blood washed from the map: new from ashtray navigations

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

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

ashnav - fluctuantsashnav - planet carpet

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

This punch has been spiked,

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

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

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

How do I get him to work for me?

She wondered.

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


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

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

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

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

I trust you are enjoying the music?

He whispered, somehow perfectly audible over the cacophony.

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

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

I understand you appreciated our floral tribute too,

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ashtray Navigations on Bandcamp

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

crater lake festival 2015

March 18, 2015 at 12:24 pm | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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crater lake poster

Whoo, boy – where to start with Crater Lake? Maybe with the simple and declarative: Crater Lake Festival is a day-long celebration of experimental music held annually in March at Wharf Chambers in Leeds and is organised by Pete Cann. Them’s the facts. However, over the four years of its existence it has grown into something over and above a display of the curator’s unimpeachable taste and ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ approach to time keeping: it has become a gathering of the clan. As well as being an unrivalled opportunity to see the risen cream of ‘noise’ (some in combos suggested by Pete himself) perform to a large and appreciative crowd, you also get the equally important social side. Names are put to smiling faces, hand are shaken, warez exchanged, plots hatched – all taking place in a general air of slightly delirious enthusiasm fuelled by the constant flow of decent, fairly-priced alcohol.

This blog is known for a phrase coined as shorthand description of the scene it documents but I am steering clear of that for now.  I don’t want to co-opt something that is clearly greater than the sum of its parts and can’t be pigeonholed. I will say this though: when I noticed that Pete had hooked some relatively big fish for the bill, and saw the Arts Council logo had snuck onto the corner of his poster, I asked him how he’d managed to successfully tap ’em for funding. He replied, to my delight, that he’d used my write up of last year’s festival as the blurb for his application and they couldn’t wait to shower him with cash. Despite knowing that the Arts Council has recently taken an almighty bollocking for being Londoncentric and that any application from Winterfell was going to be seriously considered, it was still a very proud moment. There you go, people: this stuff matters. Hang on a second, I seem to have something in my eye…

<sniffs, turns to window, regains composure, harumphs manfully>

OK, a word about the below. Due to family commitments – a visit from my parents to celebrate the second birthday of my son Thomas – I could only attend for the three hours from 8pm to 11pm. To be honest, given the stinking cold I had, that is probably all I could manage anyway. So, having spent the afternoon chasing the kid around Home Farm at Temple Newsam (and marveling at turkeys that looked like monsters from Doctor Who, or an illustration by Ian Watson) I arrived flustered and discombobulated into an already pretty drunken milieu. Suspecting this would be the case I had already tasked the other four RFM staffers attending (alas, Chrissie had to be elsewhere recording an orchestra) with documenting the day so all I had to organize was a group photo.

In the piece that follows the author of the paragraph is indicated in bold like this – Luke: – and interjections about non-musical aspects of the day are (bracketed and in italics). Photographs of the workshop were taken by Sof (using the ‘nice’ camera) and the awesome pictures of the performers were taken by Agata Urbaniak and kindly donated to RFM for use in this piece. I am hugely grateful to her – and to marlo for having the presence of mind to ask – and recommend that you all visit her flickr site too.

Right then, let’s go!


(Joe: Too early! We – one half of the Newcastle delegation – arrive too early at Wharf Chambers. We spot an Evil Moisture prepare for his evil workshop through the crack in the door but take the old army maxim on board – eat when you can – and scoff a scrumptious Persian meal at the place round the corner. A brief sojourn to Leeds market is broken by a call from YOL. We can sound check so I make my way back to base camp. Pete’s relaxed event management skills pay dividends. Everyone knows/does their job. Things tick like Swiss time. The super-patient sound guy balances our 10 second sound check, we nod satisfied with the racket and slope off to meet ace faces Ben Hallatt & Dale Cornish cackling in the Wharf Chambers sun trap.)

workshop 1 workshop 2 workshop 3 workshop 4 workshop 5

The workshop

Sof: I fought my way through Saturday afternoon Leeds crowds to make it to Wharf Chambers just in time for the Evil Moisture / Andy Bolus Ghost Hunting Detector workshop. We had been instructed to bring along a non-metallic cylindrical object, basic soldering skills and undead ancestors.  I’m sure I had the first two with me at least.

We all gathered round a table in the middle of the bar on which we found various items I came to know as ‘cells’, wires and other dangerous looking bits. I’m generally quite scared of electronics (old residual fear of metal work at school no doubt) and so always sign up for activities like this to try and get over this issue. Andy’s approach to the workshop was really relaxed with his main instruction being a hand drawn diagram that he placed in front of 4 of us before letting us get on with it. He was available to answer questions and sort out our various mistakes – great teaching style. This helped to kerb my concerns, I mean, if he could be so chilled holding a wand that can melt metal then why shouldn’t I be too?

There were a lot of confused and frustrated faces around the table during the process but these all turned into massive grins when the detectors finally worked out. It took me nearly 2 hours to attach the cells to a battery and a long wire wrapped around a giant pencil but you know what, it bloody worked. I mean, I’m not sure if the loud squealing noises that were produced from this thing were communications from the other side but when I stuck it into an amp through a bit of reverb at home some use was envisaged. In retrospect I shouldn’t have drank a really strong black coffee during the process because the shaky hands did become a bit of an issue but I got there in the end!

Tom and Jerry, I mean Dale

(Joe: While the laboratory is an evil hive of evil activity the wonderful folk of the N-AU turn up, firstly in ones and twos, then huddles, then mobs. I meet Sophie for the first time and gasp in awe at the purple camera she’s sporting so rakishly. The N-AU are prompt, alert and full of relaxed bonhomie. Crater Lake has started!)

Mel 1  Mel 3 Mel 4  Mel 6 Mel 7

Mel O’Dubshlaine

Joe: fractured electronics garbled and yarbled straight outta Mel’s mini-mouth – possibly reading out what she was doing (I’m lowering the volume on this tape, I’m adding more reverb on this channel) – via a Dutch translation aid and robot clarinet.  The vocal musings were calmly paced, relaxed and with an electronic softening that tickled the tiled floor all nice.  Phil Navigations joined in on cyber-Taiko drum to muss things proper towards the end.  Ke-tung!

