds mentions no-audience underground’ thing:

Fraser Burnett really enjoyed reading these threads without reading either reynolds’ pish or hayler’s probably astute and erudite riposte.  the wire magazine is happy to suckle at mammon, fuck ’em and their scunty kin.

Heh, heh.  His vote of confidence, blithely made in ignorance, was most heart-warming.

So, as you might expect, hearing from the guy is always a pleasure but it is also a sadly rare experience.  The guy works slow and runs deep.  Pjorn 72 awakes like a dormant volcano every now and again to belch forth nutrient rich noise-lava over the immediate vicinity then returns to smoky silence.  Reports from the Fordell Research Unit appear irregularly on labels such as Matching Head and Total Vermin causing much excitement amongst the handful of laymen who depend on their findings.  The last package I received from the man himself contained a couple of important gap-plugging additions to my FRU library.

First is the cassette Heavy Petting on the wonderfully named Krapp Tapes (which is, of course, a well funny hi-culture/lo-culture Samuel Beckett joke – s’postmodern innit?).  Side one is filled by a single track titled ‘Under The Black Church (fucking blatant Lee Stokoe rip off)’.  Well, yeah, man, but it’s not like I consider that a bad thing.  I’m picturing a small wooden church atop some Nordic fjord, black because it is made of tar-stained timber washed ashore and salvaged from shipwrecks.  Underneath this building is a jumble of tunnels originally used by smugglers but now occupied by Dagon worshipping townsfolk with staring, lidless eyes.  The same wood has been used to build a roaring, crackling beacon fire nearby and sitting next to it is a lone sailor picking out a mournful lament on a battered guitar for his drowned comrades.  The light of the fire glints off the bloodied anklet and chain attaching him to a substantial nearby rock.

Side two presents three variations on the throb. ‘Schmeisser’ is insistent, jagged and underscored with an audible but unintelligible recording of some kind of human endeavour.  This clever tactic draws in the listener’s attention until the pulse is all encompassing. ‘Hot Chocolate Eucharist’ uses loops of machinery, clanking and snorting to set up a rolling, lurching motion.  It’s like a broken down armoured car being dragged through the market by a team of camels.  In between these two tracks is a short collage of clips from film and TV of people discussing their aspirations, passions and employment.  Some of it is banal, formulaic (‘I’m ready for the question, Noel!’) but some seems heartfelt, touching.  Tonally it is quite tricky to get a handle on and thus remains interesting on repeat listens.  The final track ‘(Aw)kward’ is a spacey fuzz that lets us down gently and returns us to the world massaged.  This tape is great.

Also worthy of note is the full length CD-r compilation Songs About Dying curated by Fraser for Pjorn 72.  Housed in the hypnotically unsettling cover painting reproduced above you will find fifteen tracks totalling a whopping 80 minutes.  As with most noise comps some bits are sketchy, some bits are fully realised, some bits are maddening, some bits are compelling and the tracks that fall into each of these categories can change depending on your mood during repeat listens.

The comically distorted grotesque-o-metal ‘dead burning black empire’ by the charmingly named Incest Whore is the first track and acts as a gatekeeper to scare off all but the true believers.  Muscle past this brute though and there is much distraction to be found within.  Check out the hermetically sealed, ominous rumbling of Culver’s ‘sepia sirens’ or the heat haze drone/fuzz of Nackt Insecten or FRU or a beautiful variant from Andy Jarvis featuring some very Phil Toddish slow picked guitar.  Maybe Blood Stereo getting squeaky will do it for you or Sindre Bjerga and Meredith Hunter’s field recording of an asteroid mining operation?  Jazzfinger’s ‘hateful empire vs. the blazing sun’ is a remarkable 14 minutes documenting the low-end throb of a giant vibrating ball of black rubber which is being clawed, hacked at and subject to bursts of dentist drill squeee.  And so on.  It’s a good set.

The tape may be a tricky to get because it was released a couple of years ago but the compilation should be findable.  Why not drop Fraser a line at pjorn72@hotmail.com and see what he can do for you?

EDIT: See comments for link to Krapp Tapes Bandcamp site!

artifacts of the no-audience underground: culver and fordell research unit

February 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Culver and Fordell Research Unit – “Everyone For Themselves, And God Against All” (Bells Hill, BH005)

Now, stop pouting – there’s no need to be jealous.  I know that I took a million years to review whatever you sent me and that this package from Scott of Bells Hill only arrived this morning, but I have been thinking about this release since I blagged a copy from Lee Stokoe at the gig a fortnight ago.  Scott is not getting special treatment – I love you all just the same (and before you ask: my spare copy has already been parcelled up ready to be sent to another good home).

The specifications: a 42 minute, 10 track CD-r (well, 47 minute, 11 track CD-r but the tenth track is five minutes of silence separating the odd, spiky coda from the main body of the album) packaged (t)artfully in the vintage smut that Lee cannibalises to serve his aesthetic nowadays.  I’m unsure as to how much of this is contributed by Fraser of FRU (hey Fraser!  hope all is well) and how much by Lee, or what their working method of collaboration was, but it is safe to say that this is not a new Dubstep/UK Funky hybrid.

The main deviation away from Lee’s usual product (apologies to Fraser but I haven’t been keeping up with FRU stuff – shame on me) is the number of tracks.  Whilst Culver/Inseminoid releases tend to feature one or two lengthy sessions of abyssal staring, this has 10 distinct segments.  A handful feature rhythmic or percussive elements – the forlorn sonar pulse of ‘Remember Me?’, the dismal pistons of ‘Truth Will Out’ for example – but most consist of carefully layered, hypnotic, droning roars of a type cherished by aficionados of Lee’s back catalogue.

It is interesting to move between so many Culveresque tones and textures in such a short length of time.  It feels like a greatest hits compilation, or a sampler album or, whilst not sounding like them of course, a Vibracathedral Orchestra LP.  I mention the latter because their albums featured tracks that sometimes felt like self-contained vignettes and sometimes were obviously excerpts from an epic, the rest of which lay tantalising on the cutting room floor.  During repeat listens – as the tracks ripened, flowered and became more distinguishable – sometimes a gestalt switch would be thrown and the vignettes would become excerpts and vice versa.  That disorientating flip definitely happens here as, like all Lee’s stuff, close attention is repaid with revelation.

Very highly recommended, of course, and limited to 50 copies so get a move on.  Contact Scott of Bells Hill via scottjamesbellshill@gmail.com, more from Bells Hill can be inspected via their Discogs Page, and a pdf scan of Lee’s latest Matching Head Catalogue can be seen here – apologies for the hefty size of the file but it is illegible otherwise.

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