woke up with a frog on my tongue: rfm on aftawerks, sophie cooper, yol, ocean floor, anla courtis, robert ridley-shackleton, the slowest lift & f.ampism

November 23, 2017 at 7:15 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Aftawerks – Isle of Dogs (Acid Waxa)

Sophie Cooper – The Curfew Tower Recordings (Crow Versus Crow Editions)

Yol –On/Off (Soundholes)

Ocean Floor – Four Shadows (Aphelion)

Anla Courtis – Concept Bongo (Coherent States)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – A Thin Slice of Sexie Funk (Cardboard Club)

The Slowest Lift – The Slowest Lift (VHF)

F.Ampism – The Unstruck Sound Centre (Ikuisuus)

 acid waxa

Aftawerks – Isle of Dogs (Acid Waxa) Sold Out Cassette and digital album

Now I may not know my 808 from my 303 but what I can tell you is that this tape is what I’ve been reaching for when I need to get shit done.

Putting the bins out?  Check.

Going to argue with the teachers at the kids open day? Check.

Completing that application for planning permission?  Check.

For each domestic stretching task I’ve found Aftawerks’ no-nonsense squelch, jaunty computerised bass and pinprick precise beats the perfect mental and physical workout.

I’m in no way qualified to review this with any sense of where it fits into things historically.  Some of it sounds like incidental music on Miami Vice, some of it sounds like the tunes kids blast at the back of the bus with extremely complicated hi-hat and clave patterns.

But whatever it is I’m bouncing and moving.

So…am I cool now?

sophie cooper solo

Sophie Cooper – The Curfew Tower Recordings (Crow Versus Crow Editions) Sold Out Cassette and digital album

How low can you go?

On this tape Sophie Cooper goes Mariana Trench deep into the wild and weird world of the orchestra’s most misunderstood instrument – the trombone.

Sophie’s ‘bone is not played for yuks.  No sir.  Her Avant Garde drone credentials are writ large on a ‘Tribute to LaMonte Young and Marian Zazeela’s OCEANS’.  But at the same time the farting bluster that comes naturally from hot brass is not shied away from.  In fact it is welcomed in a series of breathy improvisations that notch up extra points for unknown textures and intense control.

At times the brass guffs are joined with real-life human breath totally getting that ‘soft and intense’ vibe Miles perfected on Kind of Blue.  On ‘What the fuck was he thinking?’ trumps turn to growls and growls turn to gasps and I’m transported into a world of leather lungs and wax paper aioli, gently expanding and contracting – the rasping hiss as rich in life in a succulent rock pool.

Delicate sound manipulation enters the frame occasionally with ‘Push the Button’s’ double-tracked horns locking together into some hefty warble tone.  A pot is twisted and it gets fuzzier and hissier until it reaches Michio Kurihara’s mythical bliss-out proportions.

As it stands, with its site specific jams and improvisations, this tape would be a winner.  But add to this the sweet narrative charm and you’ve got a keeper, a real put-on-the-top-of-the-pile-er.

The fabled dial-a-bone sessions link recordings together and are presented unedited and raw…the phone rings, Sophie answers, she asks what kind of jam the caller wants (loud/soft, short/long) and, BBBBUUURRRRRRRRRRMMMMM, she delivers.  Classic trombone action.

Who you gonna call?

yol on off

Yol –On/Off (Soundholes) Cassette

SIDE ON: JUST FIRE. JUST FIRE NOTHING ELSE. FEEDBACK SCOURS CLEAN. YOU DID A CRAP WHEELIE IN THE PARK. GIBBER G-G-GIBBER. ROAR AND RUUR AND RAAR. THROAT IS SORE BUT CAN’T STOP. JUST FIRE NOTHING ELSE.  SSSSSSSSQUEAL – BURN IT CLEAN / CUT IT OUT.  FIRE, FIRE, FIRE ON A LORRY. SCRATCH/BUFFFFFFGGG. SILENCE. TWO DOGS. BACKGROUND CHUNTER ON A TAPE OR SOMETHING. TWO FAKE PLASTIC ROTTWEILERS.  BUMMMMGGGGG—AWWWWWWWWW WHAT THE FUCK IS IN THERE?  EEEEEEEEEEE…SILENCE-CLICK.

SIDE OFF. PROTEST WIG. UGHHH. SCRAPE/SCRAPE. UHHH-GHUUUR. DISEMBODIED WIG HEAD ON THE BALCONY OF THE LUXURY FLATS. SCRATCH. CREEEE—WAAAJ WAAAJ. I SWEAR DOWN IT WAS LOOKING AT ME. HAH-HAH-HER. FADED GHOST LETTERS. GUNG-KIDDLE-TOING. SAY SOMETHING ABOUT. BOING. PAINT, SHOES, GLOVES. PING…CRUNCH. IS IT A WARNING? CHUDDLE-RATTLE-HING. CRAZY PAVING. SCRATCH-UG UG UG MADE FROM BROKEN GRAVESTONES ROARRR-R-RAAAH.  SQUEAL-EEL. ALWAYS KEEP A SPARK PLUG IN YOUR POCKET.  UHG UHG CRASH. SILENCE-CLICK.

ocean floor

Ocean Floor – Four Shadows (Aphelion) CD, Cassette and digital album

These four sublimely beautiful modular synth pieces from one Mr Aonghus Reidy simply ooze out of the speakers like a ripple of ripe camembert.

Opener ‘Airglow’ reverberates round our domestic front room with a poise that turns our little lounge into some ebony-tiled basilica.  A devastating presence wearing the monk’s cowl of humility.  ‘Shadows’ follows with gentle runs of oscillation that wouldn’t be out of place in a schools and colleges broadcast from 1983.

Things wind down a little with ‘Night’ – shimmering like moonlight on a vast lake the melody moving so slowly it almost collapses.  And things are finally put to bed (Ed – groan!) on ‘Slumber’ a real-life lullaby; in equal parts sweetness and sinister.

It’s pretty.  It’s lovely.  What’s your problem punk?

anla courtis

Anla Courtis – Concept Bongo (Coherent States) Cassette and download

Clipped and ribbed thribblings.

Yes it’s the bongo drum – beloved of the beatnik and unwelcome midnight-jammer.  But here Alan/Anla Courtis takes the hippie staple and drowns it in several pints of ‘chunng-fhhfhhung’ stretching each dull thud into a warm tropical front.  Elastic thumps collect in wildly unstable clouds; popping and clicking like plastic thunder.

Waxy rolls and smears. 

Two fifteen minute pieces focus on different approaches.  ‘Concept Bongo I’ concentrates on the short-lived resonance that exists in the negative space these drums are designed to hold.  Vibration is carefully controlled and limited to strict, neat parameters.  The tables are turned on ‘Concept Bongo II” a freer, looser jam, sloshed with reverb sounding exactly halfway between an afternoon with Steve Reich and Faust’s most blunted tapes experiments.