Luke: droll Yorkshire instructions fed through robot vocoder.  About five minutes in it dawned on me that I could listen to this quite happily for hours.  My mate thought I’d left because Phil turned up and it was in danger of going ‘all musical’ not so: my chalice had run dry.

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Yol & Posset

Joe: (view from the floor) dunno about this, lots of knees and boots, getting awful hot awful quick, Yol clatters…HIT IT!

Boof/~~~scree/HAWKS////zingzingzing/~~II~~:~~BAU~~~~/CLANK.  The end.

Cor.  That felt good.

Luke: yowser this was fun like visceral high energy free gumph played with the contents of a skip, lots of gurning growling and testifying.

Marlo: the interesting element of this performance is that opposed to some electronic noise acts that seem distanced or detached from actual live performing, these two were very alive, very awake and fully present in a visceral and physical way.  Yol, as usual, used his body as his instrument to full capacity.  Apparent in his performance were both his sensitivity to environment and his physiological response to Mr. Posset’s intuitive electronic gestures. Both, not shy to show some presence, expressed a reciprocal appreciation of live art.

(Joe: Later… the food comes out full to bursting with Pascal’s grapes… I’m too keyed up to eat but notice it gets a thumbs up from Lee Culver who, no shit readers, is a proper gourmet/baking behemoth. Top Marks.)

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Stuart Chalmers

Joe: top drawer Dictaphone thumb-nastics from Stuart.  The whirr and ‘scree’ of fast forwarding tape was a joy to hear as it bounced from one hand to another; Stuart flinging his luscious black locks like a metalhead and shaking like a nervous cicada.  Even my tin ear picked up the subtle tape preparations and timings as skronk melted effortlessly into ethnic-plink with industrial overtones.  Of course no one knows what Stuart really looks like…he threw his Kim Thayil wig into the crowd and disappeared into the balmy Leeds afternoon.

Luke: about three beers in this was lush green elephant tea. I dig the candles, the wig, the ritual maaan. Led to an interesting conversation outside.  Seems in the N-AU you got your tapes lovers and your tapes haters (known as ‘taters’)

I’d rather watch him play the sounds than play a tape of it

…one geezer remarked.

He was playing a zither thing!

I retorted in his defense. I myself am pro tapes: the wow, the flutter, the plastic encased mystery.

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Kay Hill

Joe: Ben Hallatt set up an impressive reel-to-reel machine and facilitated the sound of a monkey opening a recalcitrant jar of peanut butter through the fragile, disintegrating brown tape.  A play in two parts, this simian housekeeping was taken over by a more keening, knock-kneed hubble-style.  All glorious drippings to clear out me waxy tabs.

Luke: my highlight of the day. Tape music with lots of pop and hiss but with, if not a tune, then a beguiling pattern. I struggled to verbalize how impressed I was to the man himself and was astounded that he had no merchandise to pass on (you haven’t heard the last of Kay Hill, readers).

Marlo: Ben Hallatt performed a nuanced, textured and atmospheric tape art set. Despite the surging, celebratory atmosphere of Crater Lake, he held a patient and meditative space. Starting from a minimal structure, he added an elaborate architecture that was sturdy and mindful. The performance was a sound journey that led the audience through this construction and left them in a different place.

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Dale Cornish

Joe: Canary Yellow computer splutter. Spitting and frothing like a thousand tiny tummy kicks from the blue shrimps inside.  Marie said to me,

It sounded like the 90’s.

I said,

What.  All of it?

She said,

Sure, in Belgium.

I’m no flat pancake!

Marlo: I had previously seen Dale the week before in Nottingham. His mood was quite different this time. With alert attention, he proceeded to command his laptop to amuse, irritate, and tickle the audience. If I were to have a party, I would invite Dale. Always enjoyable, instead of baking him a birthday cake to compliment last week’s set, based on this performance I would make him profiteroles.  Thus instead of a treat that is made for pure enjoyment, celebration, and taste, a pastry as work of art which takes many steps prior to presentation (and I like profiteroles a lot).

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Dylan Nyoukis & Kieron Piercy

Joe: Soundtrack to Night of the Living Squelch that somehow managed to dissect Dylan & Kieron so one duo played breathing noises: hisses, coughs and sighs and the other ‘ghost’ duo played the sound of the first duo running their outputs through resinous pinecones.  By gently slapping their foreheads bubbles of gas birthed from parted lips adding a metallic sheen. Please stop me if I’m getting too technical.

(Joe: Later…. booze is consumed, hands shook and booty exchanged. Among the hugs plans are hatched and reputations blackened! Later… we meet the boss. In what must look like a comical gesture to onlookers we both reach out one hand to shake and another to pass cdr/tapes/notes to each other.)

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Charles Dexter Ward

Joe: Erotic Jerome is the most focused man in the N-AU.  Every twitch and tremor of his hands opened another subtle filter, let out a deceptive synth note or texturised the canvas with his painterly guitar thribbings.  Guess what?  Watching CDW reminded me of that Keef.

What do you think about when you’re playing?

Asked the handsome young Vee-jay.

I don’t think on stage.  I feel,

came the raspy reply.  Nuff Said.

Marlo: I had the immense pleasure of being acquainted with Jerome after his stellar set at Tusk Festival. This time, the layers and processing felt more dense. Every time I felt as though I had embraced a new element of his guitar mosaic, I was being introduced to yet another level of intensity that abandoned yet built upon the previous input. It was a rich and powerful piece.

Rob: I got my non-euclidean groove on and shimmied like a tentacle.  It was cyclopean.  Who would have thought such a nice guy could be an Old One in human form?

(Joe: Later…a fart in front of Elkka Reign Nyoukis makes her laugh so hard it drowns out the nearby trains.  Later…it’s a Warhol of confusion. The heat and the noise and the crowd means conversations start, stop, merge and scatter. I’m bending ears all over.  Later…The RFM photo op. I never realised our erstwhile photographer was the legendary Idwal himself! Our handsome group is propped up by my screamingly odd face.)

5-6ths of RFM take 1

Rob: The evidence!  Five sixths of RFM: me, Sof, Luke, Joe, Marlo – Chrissie sadly couldn’t make it as she was recording an orchestra.  Cheers to Uncle Mark for taking the picture.

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Stephen Cornford

Marlo: As they said in Videodrome (1983),

Long live the New Flesh!

I say this because I felt like Cornford was battling with the mind melting controlling of vertical and horizontal holds, in a telekinetic struggle with amplitude and frequency, he went head-to-head with his multiple television screens. He was absorbed. I was absorbed. I think the visuals that seemed to translate his audio concoctions were pretty. I would love to see more of his work.

Rob: I felt like the little girl in Poltergeist (1982) but I wasn’t communing with the dead, rather a race of electric creatures attempting to re-programme my bonce with strobing logic.  They may have succeeded.  I await the trigger word from Mr. Cornford.

(Rob: Sof, Sof!  Where are you?  I think Sof and Jake’s last train beckoned around this point)

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Joe: Rich sarcophagus music.  Prostrated like a monk with a Casio, Culver played the sound of the tides spiced with deep orange paprika.  Ebb and flow washes over you easily for sure but remember Culver’s dark gravity pins you to the planet like a moth in a cabinet.

Luke: whilst Charles Dexter Ward embraced the crowd with his pink love drone in a highly pleasing manner, Culver extended the black tentacles of Cthulu and left us powerless facing the ghastly pit of torment. I am inebriated at this point and only roused from my Culver trance by my pal clinking glasses, it’s a fine moment: we are ridiculously close to the high priest himself. There can be only one.

Marlo: Culver is remarkable in that he uses similar gear and techniques to others whilst adding something completely signature and unique. I would say that Culver is one of the best drone artists in the UK. His monastic and constant involvement with his gear makes for a compelling performance. Despite the darkness that he chooses to invoke with sound, there is a clear joy interspersed amongst the high frequencies.

Rob: I make a mental note of all in the crowd who talk during Lee’s set.  There will be a reckoning.  A RECKONING!

(Luke: sad to say I had to miss Evil Moisture and Rudolf Eb.Er but I was successful in navigating my way home. Cheers Pete, see you next year!)

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Evil Moisture

Joe: A Very Wonderful Fucking Sloppy Mess (AVWFSM).   Long, long loops of disgruntled squirm get run through the Bolus-zone to come out triple-strength odd.  With nothing to hold on to the free fall becomes increasing delicious.

Marlo: When watching Andy Bolus, one wishes that they had superpowers like photographic memory or the ability to time travel. The issue is that normal human capacities do not allow for full visual comprehension of the devices across his two tables and to simultaneously be absorbed by the sounds. There is just so much going on! From the crazy inventor’s lab of his set up to the enveloping waves of sound, my body was compelled to move. Pushed up close to the stage with several other victims of unintentional movement, I held onto a monitor to make sure I didn’t collapse from my undulations. These movements are, by far, my favourite response to good noise. His detailed dynamics had a light touch. Well paced yet not predictable in his shifts, Andy seemed to be using his whole body, even his feet to make the monster chewing sounds. But there were purposeful and understated details placed delicately through sound blasts and running engines. Not sonic saturated and definitely not shy, Evil Moisture’s intuitive performance was well worth the wait.

(Rob: at this point I bow out myself and trot off for the second-to-last bus home very happy with how the day has gone.  I’m in such a good mood that when I discover the New Blockaders tape Joe gave me earlier is leaking oil onto the other merch in my bag all I do is chuckle.  Ahh, occupational hazard.)

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Rudolf Eb.Er

Marlo: One of the best things about seeing noise and improvisational music played live is the feeling that what one witnessed is unique and unrepeatable.  Experience a performance by a sound artist like Ruldolph Eb.Er, for example, and you know immediately that what you saw and heard will never occur again the same way.  In this case, it might be the fact that several Crater Lakers had lost their marbles on booze and kept hollering throughout the set. That was a bit unfortunate but his professionalism didn’t allow one moment of lack of concentration. I use the word ‘dynamic’ a lot when I talk about noise and sound art, often using it to describe movement.  However, in this case, Rudolf’s use of tension and silence is signature to his style. Silences punctuated the set and left the audience irritable and anticipating each aural stimulation. Personally, I was enthralled by the spectacle – I felt prone to his ‘psychoaccoustic’ gestures and was dizzy with confusion.  My favorite part of his set was when he placed some nodes covered with a black, inky sound conductive substance on his face and head whilst appearing startled and trembling. I like to think he was slightly losing his mind with the audience but by the end he was fully composed and I felt freaking grateful I had stayed cognizant enough to appreciate all the different acts contained within the piece.

Joe: It had been a very long day.  Whist I don’t approve of public drunkenness I am charmed by the tipsy.  All my notes say is:

good oaky noise but possible Harkonnen spy.

I think it’s about this point that my brain packed up…


…which is an appropriately wonky note on which to end.  Alas, that is that for another year.  Many thanks to all involved – performers, venue and attendees – with special back-slapping to Pete Cann for making it happen.  It was a terrific day.  See y’all next time.


Photo credits:

Agata Urbaniak: performers

Sophie Cooper: workshop

Mark Wharton: Team RFM


what it tastes like: new(ish) from ashtray navigations

February 15, 2015 at 9:34 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Ashtray Navigations – Aero Infinite (tape, Tape Drift, TD69, edition of 50 or download)

ashnav - aero

It’s a question that has occurred to all of us at some time or other:

If this music was transformed into a physical substance, could I eat it?

My little joke, of course, and I don’t claim to be synaesthetic, but when writing about music sometimes reaching across the senses for a metaphor helps clarify my response.  For instance, I have recently been trying to digest a handful of releases that could loosely be described as ‘computer noise’.  There is much to admire: a weird sound palette, an attention to detail, a carefully sustained atmosphere of enveloping uneasiness – all evidence of the craft and purpose that usually goes down a bomb ’round here but… it isn’t a sub-genre that sits easy with me.  It was only when I took my thinking to the kitchen that I figured out why: it doesn’t taste right.  Imagine an aspic of hagfish slime, flavoured by being smoked over a burning tyre, with blackened splinters of deep-fried Haribo Starmix hung within it.  Impressive, sure, but not something I’d pick off the specials board.

In contrast, the music of Ashtray Navigations, oft stated to be my favourite band, is a feast.