The sound of a million blunt fingertips gently striking pigskin. 

The palette of sounds is, understandably, quite limited to these thrilling pops and clicks but this familiarity make me smile nostalgically, like uncovering a well-earned scar when it’s warm enough to wear shorts.

Can I say Bongo Fury?  Guess I just did.

Robert Ridley

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – A Thin Slice of Sexie Funk (Cardboard Club) 3”CD-r

The Cardboard Prince is pretty much unstoppable on this brief funk workout.  I’m guessing there’s some new kit involved here as RRS sounds deep, heavier and more, well…sexie on this release.

Enough of the preamble – where’s the beef?

  • ‘Eye Just Want 2’ – Chart-ready Brit-funk with indistinct vocals (such a shame I can’t make them out) and an irrepressible squid-beat spurting electric ink.
  • ‘Dancing Under the Table’ – A classic RRS instant composition with a riff on jam sandwiches and death(e), the coiling bass line gradually tweaked till it cries Uncle.
  • ‘Cheater’ –This one is the cream of a particular creamy crop. Lyrics sound like Cheap Trick!  Lyrics sound totally RRS!!  The squelching bass line needs to be wrung out it’s so darn wet.  Many pots are twisted and drum-fills are added with wild abandon as RRS opens his heart to curse all the cheaters out there.

 slowest lift lp

The Slowest Lift – The Slowest Lift (VHF) Vinyl LP

This knock-out tag team: Sophie Cooper and Julian Bradley (AKA The Slowest Lift) find their spiritual home on veteran freek-retreat VHS for their debut long-player.

Let’s recap.  The Slowest Lift excels in duality.  Their coupling of (on one side) shocking distortion, tape noise and blistering huff with (on the other) soft slow voices and gentle unhurried compositions make the act of listening like dreaming through an electrical storm.

The prospect their heaving and groaning fuzz will descend into splintered chaos is always hinted at but generally inches back from the brink guided by a warm sonic-sirocco rebalancing the actors like perfectly carved chess pieces.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this is classy but still a psychic bruiser yeah?

Opener ‘Crystal Fracture’ re-imagines something like TOTO’s Africa decamped to the Devil’s Causeway and played by colourful walkers on sharp sticks.

I’m always intrigued by that songs-named-after-the-band/album-titles-named-after-the-band type of thing. Am I to assume that this song ‘The Slowest Lift’ is a mission statement?  A brief track to distil the essence of Cooper/Bradley? If so I can report back T.S.L. are a devastating cocktail of the fizzy and the smeared – think carbonated grease!

Strung-out lines of gruffly-tempered fluff skittering in a beam of yellow sunlight next…it’s ‘Bank Holiday Tuesday’ – a slow boil.  The birth of casserole-core if you will.  ‘Preset’ has the swagger of some undiscovered Ulver back-catalogue gem; cascades of VU-guitar strummage while Transylvanian horns duck and parry.

A lazy hiss of a harmonium fidgets with those darn tachyons shimmering in and out of phase on ‘Hi from the Skyline Swim’. The voice, relatively en clair is delivering a warning of sorts.  Watch out for the grandfather paradox perhaps?

Taking a breather I think what I like most is the unpolished air to this remarkable record.  The ever-so-slightly discernable patina of tape hiss when another instrument adds to the mix, it’s the sound of unfinished business.  ‘EV Plus’ is a great case in point – like two found recordings laid over each other.  T.S.L. make like archaeologists digging for treasure that their painstaking research assures them is just beneath their feet.

Song title of the month, ‘Extreme Cops’ is a sculpted meringue, chemically complex but light as air, ‘The Chauffer’ similarly buoyant   Compare and contrast to closer ‘Punched’.  A concrete overcoat, worn as you sink beneath the dock of the bay.

The Slowest Lift dog-ear a new chapter in ye olde booke of English free-mind collectives.

“SHhvvvHHHuuuhhHHHHHSshsshSShshsSH”

ampism_sleeve

F.Ampism – The Unstruck Sound Centre (Ikuisuus) Vinyl LP

A lovingly prepared Petri dish of ripe exotic beans sprouting quivering tendrils that wrap round my pink toes.

A slushy bubbling and melting ripple permeate each of these nine itchy pieces.  Each song a study in Technicolor; detail hanging heavy with Nag Champa and waxy banana leaves.

‘The Loosest Caduceus’ shudders like muscle spasms while ‘Sand/Blood/Glass’ makes me shave my head and begin a Bic-pen trepanation.  An over-reaction from an excited listener you think?  I challenge you not to seep between these vinyl grooves in search of forbidden knowledge. Me?  I napped and woke up with a frog on my tongue.  There’s no escape from the cramps!

But lovers of gritty drama and kitchen sink realism will not be disappointed by ‘Absolute Beyond Ill’ as fucking real as ‘tripping’ down the steps of the police station.

Get merry and totally bronzed with AMPISM!   Essential.

STOP PRESS: Dwellers of Sheffield ! You can watch f.ampism and a whole host of other RFM faves LIVE on Saturday 2nd December at  Regather  57-59 Club Garden Road, Sheffield, S11 8BUThis all-dayer contains Dylan Nyoukis & Kieron Piercey, Historically Fucked, Katz Mulk, Sippy Cup, Giblet Gusset, Acrid Lactations & Joincey, Luke Poot & Duncan Harrison and some joker named Posset.  Doors open at 3.30pm and the howling starts at 4pm.  Kids welcome.  More info here.

Acid Waxa

Crow versus Crow Bandcamp

Soundholes

Aphelion Editions

Coherent States

Cardboard Club / Hissing Frames

VHF Records

Ikuisuus

-ooOOoo-

abstract ivory plonk: zoe polanski, various hyster artists & robert ridley-shackleton

April 11, 2017 at 7:13 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Zoe Polanski – Inertia. Music from the Motion Picture (Hyster Tapes)

Various Artists- L’Incoronazione (Hyster Tapes)

Robert Ridley Shackelton – Atlas Banghouse (Cardboard Club)

Robert Ridley Shackelton – 0800 NEW CARD (Cardboard Club)

Hyster Zoe Zoe Polanski – Inertia. Music from the Motion Picture (Hyster Tapes) C40 one-sided & recycled tape

Real film vs fake soundtrack // fake film vs real soundtrack  // real film vs real soundtrack // fake film vs fake soundtrack

I started to ponder this conundrum and then just gave up.  This may or may not be a Zoe Polanski or a further pseudonym – Bela Tar – but what this is, 100% truthfully, is one damn fine tape of pushed-out synth/sampler swoop with the buttons taped down on the ‘ecstatic strings’ option.