Think of the spread: joints of exotic, gamey meat, cooked rare – deep purple, marinated in unplaceable spices and stuffed with dried apricots plumped with the cooking juices. Pastoral dioramas sculpted from delicately steamed vegetables, every figure and feature edible. Ceramic barrels of rose scented kulfi kept cool within a swirling cloud bath of dry ice. Scale models of the world’s greatest temples constructed from baklava – honey and nuts binding uncountable layers of filo pastry. Microscopic seeds, each a pinpoint of exquisite pleasure, teased from the flesh of an otherwise toxic fruit with golden tweezers – a terrifying delicacy that kills some who attempt it. The food is laid out on a table of Pentelic marble, dressed with silk cloth. The banqueting hall is hung with jeweled tapestries depicting scenes from the life and adventures of the Interstellar Buddha (familiar to long-term readers from previous reviews)…

…and yet no-one is eating…

…because Ashtray Navigations are playing. Phil and Mel, having spiked the punch and cheekily eaten their fill whilst soundchecking in the afternoon, are now tearing the sky into little pieces. All mouths hang open. This is delicious.


Tape Drift

Ashtray Navigations Bandcamp

sea, souvenirs, spice: luke vollar on grisha shakhnes, seth cooke and early hominids

January 8, 2015 at 11:28 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Grisha Shakhnes – Distance and Decay (CD, organized music from thessaloniki, t24, edition of 200)

Seth Cooke – Sightseer (3” CD-r, organized music from thessaloniki, t25, edition of 100)

early hominids – palpate (CD-r, zanntone, 000)

grisha shakhnes - distance and decayseth cooke - sightseer

Grisha Shakhnes is a Moscow born, Tel Aviv based individual. I’ve heard of him before as he has a record released on Glistening Examples, the label run by American tape fiddler and conceptualist Jason Lescalleet. There are some obvious similarities between the two as both use obsolete recording devices to blur and confuse what is recorded and what is an artefact of the recording – are we hearing the inner workings of a tape machine or is this a field recording made ghostly with ferric oxide?

There are no details provided with Grisha’s disc just the enigmatic, lovely artwork and title. There are sounds that hang in space as if suspended in water, their movements as slow and methodical as a giant sea creature. Indeed, when I try to put into words the sounds of this disc I invariably end up with an aquatic theme. At one point I imagined a mini-sub coming across a metropolis on the ocean floor, its occupants staring slack jawed at the enormous structures of neon lights and chrome towers churning out geysers of bubbling water. Later I hear a game of snooker played under a waterfall before the sad lament of a female voice in an alien tongue is buried beneath the gloop of machine malfunction. A somnambulant feeling is maintained throughout the 75 minute duration making it an unwise choice for your car stereo but a great soundtrack for full time dreamers.

Seth Cooke presents us with an entirely different beast on his little disc. He lists his tools as:

no recording, recording and no input field recording

No, me neither. Whilst ‘Cape Coast Seashell Bowed On Minster-on-Sea Shore’ informs us of its method of execution, the other titles reveal very little other than a rye [Editor’s note: sic, but what a great typo! I’m keeping that one in] sense of humour: ‘If You Only Listen To One FLAC This Year’ being a prime example. The mood is lonely, with voyeuristic overtones. At one point I could hear Seth releasing a caged pigeon to fly around a dimly lit multi-story car park. In other moments a faceless individual impassively views a seaside location, now devoid of human life. A sense of disquiet is achieved as a recording of, essentially, nothing is gradually enhanced with surgical precision only to be abruptly cut off just as it starts to become uncomfortable then switched for grizzled distortion swiftly followed by ghostly tones receding dimly. I have to say the more I listen to this, the more impressed I am with the craft and thought that has gone into it. Seth has used the format of a 3″ disc to fit in a lot of ideas though it never feels overcrowded.

Both artists make ample use of field recordings and both presumably use some form of processing for further confusion. Where Grisha’s sounds are in no hurry to get anywhere and are blurred by the use of cassette tapes, Seth’s sounds are clear and shrapnel sharp with abrupt editing and unexpected changes in colour and tone. Seth’s espresso to Grisha’s grande latte, if you will.

early hominids - palpate

I’ve seen early hominids, the duo of Paul Walsh and Neil Campbell, play a few times and part of the pleasure is marveling at the collection of noise kit spread before them: a couple of light activated boxes that fizz and crackle in response to strobes, like an angry serpent disturbed from its slumber, and all manner of odd looking stuff, presumably soldered together in a shady basement with the fiendish duo shouting ‘it’s alive, ALIVE!’ as it bleeps itself awake. One show in particular sticks in my mind from a few years ago at the Fox and Newt in Leeds. Paul and Neil created a Technicolor psych noise juggernaut that vibrated the tiny room while threatening to levitate the whole darned boozer into another dimension. It was what I’d always hoped Incapacitants would sound like: noise as the ultimate euphoric wig flipper.

The boys are in a more restrained mood here but their electronic gadgets still stutter and belch as if barely controlled by their probing fingers. Rather than batter us with a relentless sonic barrage the sounds are allowed to rise and fall into pleasingly awkward shapes. As I am hypnotized and my head begins to nod I visualize the two of them face to face over a table of wires and boxes creating a slurry of rich and spicy noise blarts while occasionally reaching for the ever present ale that fuels them. ‘Tis good stuff I tell thee.


organized music from thessaloniki

not sure if the homs CD-r remains available – try contacting Paul via the zanntone bandcamp page or via that Twitter.

midwichmas: live at the radiofreemidwich 5th birthday shindig

December 2, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Posted in live music, midwich, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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The Radio Free Midwich 5th Birthday Shindig: Hagman, Human Combustion Engine, midwich, UK Muzzlers, forgets live at Wharf Chambers, Leeds, 29th November 2014

nov 29th gig poster

So, yeah, it was a blast. Thanks to all who came and special, glowing thanks to Mitch of forgets who put it together then allowed me to hijack his efforts for my self-congratulation. All the sets were terrific and, despite the usual pre-gig nerves and some (fully justified) technical worries about crackling pots, I couldn’t be happier with how mine turned out.  Good crowd too, despite ‘rival’ gigs nearby (PAH! <spits on floor> I HAVE NO RIVALS! <short pause, sheepishly looks around, cleans up spit>). Some of my typically half-arsed and incompetent photo-journalism follows below. Let’s face it, I was only really concerned that my t-shirt and balloon were documented…

Oh, and in reply to the two comrades who wondered if this was now going to be an annual event the answer is: no, not unless each year another benefactor wants to come along and organize it for me. That said, my vanity did bubble to the surface on receipt of this riff from Eddie Nuttall of Aqua Dentata:

I propose Midwichmas as a name for this. Midnight mass on Midwichmas Eve can adopt a tradition of no carol singing, but perhaps a 4-hour recital of sine waves, bowed baking trays, and warpy cassette hiss. This can be followed by the traditional exchange of photocopied collages, also known as Midwichmas cards.

On Midwichmas morning all the children will excitedly gather round the Midwichmas Tree (a petrified oak) to exchange CDRs in edition of 7 or something, usually recorded an hour or so prior. These are presented in the traditional Midwichmas wrapping paper substitute, heavily weathered Poundland Jiffy bags that have been recycled across England half a dozen times or more.

A traditional afternoon Midwichmas film would perhaps be like a Christmas film, but probably substituting Bing Crosby for Duncan Harrison.

Heh, wouldn’t that be glorious, eh?

OK, on with the showbusiness…

hagman 29-11-14

Trowser Carrier had to cancel (trapped in a giant laundry basket, apparently) so Hagman kicked off by recreating the pose from every other photo I’ve ever taken of Dave and Dan Thomas (no relation) ever.  Their set was a gruff, bassy, throb – like the hot breath of a big cat as it licks you with its sandpaper tongue.  I swayed purposefully.

human combustion engine 1 29-11-14human combustion engine 2 29-11-14

Human Combustion Engine (Mel and Phil of Ashtray Navigations) teased out some tangerine psyche-synth with semi-improvised power moves.  I slapped my thighs in time with the pulse.  Occult science.

…and then:

it's showtime folks

…it was SHOWTIME folks!

midwich 29-11-14

I thanked everyone for their support and played a 20 minute set comprising two new ‘songs’.  These have been recorded and will be released alongside their live versions on my Bandcamp site soon.  You will be kept informed.  About three minutes in I remembered the helium balloon I had stashed under my table and releasing it (see pic above) got a ripple of amused applause.  This moment was such a coup de théâtre that my friend Alice later said it was…

…better than the Olympics Opening Ceremony.

Surely, no rational observer could disagree.

A word about my rad t-shirt.  The logo reads ‘Sonic Circuits’ and the tagline runs thus: ‘Avant Garde Music For The No Audience Underground’.  Yes!  My philosophy vindicated with leisurewear!  These garments were produced in celebration of the Sonic Circuits Festival 2014, organised by the genre-busting promoters of the same name based in Washington, DC.  My twitter bro’ and extraordinary digi-crate-digger Phong Tran (@boxwalla) appears to have convinced ’em that the slogan was bang on and, in return for lifting the idea, a shirt winged its way across the Atlantic.  So cool.  Fits real nice too.

uk muzzlers 29-11-14

Next were ‘headliners’ UK Muzzlers.  Neil Campbell and John Clyde-Evans played caveman Oi! over a hilarious tape collage.  There was much whooping, thumping and brute racket.  It was as if Happy Flowers had grown up but were still refusing to take their medication.  The future of rock and roll, possibly.

forgets 3forgets 2 - mitchforgets 1 - kroyd's notes

Finally, Mitch, who organised the night, and Kroyd, who’d been on the door, dropped their admin roles, took to the stage and brought the evening to a close as forgets.

The noise purists don’t like this…

…Kroyd began, and, looking at the half dozen people who remained in the room, he clearly had a point. The throng appreciating UK Muzzlers had melted away into the ‘beer garden’, the bar or had sprinted for last trains and buses leaving just this attentive elite. Ah bollocks to the lot a’ya – I fucking love this band. This is what they do: Kroyd tells stories and recites semi-improvised prose poetry whilst Mitch soundtracks it with improv noise guitar. A comrade who shall remain nameless worried that Kroyd’s observations were ‘hit and miss’, which I concede, but it all adds to the cumulative effect of the performance. People who put their heads around the door and think ‘hmmm don’t fancy this’ are missing out on sharp, funny, sometimes very moving stories and, quite often, a fantastic crescendo of flailing, bewildered despair that tops out the set. I recommend sitting the fuck down and listening.

…and that was that so we packed up, said our goodbyes and tumbled out onto the street. Dan Thomas, taking pity on a tired old man who’d been up since 4.30am caring for his boy, made sure I got home safely.  In the morning Thomas had a shiny helium balloon to play with…



Human Combustion Engine


UK Muzzlers (dunno – try via Astral Social Club)


Wharf Chambers

Sonic Circuits


electric meditations: the taming power back catalogue

October 28, 2014 at 4:47 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Taming Power - Meditations for Radio front

Regular readers will know that I have recently championed the work of Norwegian artist Askild Haugland who records as Taming Power and releases music via his own Early Morning Records label, mainly on vinyl. I was put onto him by the effervescent and musically omniscient Neil Campbell and our opinions as to the genius of this largely unsung outsider can be read here, here and here.

I asked Askild what of his back catalogue was available and how an interested party might get hold of it. He replied to my email with the ordering information and list of releases below. As I read through it I found myself intrigued and a little hypnotized by the uncluttered, succinct style with which he describes his ideas, his music and the process of its creation. I defy anyone to read, say, the one line description of Fragments Of The Name Of God and not want to hear it. Fuck it, I thought, let’s make this a guest post and spread the word amongst the ‘elite’ readership that this blog attracts.

So, I’ve formatted the list, illustrated it with cover scans where I had them and linked the titles to posts containing my reviews where possible. I have neither sought nor received permission to do this but he seems an affable chap who enjoys making contact so I hope he won’t mind.

…and before you lot start getting ideas, this is a one-off. I will not be posting your back catalogue and ordering information. Aside from bits and pieces on Discogs etc. information about the availability of Taming Power releases is absent from the internet – a situation I consider a shame and wish to rectify.

Over to Askild…


I do not have a website, but enclose a list of the releases here.