Imagine taking one split micro-second of 10CC’s ‘I’m not in love’ and smearing that Brummy ‘ahhhhhhh’ all over 20 minutes of atmospheric and recycled tape.  Imagine catching a drip of MBV’s sampler-drek ‘hhuuuhhuuu’ and coating your atmos with that saucy ferric message.

Capiche?

Like an endless happy yawn the constant dragging of the orchestra pit makes me sleepy and lightheaded…but for such a brief soundtrack, moods and motifs keep emerging so I’m also on caffeine-soaked red alert.

The two note breathy faux-voice crops up hystering across the mix like a sea cow or something in ‘Mother’s Theme’.  A sepia-stained, 6th generation dub of (perhaps) a smoke-filled cinema organ adds rhythm to the beautiful yet creepy ‘TV Nightmare’.

Hyster Comp

Various Artists- L’Incoronazione (Hyster Tapes) C20 recycled tape

More ultra-lo-fi tape scrapings from the House of Hyster.

My copy is taped over a ‘Pallo Punainen’ release but sounds excellent and full and wobbly, especially as DEAR BELOVED HENRY hawk out a couple of wonderful untitled tracks that seem to bridge the gap between Gastr Del Sol’s sweetly-composed minimal whimsy and the raw burst of anger unleashed when you realise your car’s been nicked.

No clues as to what turns on DEBT OF NATURE  – bird sounds and cicada-menace haunt their dismal keyboard slouch like teenagers forced to go to Sunday School.  They may tit about in the kitchen but the leavings are pure Lambkin.

Irregular tappings and knocks play us out the first side with R.S.T. seemingly rattling some old rubber-junk while a tape of Max Roach gets more and more distorted in one ear.

Old school hock-rockers GREY PARK reveal a decayed piano tune that doesn’t even reach the 3 minute mark but for me could have continued all afternoon – abstract ivory plonk – what’s not to love?

Without a single Ray Davies riff the AUTUMN APPRECIATION SOCIETY sweep up a baffling collection of grim found sound and added scuzz-electronics.  If this is an autumn scene in Finland then it seems to be heavily industrial Snow-Plows clunking apart to transform into gilded robots.

You looking for proper Northern European, DIY, no-audience, no-frills tape action reader?  Be sure to check out the Hyster.

RRS Atlas Banghouse

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Atlas Banghouse (Cardboard Club) C30 tape and digital album

It’s no wonder Robert Ridley-Shackleton’s recent move to the thrillingly vibrant city of Bristol has accelerated a change in his distinct ‘pocket-jazz’ sound.  Bristol has long since produced hip outsiders and wierdos to bother the mainstream; now the N-AU get’s a new Bristol lickin’.

In recent conversation with the Cardboard Prince he spilled that Techno was a great and deep love and I’m delighted to report this banger is technological with a distinct hissy twist.

Thin claves and handclaps are a shifting matrix for some pretty heavy squelching and hollow plastic thumping.  In particular ‘No Peaking’ moves jigsaw pieces of rhythm so they fit neat and tight – then wrench them apart so the percussive tabs and blanks get bent out of shape and deformed.

Side two opens with ‘Don’t Worry’ –  a donk, most certainly, ‘on it’ bleating in the sort of time signature Sunny Murray would love as the pots get twisted, letting soft grease flood the headphones.

Fans of the RRS old-school sound need not worry as the subtle and strangely euphoric sounds of the inside of his tape recorder and stressed fruit punnets are writ large on ‘The Ohh Ahh and ‘Duplo goes Chatty Crazy.’

But it’s the closer ‘Birthday Card’ that melds the fine granular huss of classic RRS with the nu-skool beats in new and dangerously exciting ways.

“I think it’s about 140 BPM I think…if you were wondering.”

The Prince helpfully tells us as a feeble clip-clop-clip-clop makes this more paranoid-Fall-album-interlude than filthy-Detroit-floor-filler.

Crackle, crackle…scooouuurrrrrr….hummm (with added sniff).

RRS New card

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – 0800 NEW CARD (Cardboard Club) tape and digital album

Seven new tracks from the Cardboard Prince.  In praise of the skeletal style a skeletal review.

  • 0800 New Card – Brittle drum machines are back / Phat keytar is back / Sex Rap is back
  • Eye Gonna B Rich – Sweet and low tech-experiment-no. The ‘whump’ gets progressively deep
  • Oh Lord – Stream of consciousness, back-room clutter clearance – of the mind. “A microchip or some shit.”
  • My Fashion – 45 seconds of jerry-rigged funk with popgun accents
  • Call me up, Tell me how U feel – delay reaction techno with an ‘I like to party’ baseline
  • Cuz I’m Cool – wrapping party wrench from a sleepy RRS. Dream-logic-plea for Power Rangers
  • Waltz 2016 – Reluctant Jazzie B soundcheck.

Dig a fucking pony!

Hyster Tapes

Cardboard Club

Hyster Both

-ooOOOoo-

my bloody ventolin: joe murray on star turbine, robert ridley-shackleton, sindre bjerga

October 13, 2016 at 11:25 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Star Turbine – Nothing Should Move Unless You Want It To (CD, Frozen Light, edition of 300 or download)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Tupperwave (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.338, edition of 42)

Sindre Bjerga – Japan 2013 Tour Documentary – A Film By Shade Barka Martins (DVD-r, Goldsoundz, GS#130, edition of 26)

nothing-should

Star Turbine – Nothing Should Move Unless You Want It To

This canny duo of Claus Poulsen & Sindre Bjerga have now been together for about 6 years – that’s longer than The Beatles live-performing career.  And in that time they’ve moved from loveable moptops (read: hessian cloaked druids) to Abbey Road sophisticates pulling sounds from a cosmic-scurf fortress and mixing them cleverly with improvised crackles and hopped-up speech interventions.

On this disc they reach deep into the hard drive and present, in the main, truncated live performances; the bacon in the bap, hurling you straight into their fully articulate sound cavern.

It starts as you’d imagine – mice invest dollars in sonic-grip technology, aiming their blunderbuss straight at you for the duration of ‘An/Auf’.  It feels sort of sticky and thick and on the verge of panic.  I feel much more comfortable if I keep my breath even and calm.

Grey-rubber ripping shakes a tail on ‘Hearing Voices’ among some seriously screwed vocals and inter-planet hum.  The rushing of tape grot adds a complimentary momentum pulling your ears in different directions; microscopic insects rearrange your nerve endings.

Some sort of My Bloody Ventolin wash creeps through the recording, ‘Looking For the Centre’ a heady rush of airbrakes and panpipes bleeding into a, into a bloated walrus gas pouch?