The vinyl releases are still available. Prices are £5 for 7″, £8 for 10″, £10 for LP and £15 for the 2LP. Postage is extra and will depend on weight and size. Payment can be made via Paypal, but contact me first for a total with postage. Trade deals can also be OK.

Askild Haugland:

Early Morning Records – Vinyl releases:

EMR 7″-001: Taming Power – Selected Works 1996-97.

2 pieces of musique concrète. Recordings of concrete sounds edited and manipulated through the use of reel-to-reel tape recorders. Each piece has a duration of approx. 10 minutes. 100 copies.

These three LPs are intended as a series documenting the work with Taming Power during the first ten years. The sound quality is sometimes rather rough, as the recordings were made with very modest means.

EMR 12″-002: Taming Power – Selected Works 1995-97.

First experiments with tape recorder feedback as only sound source – no other instruments or effects were used. Some of the tracks are recorded in real time, while others are collages. This record also contains a radio ready-made from 1995. 150 copies.

EMR 12″-003: Taming Power – Selected Works 1989-98.

Experiments with electric guitar and tape recorders. Recordings of el.guitar improvisations have been treated and manipulated through the use of tape recorder systems. In some cases this meant altering and reconstructing the original recording completely, in other cases it meant just adding some tape delay. 150 copies.

EMR 12″-004: Taming Power – Selected Works & Fragments 1987-97.

First recordings. It started in 1987 as an attempt to make improvised freeform psychedelic music – using mainly keyboard, but also acoustic guitar, harmonica and other musical objects. Simple tape recorder experiments were attempted, like playing recordings backwards or obstructing the tape during recording. 100 copies.

These three 10″ records are intended to form an electronic triptych – a series of works which use tape recorder technology to generate and manipulate sound.

EMR 10″-005: Taming Power – Selected Works 1992-98.

Contains short pieces based on tape recorder technology. Most of the tracks use only tape recorder feedback as sound source. Some of the tracks also use recordings of ordinary instruments, like el.guitar, keyboard, radio or circular saw. 200 copies.

taming power - selected works 1997 - cover

EMR 10″-006: Taming Power – Selected Works 1997.

2 long pieces which use only the tape recorder as sound source. Recordings of tape recorder feedback have been superimposed, transformed and partly re-recorded before reaching finished music. 200 copies.

Taming Power - Selected Works 2000 front

EMR 10″-007: Taming Power – Selected Works 2000: Excursions for tape recorders.

All 4 pieces on this release were recorded in real time and use only feedback generated on two connected reel-to-reel tape recorders – the machines working simultaneously as both recording devices and musical instruments. No other instruments, sound sources or pre-recorded sounds were used in these recordings. 200 copies.

Taming Power - 16 Movements for Electric Guitar front

EMR 12″-008: Taming Power – 16 Movements For Electric Guitar.

Composition in four sections with a total duration of one hour. No tape recorder experiments – only electric guitar to 4-track. 200 copies.

These three 10″ records are intended to form a triptych with works where el.guitar recordings are manipulated through the use of magnetic tape (tape recorders and/or cassette recorders).

EMR 10″-009: Taming Power – For Electric Guitar And Tape Recorders.

2 long pieces where pre-recorded el.guitar improvisations are being manipulated and edited while travelling around in a system of two connected tape recorders. 200 copies.

taming power - for electric guitar and tape recorders - cover

EMR 10″-010: Taming Power – For Electric Guitar And Cassette Recorders.

Electric guitar recorded and manipulated through the use of ordinary domestic cassette recorders – no reel-to-reels have been used this time. Side A contains one long piece based on series of flageolet chords recorded in stop motion technique, running through a full cycle until the sequence starts repeating itself. Side B contains 6 small pieces for el.guitar and cassette distortion/degeneration. 220 copies.

Taming Power - For Electric Guitar, Cassette Recorders and Tape Recorders front

EMR 10″-011: Taming Power – For Electric Guitar, Cassette Recorders And Tape Recorders.

Side A contains one long piece of accumulation and subtraction where a pre-recorded el.guitar track is edited and distorted through different tape systems. Side B uses an el.guitar composition as basis for three different treatments. 220 copies.

Taming Power - Meditations for Radio back

EMR 10″-012: Taming Power – Meditations For Radio.

2 collages based on recordings of radio noise and distorted  transmissions. Recorded from an old radio to ordinary cassettes and then edited from cassette to 4-track – reel-to-reels were not involved this time. The radio recordings were not manipulated, filtered or altered, no other instruments or effects were used – the sounds have been used as they were received by the radio. 220 copies.

EMR 7″-013: Taming Power – Fragments Of The Name Of God.

2 pieces for glockenspiel and tape recorders/cassette recorders, with an interlude of rain. 220 copies.

EMR 12″-014: Taming Power – Autumn Works 2002.

Contains a selection of el.guitar quartets recorded in 2002. The first piece 23-3-02III uses one reversed guitar line and some stop motion recording – the other pieces are just linear el.guitar playing through distortion/delay to 4-track recording. 220 copies.

EMR 10″-015: Taming Power – Three Pieces.

Contains three pieces realized 2004-05, partly based on older recordings. Made with keys, drilbu, singing bowls,voice, metallophone, el.guitar, field recording, tape recorder and cassette recorders. 111 copies.

EMR 10″-016: Taming Power – Six Pieces.

Contains developments of some ideas from the ‘Three Pieces’ 10″. On ‘Six Pieces’ most of the tracks are shorter, and harmonica and dingsha have been added to the instruments. 110 copies.

EMR 10″-017: Taming Power – Twelve Pieces.

Half of the tracks are short pieces based only on el.guitar, zither or keyboards, while the other half are more or less in a similar style as the two previous releases. 525 copies.

taming power - twenty-one pieces - cover

EMR 2×12″-018: Taming Power – Twenty-one Pieces.

2LP containing a selection of tracks created during the years 1998-2009. There are some pieces recorded in stop-motion, some small pieces for el.guitar, pieces based on field recording or tape recorder treatments, some casio tunes and some layered pieces. All tracks are previously unissued. 329 copies.

The EP compilation series started in 2001. The records are released according to this concept: 4 artists are given approx. 4 minutes each, and can use these minutes for whatever purpose they want as long as the result has something to do with experimental music. Each artist is given 1/4 of the pressing to create covers for and to make a personal edition – which means that all releases in this series exist in 4 different editions which are distributed by the individual artists.