[worried reviewer checks sleeve notes in panic]

Don’t worry. It’s my bad.  No sea mammals were harmed in the creating of this particular jam… it’s just the ‘Fractal  Zoom’ piece unpicking  my learning centres and scrambling early illustrated encyclopaedia memories.  Gosh!  The tape work on this is black as tar and twice as difficult to remove.

The cherry on the pie belongs to the wonderfully titled ‘Ape Escape’ that sounds as if IRCAM released its answerphone message recorded after a rather noggy Christmas party.  OR… photocopying your arse and sending it to Dick Raaijmakers.  You my dear listener will have to work that one out yourselves.

Closer ‘Alef 0’ sees Claus take a sharp mallet to Sindre’s basic recordings and goof them up good and proper.  How he’s managed to turn this herring into a Tangerine Dream I’ll never know but it’s heavy as bad news (never BAD NEWS) and rich as freshly ploughed soil.

Despite this recent Euro-nonsense (AKA Brex-shit) the Star Turbine will be back in your town soon.  Pull your canoe out the mud and set a course for their cleansing murk.

tupperwave

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Tupperwave

Fifty minutes of RR-S starts with a respectful tweak on NWA’s collective nips and then gets exponentially odder by the minute.  The trademarked pocket jazz sound is still in effect but over a longer duration this is embedded and augmented with child-like interactions, tangent-shearing thoughts and bakerlite ring-tones of the mind.

Question.  But just what is Robert Ridley-Shackleton?  An effortless creature of spoken wordisms, a stream of consciousness half-thought jester, a purple pretender, a dry-rattler extreme?  Or perhaps he is the new plastic messiah?

As an excitable, hyperbolic fanzine-style reviewer it’s almost too much to take in.  Do I describe the actual sounds coming out my headphones?  Oh… I do, do I?  Here goes…

…scratch, hiss, crackle, sniff, sex-rap-brit-funk, casio-donk, sniff, meandering monologues, scratch, clonk, harsh noise sock, house keys, humming & mugging…

…but what a thousand tapes with similar components don’t do is pose a really important question.  With a comedian’s nicotine-fingered timing RR-S unravels what it means to entertain and what it means to be entertained?

There’s a long tradition of artists pushing and pressing at the limits of acceptable entertainment.  And I don’t mean that violent or sexist bullshit, that wreckers of civilisation cul-de-sac, but the more fundamental – how far can I go unwrapping to find the very essence of my own personal music?  Family favourites like Gwilly Edmondez, Hugh Metcalfe and the Shadow Ring have been there and chipped out their own answers in the No Audience Mount Rushmore but our very own RR-S has a bag of chisels too and he is already tappy-yappy-tapping incoherent pictograms at the base of the cliff.

The whiffle and flounce feel like a diary of instant conversation created in the moments between a late tea and bed.  The Illuminati and God get equal footing to Mr Poo and Mrs Wee as mistakes, pre-thoughts and apologies are sent direct to you in a monologue of seemingly endless imagination.

Oh yeah… there is much rattling and shaking with the texture of Quaver’s eggs.

One of the ‘traditional’ musical pieces, a 5 minute keyboard funk jam, ends with the sound of brittle punnets being crushed (it’s sound art – listen!).  The other (a 3 minute keyboard funk jam) launches into a discogs/format paranoid rant backed with static/analogue card-noise war and a riff on taking apart the post-creative process re: publishing.

I’m happy with myself I think

RR-S concludes.  As well you might be – the most singular record of the year.

sbtourdvd

Sindre Bjerga – Japan 2013 Tour Documentary – A Film By Shade Barka Martins

A what? A DVD-R?  That most neglected of formats gets a swift brush up and plane ticket to Japan for this super-charming documentary.

See! Sindre (and brother Jorn) explore downtown Japan and creep through the narrow streets looking for the off-off-map venues played on our Norwegian friend’s first visit to the home of the mighty Budokan.

Marvel! As Sindre sets up his trusty yellow Dictaphones, echo tube and tape mess in cramped bars, tiny arts spaces and a beautiful elephant temple; blowing hot steam through his cobbled-electronics, bristly mouth parts and drone-boxes.

Watch!! Various ex-pat goofs and clean-cut Japanese fellows captured doing their own damn thing: solo keyboard hums, circular clarinet, chromed electronics, theatrical goon impressions and electric- fan-versus-acoustic-guitar living sculptures.

Shade’s camera is a friendly traveling companion; always present with a pack of tissues; clear, bright and attentive but never in-your-face.  The downtime of a tour is captured with a practiced eye as attractive, vibrant shows are interspersed with sleepy train rides, airport snoozes and the gentle panic of being lost in an unfamiliar city.

Proving the No-Audience Underground, although sparse, is strategically placed on a global scale the gig-goers lap up Sindre’s approach to tape manipulation in a very physical way; lobbing projectiles at him during an instruction piece and (incredibly politely and gently) scything miniature cymbals across the room to topple Bjerga’s constructions of WalkMan/Dictaphone/steel resonator.

But of course this wouldn’t be a trip to Japan without a session in a silk robe and Sindre rocks his white-patterned shortie like a motherfucker!

Like all Gold Soundz releases this is super-limited so I’d make a bee-line for this quick to feast those peepers.

—ooOoo—

Frozen Light

Chocolate Monk

Gold Soundz

through our cat’s head: joe murray on lieutenant caramel, nils quak, robert ridley-shackleton, the moth kingdom, buddly tuckers

March 18, 2016 at 10:23 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Lieutenant Caramel – Überschallknall (tape, SPAM / Meudiademorte Records, Spam 15, edition of 60)

Nils Quak – In Girum Imus Nocte Et Consumimur Igni (tape, SPAM / Meudiademorte Records, Spam 14, edition of 40)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – God (tape, Cardboard Club)

The Moth Kingdom – Bleeding Cherub (tape, Cardboard Club)

Buddly Tuckers – S/T (tape, Cardboard Club)

caramel

Lieutenant Caramel – Uberschallknall

I’m listening to this directly after jamming Ben Gwilliam’s freezer-burn tape that my esteemed colleague L. Vollar covered a while ago. For a second I think the opening door-slam from the Lieutenant is a direct psychic-echo from Ben’s frosty vacuum death.  Rest assured readers, it’s not.  This is an altogether different beast.

This silky smooth Caramel is in fact bona fide French electronic composer/film-maker Philippe Blanchard who is tweaking the desk like a daemon on this Music Concrete beauty.  Five exceptional pieces are collected on the banana-yellow tape.  I say… shall we dance?

You dig that Luc Ferrari tape-mesh right?  Then tune into ‘Die Grosse Liebe’, a cryptic crossword of sound that despite the fiendishness of the clues fits as neatly as a half-dozen eggs in a box.  The sharp detritus from a traveller’s DAT is the fuel and these snippets slam together making my eyes riffle in REM despite the bright February sunshine.  Coiled bass notes fairly boom out of the speakers during ‘Die Obdachlos’ in a way that should make any tape-denier check their dolby and scrub out their ears.