EMR COMP-7″ #1: Sonorités De La Vie De Bohème – a compilation of experimental music.

With contributions from byart, Taming Power, Obscure Tapestries, Empty-Ass Noise…WHAT?!. 300 copies – 4 editions of 75 copies each.

EMR COMP-7″ #2: The Golden Road (To Limited Edition) – a compilation of experimental music.

With contributions from Bruce Russell, Antonym, Sindre Bjerga/Anders Gjerde, Taming Power. 320 copies – 4 editions of 80 copies each.

Releases on other formats:

taming power - selected works 2001

EMR Promo-CD #2: Taming Power – Selected Works 2001.

CDR intended mainly as promo, but the music is so far only released here. 30 minutes duration – contains 10 pieces where recordings of tape recorder feedback are edited to 4-track. Unlimited edition.

(EMR Promo-CD #1 and #3 contain previously releasedmaterial by Taming Power and are deleted – they exist only in 2 and 3 copies respectively).

There also exist 40 cassette releases with recordings by Taming Power. They were released during the years 1997-2002 in limited editions of 7-20 copies each – mainly on 30-minutes Chrome Type II cassettes. There are still copies left of some of these releases, but only a few due to the small editions. Some of the cassettes have been re-released on vinyl.


eject the tape: rfm moans about the format, champions the content

October 17, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | 4 Comments
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Clive Henry / Joined By Wire – split (tape, Soundholes, #060, edition of 100)

Joined By Wire – ERA END and/or BAJM! (tape and 12 page A6 booklet, self-released as part of Bang the Bore Forum tape exchange, edition of 15)

BBBlood – Untitled (tape, Beartown Records)

Cestine – Other Half / Bright Encounter (tape, Rok Lok Records, #97, edition of 40 or download)

Dear Beloved Henry / Albert Materia – split (recycled tape, Hyster Tapes, HYSTER13)

Leitmotiv Limbo – LIMBO / WIND SWEPT (self-released tape)

Stamina Nudes – Discipline of Exploding Bridges (tape, Stolen Head)

harsh noise wall (of tapes)

Apologies for not writing more reviews over the last couple of months.  I’ve been waiting for two things to wear off: the effects of a nasty virus and the novelty of being on Twitter.  Both have rather dragged on.  Anyway…

As part of this year’s fabulous TUSK Festival Joe Murray agreed to curate a small exhibition of tape label art titled Everyone Loves Tapes These Days.  Looking for someone to write a brief wall text Joe reached out to his editor here at RFM and I replied with the following diatribe:

Interesting, and thanks for thinking of me – I’m flattered.  However, I wonder if I am exactly the right guy for the job.  Dare I say it?  OK, deep breath: I’ve pretty much fallen out of love with tapes.  I appreciate the determined anti-commercialism that they represent nowadays, and they are a good archive medium,  but the format is cumbersome, inconvenient, space consuming and has no sonic advantages over other formats.  Those beardies that talk about its ‘unique low end’ are talking out of their own low ends. I suppose I still do like the clacky sound of taking them in and out of their cases but if everything went download/CD-r tomorrow I wouldn’t care. Tapes = the price you pay for being a Culver fan.  I might even go a bit further: what used to be a democratic, punk (‘home taping is killing music!’ well, GOOD) format has mutated over the years into a symbol of hipster elitism – maybe not in the context of the no-audience underground but that is what anyone vaguely knowledgeable about music looking in from outside would see.  Tape walkmans aren’t as an awful an affectation as manual typewriters but, hey, matter of time…

Heh, heh – ain’t I naughty, eh?  So do I actually believe all that or did Joe just catch me in a mischievous, belligerent mood?  A bit of both, I think.  Some clarifications and addenda are necessary.

Firstly, that bit about being an archive medium is true enuff – they won’t play after the aliens come and destroy civilisation with a massive electro-magnetic pulse but they will last until then which is more than can be said for CD-rs etc.  Dude, my Mum has had that Billy Joel tape, like, for ever.

Secondly, I do really like the clacky sound of removing a tape from it’s box and sliding it into the deck.  I also think the Tabs Out Podcast twitter feed is really funny.  So that’s two tape related things that are good – fair as Solomon, me.

Thirdly, and more contentiously, the determined anti-commercialism/hipster elitism tension.  I haven’t closely followed the rise of tape ‘culture’ but I’m sure arguments must have raged/might still be raging about this subject on corners of the internet that I am blissfully unaware of.  I don’t have the energy or inclination to take a side.  However there is one aspect of the business that I’m tempted to take a hard line on.  Now, I have nothing but love for truly tape only noise labels (the ne plus ultra in the UK being Matching Head, of course – a label with no official internet presence, untouched by fashion, driven purely by the uncompromising vision of Lee ‘Culver’ Stokoe) but raise an eyebrow at self-described ‘tape labels’ that also offer downloads.  Personally I prefer this arrangement for reasons given above – 98% of my musical appreciation is done via mp3 player – but I would argue that by offering downloads you can ditch the word ‘tape’ because yours is just a… label.  Catch me in the same mischievous, belligerent mood that greeted Joe’s innocent request and I might say that you were actually a label providing music in the preferred, most convenient format of the day alongside unnecessary physical versions meant to tempt daft hipster object-fetishists – a demographic always keen to reify counter-cultural heft into something that can be neatly displayed on a shelf.

Heh, heh – more naughtiness – comments genuinely welcome.  I am open to being convinced otherwise.

So, with that all in mind, my eyes wander to the tape section of the RFM review pile and I decide that a round-up is long overdue.  Never mind my misgivings about the format, it’s the content that really matters right?  Let’s see.

jbw and clivejbw - era end

Clive Henry / Joined By Wire – split

Joined By Wire – ERA END and/or BAJM!

Boy, have I slept on these two tapes – Stephen of joinedbywire kindly sent me these months ago.  Mea culpa.

Clive Henry‘s side of the split tape is like waking from a blackout caused by a blow to the head and piecing together the events that led to the assault.  Bursts of vision-blurring pain, repeated verbal tics that refuse to resolve into coherent speech, stumbling.  Or maybe it is Ted Hughes’s The Iron Man reassembling itself the morning after falling off that cliff.  I like it very much.