The wonderful piano/ice-drip/wrenching rope trio dominate ‘Der Teufel’ revealing a natural timing and swing that’s as syncopated as any King Oliver.  It’s as delightful and light as meringue, the sort of music I could imagine going through our cat’s head.

There’s a JAZZ FROM HELL quality to ‘Andreea’ but rather than give me a tension headache (bloody arse Xappa) this massages my temples with sweet oil and pungent herbs.  The resulting fumes relax me in rag-doll positions, all bent legs and lolling tongue.

But this relaxation is short lived!  Taut piano-wire is strung up like some Hellraiser-inspired installation on ‘Tot eu Tot’.  A bruised thumb plucks the assembled strings releasing dull ‘poings’.  A calloused hand rubs their metallic length to leech out pico-symphonics.  This is no dark-gothic remembering but a brightly polished chrome-dream, Ballardian in temperament.

Damn don’t waste money trawling the collector-scum market for hi-brow tape-composition!  Throw open your doors to nutritious SPAM!

nils

Nils Quak – In Girum Imus Nocte Et Consumimur Igni

Hey!  This tape speaks to me man.  In the insert there’s a tiny note from Nils that says this whole tape was conceived “in stolen moments of mid-life angst”.  I’m with you brother Nils!  That’s the kind of thing I need tattooed on to my manky ankle.

So, does it sound angsty?  Is it half full of piss and vinegar, half full of maudlin tears?  Doesn’t sound it to me mate… this is synth-based raffles for sure, but the mood is exploratory and playful.

The many short tracks are neatly divided into carefully prepared drones, deep enough to lose yourself in and bleep-and-booster electronic pitch-bubbles that float nice and pretty with the occasional headlight shinning through the fog to pick out the detail real peachy.

So, at points you have shifting plates of beaten steel rubbing over each other, sensuously vibrating.  Then the mood changes to a bubbling electro-bongo beating out a Roy Castle rhythm.  Again things switch for a heavy oil by-product jam, all crude slurping and melting blackness as eventually bee drones get drowned in heavy syrup.

But within the constant shape-shifting there’s something gnawing at me, a familiarity that I can’t quite place.  And then it dawns like a big orange sun, I’m getting huge nostalgic wafts of Manchester’s late, great Disco Operating System in the Sci-Fi vibrations. Yeah… the radioFONIC is in the house and churning up gravity with some wicked deepness.

god

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – God

Are you ready for card?

…asks Robert as the wonderful God cranks up.

It’s a good question.  Are YOU ready for card?  Am I ready for card?  Are any of us really ready for card?  Many pixels have been rearranged into shapes that spell out RRS and this dude is fast becoming The Shaggs or Gwilly Edmondez or The Fall or something?

Point one.  He’s a true original voice – that distinctive pocket jazz ‘whhhuuurrrrr’ backs these jams like a Sunny Murray ride-cymbal smashhhhhh.  The tinny ‘b-tish, b-tish, b-tish’ of an ancient casio-tone drives each tune and is the kind of thing that would make Mark Ronson sweat his structured quiff flat as a pancake. The stream of consciousness lyrics baffle with gnomic platitudes,

Believe in yourself

is crooned with s.o.u.l. direct from a d.i.s.c.o. club, circa Rotherham 1983.  Reader… nothing really sounds like Ridley-Shackleton.

Point two. The unshakeable resolve.  RRS has his formula; he’s carved it out like a sailor with their whale bone and now… he owns it.  There’s no pretence at any progression or change.  You know what you’re getting right from the distinctive artwork to the gristly Dictaphone work.  Every second is a reference to the world Robert has created from yogurt pots and toilet duck.  But like all great artists who create their own unique sound there’s still the capacity to surprise.   Any slight deviation from the norm becomes a quantum leap, a forehead-slapper  (just think back to Dylan’s electric shazz-nazz for the crowd to cry ‘Judas!’) that makes you go

eh?

Halfway though side two the frippering flutter gets as dense as any Niblock-block and a micro second could be those jokers-euro Farmers Manual.

Point three.  The unfettered urge to create.  A prolific artist at the best of times, RRS keeps on moving, moving, moving letting no grass grow under his velvet pixie boots.  The zines, tapes, label(s) and releasing other folks jaxx keeps these idle hands far too busy for the devil to slip on a pair of gloves.  If I was a religious man I’d be questioning the BIG GUY… is this more divine influence?

The individual tracks mobius in on themselves (in less enlightened times they might have called this a concept tape) so a divine perspective is woven through each song, even the painfully honest ‘Sex Thug’ until we start where we once began.

So, when the dust settles, what are we left with?  Another Ridley-Shackleton joint that’s the same as the rest?  F’sure.

Another moreish peek into the wild and frightening world of Robert Ridley-Chaka Khan.  Damn right!

moth kingdom

The Moth Kingdom – Bleeding Cherub

A fellow traveller called LOAM hops into a time machine and takes me back to my teenage years; joss sticks, Answer Me! zine and lo-fi tapes of scratchy guitars.

Super simple songs played on acoustics and electrics.  The odd maraca and piano sample get sprinkled over things like tangy za’atar.  LOAM sings along with a deep reverb painting dark pictures of cruel nature and harsh life.

In his label write up Robert Ridley-Shackleton confesses his lack of knowledge of this kind of ‘folk’ sound, and me… I’m equally, embarrassingly clueless.  But what I do know is this starts to sound better and better as the sun sets, a smoky whisky appears and things unwind and unravel, beautifully illustrated on the ‘Corpse of the Crow’.  Check it out.

buddly

Buddly Tuckers – S/T

A collaboration between CHROME and ROBE (a pyjama-clad RRS, I’m guessing) where that pocket-jazz sound is the filter through which electric solids and field recordings are mashed.

The overall doof is classic Cardboard Club; a mid-table throttling, damp rustle and condenser-mic ripple.  But underneath all this graphic industry ghostly voices waft like ripe Camembert.

At one point some keyboards squawk with the ferocious virtuosity of Islam Chipsy playing with sheepskin mittens on… it’s all treble attack released in careful blocks.

The universal balance is kept via crunchy Dictaphone work; Dr Strange summons up celestial choirs from a separate dimension – you can feel them but not quite hear them.

Fans of all this NOISE genre should give this one a try for some sweet floral catharsis.

—ooOoo—

SPAM / Meudiademorte Records

Cardboard Club

the 2015 zellaby awards

January 8, 2016 at 11:24 am | Posted in blog info, musings, new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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zellaby award envelope

Hello friends and welcome to the 2015 Zellaby Awards and Radio Free Midwich end-of-year round-up.  I’m very glad to see you.  My apologies in advance to those long term readers expecting the usual introduction full of whimsical nonsense.  There will be some of that, of course, but this year needs to be taken seriously and I’m going to start dark.  Don’t worry though – spoiler alert – there will be joy and life-affirming redemption by the end: this piece is my It’s a Wonderful Life.

Firstly, it is not the job of this blog to comment on the wider world but aside from the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, our glorious future prime minister, 2015 was largely without hope. I wish you all good luck in navigating the coming End Times.

Personally, away from music, my year can be split into three four month long segments.  For the first of these I was ill with non-stop, run-of-the-mill viruses.  Nowt serious on its own but the cumulative effect of so many strung together – a necklace of snot – left me in a parlous state.  My depression played cards with its fidgety cousin anxiety, waited until I was defenceless and then kicked in the door.  The second four months were spent off work attempting to shift these unwelcome guests whilst maintaining a functioning family life.  I’ve written about this debilitating effort elsewhere, no need for further details here.  The final four months of 2015 were the tale of my recuperation and slow recovery following a change in medication and a breakthrough in both the treatment of my illness and my attitude towards it.  After much grief, I left 2015 exhausted and resentful but hopeful that new ways of muzzling the black dog will allow me a lengthy period of peace and sanity.

When I was down in it, days, weeks even, passed when music seemed more trouble than it was worth.  The list of releases submitted to RFM for review, plus other stuff that caught my bloodshot eye, became an untended vine cracking the panes of its greenhouse and desiccating the soil in its giant terracotta pot. I’d try to ignore it, slumped in my deckchair, but would be tickled awake by a tendril and look up to see something like Audrey II grinning down at me:

Fleshtone Aura

Or maybe one my colleagues – Joe, Chrissie, Sof, Luke, marlo – would arrive with a ladder, new glass, plant food, exotic orchids or intricate alpines to distract me, gawd bless ‘em. Looking back, I’m surprised at how often I actually did pick up the trowel – if only to wave hello, or whack Luke on the nose with it when I found him digging in the flower beds – and I’m quietly proud of maintaining this garden despite the inclement mental weather. During 2015 radiofreemidwich received approximately 32,000 visits – a new record. 93 posts were published, including the blog’s 500th, by half a dozen different authors. The most popular of which were last year’s Zellaby Awards and my no-audience underground ‘state of the notion’ address – most gratifying as both are heartfelt celebrations of the scene. Not bad, eh?

Now, at this point in the introduction I was going to get catty about my usual scratching posts, hit a few sacred cow arses with a banjo etc. but, looking down at the silted pavement and up at the grey sky, it’s clear that what the world needs now is love, sweet love – not smart alec remarks and passive-aggressive score settling. So let’s get the party started instead.

Here’s the rules: to be eligible in one of the following five categories this music needs to have been heard by one of us for the first time in 2015.  It does not need to have been released in 2015.  As the purpose of these awards is to spread the good news about as many quality releases as possible, should an artist win in one category they will not be placed in any of the others.  I do not vote for my own stuff as midwich, nor any releases that I had a hand in (thus no Aqua Dentata on fencing flatworm – sorry Eddie). The team will avoid touting each others’ projects too – not because we care about conflict of interest (there isn’t any down here) but we do like to maintain at least a veneer of decorum. Aside from marlo, who has been nostril deep in PhD crap all year and thus didn’t feel qualified to contribute, the whole team has chipped in and I will be pasting their responses below. This year I am at least nodding in the direction of democracy when compiling the lists but, as editor, I am reserving final say.  Don’t worry though – my dictatorship is benevolent and progressive.

Right then, time to pop some fucking corks…

sof's pina colada

—ooOoo—

Radio Free Midwich presents the 2015 Zellaby Awards

5. The “I’d never heard of you 10 minutes ago but now desperately need your whole back catalogue” New-to-RFM Award

Chrissie expresses doubts about the whole process then nails a perfect nomination:

I’m not much of a one for end of year retrospectives, forward is my preferred direction. Also I find it hard to compare music and place it in any sort of order. One day a particular piece or artist will be exactly what I need, another day it will have me screaming for the STOP button.  Add to which I haven’t actually reviewed very much this year. Even when I found a (rather large, rich) niche to occupy I still take longer to complete a review than I’d really like.  Still, I hate to disappoint, and I never miss a deadline so…

Sabrina Peña Young

Even while reviewing one album, I couldn’t help mentioning tracks on other albums!

[Editor’s note: an extract from Chrissie’s review of Science Fiction & Horror Movie Soundtrack Collection: Strange Films of Sabrina Peña Young:]

‘Singularity’ is a whole Star Trek episode in miniature. It opens as an almost conventional, if nicely constructed piece of theme music, and gradually becomes something very much more. Going from the journey out, discovery of a possibly inhabited planet, then meeting an alien, trying to escape and the closing theme music again – a novella in seven minutes forty-three seconds! To be honest I’m pretty sure that that isn’t the actual narrative of ‘Singularity’ but I like to make things up as I’m listening and that idea seemed plausible at the time [Editor’s note: it’s the RFM way…]. What it’s really about is the rise of machine intelligence, of course; which is equally scary, possibly.

SPY0

Joe speaks in italics:

Not for the first time, Serbia’s No Basement is Deep Enough label has pinned my lugs back and hotly tongued my ear.  But this time it slipped a note in my pocket that read ‘G.J de Rook’ (but no phone number I notice!). 

Gerrit’s considered gobble-de-gook on a and bla is the metallic-gravy I’m craving right now.  The calm and pleasant gibber hits that sweet-spot of babies gurgling, a hummingbird’s gaudy thrum and the plastic pop of wrenched bubble-wrap.  These are universal sounds; sounds enjoyed from the Mongolian deserts to the Seattle coffee-house scene. These are the sort of sounds we need to send into space – gaffer tape a CD-r to Voyager or something- for them bug-eyed overlords to ponder.    

Although Gerrit’s wider discography is relatively thin and achingly expensive don’t worry readers, I have a plan in place to slurp slowly in discreet ‘o,o,o,o,o,oa,oa,oa,oa,eh,eh,eh,o,ooo,o-like’ sips.  Think on.

rook

Sof’s joy in discovery:

I heard and reviewed the album 3 by Sonotanotanpenz at the start of my Midwich employment and have since heard everything I can by them because, for me, they just tick all the right boxes. Cheers to Kirigirisu Records for pointing me in the right direction finding this stuff!

sonotanotanpenz - 3

Luke forward/slashes:

Ben Hallatt – Kay Hill, scke//, KIKS/GFR – the sinister/minimal man, eerie urban horror with muted synth/tape work.

tessellation

…and I say:

…that I haven’t had the wherewithal for the obsessive curiosity that usually makes it so easy and obvious to decide the winner of this category.  I have a few interests bubbling under – that lovely, young Graham Dunning seems like an intriguing chap so maybe I’ll stalk him once I have the energy – but in the meantime I’m happy to to go along with Chrissie’s nomination of Sabrina Peña Young.