Stephen’s side is perhaps not as nostrils-flaring, full-on psych as previous JBW releases admired on this blog but is no less terrific for being dialled down a notch.  Instead what we have are a group of multi-limbed clockwork toys of indeterminate form defying the laws of thermodynamics by winding each other up into a clicking, buzzing, writhing mass of mechanical energy.

Available from SoundHoles.

ERA END and/or BAJM! is Stephen’s contribution to a tape-swap project organised via the Bang the Bore forum.  I was not involved in this so am grateful to him for sending me this spare copy – the last of an edition of 15. As ever, I deeply impressed with Stephen’s graphic work and faultless attention to detail – see photo for all the elements that make up this package – especially as this was originally only to be seen by the dozen people signed up to take part.  The racket this time is up in the red.  Thick clouds of noise create an atmosphere of salty feverishness with occasional sinus clearing bursts of stomping distortobeatz.  That said, there are passages of relative calm too – imagine some brute devolved remnant of far-future humanity worshipping the one remaining artefact of our decadent age: a broken tape walkman.

bbblood - untitled - beartown

BBBlood – Untitled

Paul Watson is a current scene leader in what I’ve always thought of as ‘proper’ noise.  That is: a visceral racket created by rough-housing with physical objects, by combining field and domestic recordings and by filtering the lot through a rag-tag tabletop of battered and home-made electronics.  However, that is not to belittle the skill and care with which Paul puts these recordings together.  The sounds are not ends in themselves but chosen, ordered and edited as a means to establishing an atmosphere.  His latest recordings eschew ‘harshness’ almost entirely and the listener is led through a post-industrial landscape of broken glass and burning tyres with, dare I say it, delicacy and finesse.

I can sense the leather-jacket owning section of my readership twitching with unease but don’t worry – I’m not saying Paul has gone all Nick Drake on us.  He still get his balls out on occasion – and so magnificent are his plums that it is no wonder the crowd goes fucking apeshit when they are displayed.  What I’m saying is the flashes of nad are appropriate and proportionate to the larger task at hand.

Essential, of course.  Available from Beartown Records.


Cestine – Other Half / Bright Encounter

This recording by Cestine, the duo of Dominic Coppola and Theodore Schafer, hovers shimmering between the ‘nothing music’ of Karina ESP I described a few posts ago and the ‘extraction music‘ of Dan Thomas et al that I have been banging on about this year.  Two tracks, each lasting fifteen minutes exactly, contain slowly cycling electronics augmented with field recordings – birds, the sea maybe, children – and snatches of whispered conversation, perhaps partially overheard whilst daydreaming, perhaps snatches of radio broadcasts crackling between the stations.  It is constructed with a robust attention to detail that allows for deep, repeat listening but conveys a vulnerability, a brittleness too.  The contemplative reverie it induces is bitter-sweet and emotionally complicated, like turning over the memory of an important friendship, now long lost.  Recommended highly.

Available from Rok Lok Records.

dear beloved henry

Dear Beloved Henry / Albert Materia – split

Hyster Tapes are punk as all fuck – black and white J-card, recycled tapes, photocopied flier advertising their warez (pictured) – and I wholeheartedly approve.  Joe grokked the FOUR LETTER WORLD compilation back in March and as a result Heikki of the label kindly sent this too.  Gotta keep that goodwill circulating – keeps it fresh and vital.

The Dear Beloved Henry side of this split, one 24 minute track titled ‘Advent’, is one of the best things I’ve heard all year.  It is deceptively simple in execution: a flowing electronic drone groove with a vaguely East Asian feel – like 1970s Krautrock that has been listening to a bunch of gamelan LPs – works through the variations.  However, every so often a magnetic pull distorts it off course and adds an intriguing, complicating layer of discordance.  It’s like it was mastered to VHS and someone is now messing with the tracking.  Is this an artefact of duping it to an old recycled tape or is this woosiness wholly intended?  The result is magical either way.

Sadly the Albert Materia side, several tracks of fractured poetry with piano accompaniment, was not for me.  Can’t win ’em all, eh?

Available from Hyster Tapes – email:

leitmotiv limbo

Leitmotiv Limbo – LIMBO / WIND SWEPT

Also sent as result of Joe’s FOUR LETTER WORLD review.  In ‘Limbo’ Elijah Vartto (umlauts over the vowels – apologies for the limitations of the WordPress editor) conjures an alien souk from the echoed honking of an unspecified wind instrument and stick-in-bucket metallic rhythms.  The point of view changes every few minutes and gradually a scene is set, protagonists introduced.  This comes together in a surprising burst of new wave pop before retreating to the abstract – a menacing bassy warble dragging us down to an underground bunker full of robot soldiers.

‘Wind Swept’ uses field recordings phased to sound like the fuelling of spacecaft over which mournful, austere jazz blowing accompanies growling, heavily filtered vocals.  It’s the blues played by a band whose home-world was destroyed as a display of power intended to tame a petulant rebel princess.  Guitar jangles like the rigging of boats.  All eventually peters out to a gargling throb.

Comparisons have been made elsewhere to early Cabaret Voltaire.  This is apt and, of course, a very good thing.

Available from Elijah himself.

stamina nudes

Stamina Nudes – Discipline of Exploding Bridges

Finally then, what might be my pick of the bunch.  Bryan (whose surname I suddenly realise I don’t know) operates in an adjoining laboratory to meta-musical collage-jockeys Spoils & Relics (indeed, I recently saw him play as a duo with that #KieronPiercy).  The shared working method involves isolating sounds, sanding off their contexts and reassembling them into new fragmentary narratives – a perversely delicious anti-archaeology.  Here Bryan invokes a dystopian, science fictional vibe but builds in a wry distance that stops it becoming self-important or parodic. The balance and compelling flow he maintains are both very impressive.  In summary: I dig this.

This album scores maximum ideological purity points too.  It was slipped to me, in person, by the artist, as we sat on a bench, under a tree, in a park, with Dan Thomas, one sunny lunchtime – a clandestine, samizdat-style handover.  Now that is tape only.

I’ve no idea in what sense this this might be ‘available’ but you can email Bryan and ask:


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