SPY1

4. The “Stokoe Cup”, given for maintaining quality control over a huge body of work making it impossible to pick individual releases in an end of year round up

Sof ponders:

I don’t think I have an answer for this one, I can only think of Delphine Dora who released four albums this year which to me seems a huge amount! I’m not really into musicians who put out so much stuff that I can’t keep up. It puts me off if I’m honest, I like small and considered bodies of work. [Editor’s note: a very practical attitude – and Delphine should definitely be on everyone’s list anyway.]

delphine

Chrissie scratches her head too:

I’ve not really reviewed enough to come up with a suitable nomination for this. Similarly for the label award. I was tempted to nominate Steve Lawson for the Stokoe cup but he might be rather too ‘big’ for that to be sensible now and also I don’t believe he’s ever been reviewed here [Editor’s note: he is and he hasn’t but, hey, s’up to you – it’s an indication of where you are coming from too]. However he does release a considerable amount of material and it is of quite an amazingly high standard.

No doubts from Joe:

We’re all renaissance men and women now eh?  Fingers in various pies yeah?  You’re a composer/performer, a curator, a thinker, an archivist, a broadcaster, a hard-assed critic and goofy listener, a publisher and promoter?  Scratch the N-AU and we bleed like colourful skittles. 

This is all vital and impressive for sure.  But the real trick is to weave all those various roles together with a broader sense of ‘who you are’, a central-unifying-theme and aesthetic that’s as real as Westeros fantasy shizzle. So with the powers invested in me by the fabled ‘Stokoe Cup’ I hereby recommend Andy Wild, the Crow versus Crow guy guy, as an upstanding exemplar of unified vision, industry and purpose.

Not only is Andy releasing beautifully packaged CDs on the CvC label, he’s keeping us up-to-date with a set of paintings and photography.  He’s had a one-man exhibition, “You’re Gonna Need That Pure Religion, Halleloo” in his native Halifax.  He’s researched, presented and broadcast almost 100 radio shows and curated a bunch of special one-off sessions (like John Peel yeah).  And all this strikes me with a look and a feel that’s unmistakably CvC and unified.  Here’s an example: as Andy dug deeper into old blues records spindly hiss and burr appeared on the paintings (and in the exhibition title).  The smeared photos mirrored the abstract sound of worn vinyl.  The shows became looser, the voice deeper and the mood darker.  Do people still do mission statements?  If so, is ‘be beautiful’ taken?

crowradio

Luke starts on a theme:

A tough one this year with the above mentioned Ben Hallatt and the incredible Stuart Chalmers.  My vote, however, has to go to Robert Ridley-Shackleton: the Oxfam prince, the cardboard king.  He keeps on peaking, inhabiting his own corner. In a just universe he would be on the X Factor panel: he IS pop.

robbie7

…and I say:

Well, Joe makes a compelling case for Andy Crow there and since being born from an egg on a mountaintop the nature of Shackleton is irrepressible, but I’m handing the trophy to a familiar name and previous Zellaby award winner: Kev Sanders.

Whilst not quite reaching the Stakhanovite release rate displayed in 2014, his productivity remains alarming high, as does the quality of his work. I’ve not reviewed a great deal of it, nor much else released on his label hairdryer excommunication (this collection of haiku from September being my main engagement) but it has been an ever-present background radiation.

If you picture the year as an autobahn, one which I have been stalled beside, hood up, engine steaming, then Kev’s music is a series of electricity pylons running alongside carrying cables buzzing with an intensity that is somehow both bleak and comforting. I wish him well with his coming move to that London and look forward to a chance to catch up whilst he is otherwise engaged. Now, like a casino bouncer chucking out a professional gambler, I’m banning him from winning anything else for a while. House rules.

embers

3. The Special Contribution to Radio Free Midwich Award

Sof and Chrissie have a playground tussle over who gets to be teacher’s pet:

SofIt’s no secret that Rob Hayler has had a rough year with his depression but his drive and passion for underground music has meant he’s kept up with this blog which I’m sure a lot of folks wouldn’t do under the same circumstances – fair play and respect to you!

Chrissie: At the risk of sounding like a spoilt kid sucking up to the boss, I’d like to nominate Rob for this award. In what has been a difficult year for him he’s hired three new writers, no small risk in itself, trusting our ability to actually deliver readable prose (well, in my case anyway) in usable quantities, not to mention editing it onto the blog in good shape and good time. He’s also put up with my erratic writing schedule and lack of enthusiasm to take anything off the review pile – preferring to go off on my own in a crusade to bring more female artists to the notice of our good and loyal readers.

[Editor’s note: it might appear shameless to include the above, and I admit it kinda is, but, as I’ve pointed out, it has been a tough year and I was touched.  Let me have a little sugar, yeah?]

Luke picks an outlier:

Sorry gonna have to be Robert Ridley-Shackleton again [sings: “Return of the Shack!  Here it is…!”].  A little quote from Robbie following a chat about tedious porn/bondage themes in noise:

To me noise is a positive thing, it fills my brain full of the joys. I don’t understand all the negative themes presented, to me it’s life affirming

Yeah baby!!!

[Editor’s note: R-Shack’s physical contribution to RFM is indeed notable as he sent copies of all his releases plus extra examples of his womble-on-ketamine junk art not just to RFMHQ but also personally to Joe and Luke too – a Knight of the Post.]

Joe rallies the troops:

As ever, I reckon this one belongs to everybody.  Anyone that sent in a tape, clicked on a link, wrote a review, listened with intent, left a comment or gave a god-damn fuck.  This one’s for you.  It’s all of us that make this: writers, readers, editors…even you cynics (coz debate is good, yeah?).  We’re all part of the oneness.  No one hears a tree fall in an empty forest right?

…and I say:

Tempting as it is to fall into step and punch the air, nostrils flaring, there is an objectively true answer to the question and that is: Anne, my wife.  Without her love, care and truly unbelievable strength this blog would not have continued to exist.

However, if we limit the word ‘contribution’ to meaning actual hands-on graft accounting for the endeavours of the no-audience underground then only one name can be engraved on this medal: Joe Murray.

Of the 93 posts published this year a huge proportion were by Joe and each of those usually contained reviews of numerous items sourced from far-flung corners of the outer reaches.  Despite his hep prose poetry being the best music writing currently available – Richard Youngs himself described Joe’s review of his epic No Fans seven CD box set as ‘the definitive account’ – he is completely selfless in his unpretentious enthusiasm.  He embodies the ethos of this blog.

posscat

[Editor’s note: hmmm… getting a bit lovey and self-congratulatory this isn’t it?  Maybe I’ll rethink this category for next year <takes deep breath, dabs corner of eye> OK, on with the big gongs!]

2. The Label of the Year Award

Sof sticks to the point:

I’ve really enjoyed every release I’ve heard from Fort Evil Fruit this year, and most years, I think we must have the same taste in music.

fort

Luke whittles on the porch:

Another tough one with old favourites like Chocolate Monk continuing to deliver the goods.  However at a push it’d be Winebox Press, a fairly laid back work rate but always something to look forward to, can’t think of another label as aesthetically as well as sonically pleasing to me at least. Objects of cosmic power that’ll warm you from the inside out.

winebox

Joe’s takes a turn:

Let’s hear it for Cardboard Club.  Why?  For the dogged determination and other worldly logic of course.  I have no idea what is going on in the disco/noise shire of Robert Ridley-Shackleton.  All I know is that I like it, I like it a lot. 

Robert’s singular vision is not so much outsider as out-rigger; a ghost on the pillion.  The label spreads itself across media so the scrabbly zines, tape artwork and ‘pocket-jazz’ sound can only contain the RR-S, nothing else.  But what made me giggle, what made me really smile was the recent move to vinyl.  Some lame-o’s see the hallowed seven inch as a step up; a career move if you please!  With that kind of attitude the battle is already lost and all ideals get mushed in ‘rock school’ production.  None of this for our Cardboard Club… it sounds exactly the same!  A hero for our troubled times.

cclub

…and I say:

Yep, all excellent selections deserving of your attention but, with hairdryer excommunication out of the way, I’m going to use editor’s privilege to share this year’s prize between two exemplary catalogues: Invisible City Records and Power Moves Label.  Both are tape-plus-download labels based on Bandcamp, both have strong individual identities – in ethos and aesthetic – despite presenting diverse, intriguing rosters and both share impeccable no-audience underground credentials (PML’s slogan: ‘true bedroom recordings with delusions of grandeur’).  It don’t hurt that the gents running each – Craig and Kev respectively – are polite, efficient and enthusiastic in their correspondence too.  Anyone looking for a model as to how it should be done could do worse than sit at the front of their class and take careful notes.

[Editor’s note on the Editor’s note: yes, yes, I know that ICR re-released my epic masterpiece The Swift, thus making it the label of the year by default but I felt duty bound to mention it anyway.  Shame on Tabs Out Podcast, by the way, for filling the first 135 places of their 2015 Top 200 with hype and industry payola.  Glad to see sanity and integrity restored with #136.]

icrpower

1. The Album of the Year Award

Chrissie kicks us off:

1. R.A.N

My first female:pressure review and the one I still listen to the most.

…not only are the individual tracks on this album good, but the ordering of them is exquisite. They follow on from each other in a wonderful, spooky narrative that runs smoothly and expertly from start to finish – the gaps between them allowing you to pause for breath before being dragged into the next hellmouth.

RAN_-_Her_Trembling_Ceased

2. FAKE Mistress – entertainted

The opening track, ‘Appreciate the moment’s security’, will pull you in with its drama, heavy noise-based beats, spooky voicing and very punkish shouting but you’ll stay for the gentler opening of ‘You better trust’, intrigued by where it’s going. There’s harsh noise in the middle of this track and in lots of places on this album, but it’s never over-used. It’s here as a structural device to take you by surprise and drag you out of your complacency.

entertainted

Luke casts his net wide:

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP

Charlotte Braun – Happy Being Sad

Absurde, Chier – Absurde VS Chier

Skatgobs – Pointless

Blood Stereo – The Lure of Gurp

Alec Cheer – Autumn

Ali Robertson & His Conversations

Guttersnipe – Demo

xazzaz – descent / the crusher

VA AA LR – Ping Cone

Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks 3/4

Anla Courtis – B-Rain Folklore

S C K E / Kay Hill – Disclosure, TESSELLATION A/B, IN-GRAIN, Cold Title

Jon Collin – Wrong Moves / Dream Recall

Whole Voyald Infinite Light – Uncollected Recordings

Ashtray Navigations – Lemon Blossom Gently Pixelating In The Breeze

Melanie O’Dubhshlaine – Deformed Vowels

yol / posset – a watched pot never (no link – ask yol or Joe, they’ll sort you out)

half an abortion / yol – the designated driver

Shareholder – Jimmy Shan

[Editor’s note: blimey, eh?  Luke also provided a ‘year in metal’ list too!  Available on request.]

lemon

Sof’s impeccable taste displayed:

I’m going with Steven Ball’s Collected Local Songs which I reviewed earlier this year because it’s the one I’ve gone back to over and over, each listen revealing more to me. It’s such an original piece of work.

Originality is the theme of my list –

Saboteuse – Death, Of Course (this maaaaaaay, have come out last year!)

Bridget Hayden and Claire Potter – Mother To No Swimming Laughing Child

Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God

Guttersnipe – Demo

Rosemary Krust – Rosemary Krust

Sam McLoughlin & David Chatton Barker – Show Your Sketches

Delphine Dora – L’au-delà

steven ball - collected local songs

Joe selects:

I fucking guarantee your serious music critics will moan and denounce 2015 as a fallow year for sounds.  Fools!  If you look around there’s an embarrassment of riches spilling out of the tape drawer, CD-r pile and download..er…folder? 

I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable hurling my opinion of ‘what’s best’ around so, in the spirit of “non-competition and praise”, here’s what I’d play you right now if you were to pop round for sherry.

  • yol – everyday rituals. When a record makes you run giddy for the Spanish/English dictionary you know something extraordinary is at work.  You’re familiar with yol yeah? You’re not?  Get a-fucking cracking pal.  This is a truly explosive & genuine performance that makes your insipid rebellion look safe as milk.
  • Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God. A super-subtle voice and tape work.  What I love is the ‘too studio-fucked to be field recordings and too much punk-ass rush for fluxus’ approach.  Natural and wonderfully blunted domestic, ‘Others…’ inhabits its own space – like a boil in the bag something served piping hot.
  • Midnight Doctors – Through a Screen and Into a Hole. The merciless despot with a harmonium!  Phil Begg’s steady hand guides a cavalcade of rough North East gonks through their paces to produce a timeless noir classic.  It is equal parts soundtrack, accurate cop-show homage and mysterious new direction for tight-meshed ensemble.  C’mon Hollywood… make that damn call.
  • Shareholder – Jimmy Shan. Rock und Roll songs collapse in sharp slaggy heaps. Dirty explosions replace instruments (the guitar x 2 and drums) leaving us dazed in a no-man’s-land of stunning, blinding light and electricity.  Ferocious and don’t-give-a-fuck all at once.
  • Tom White – Reconstruction is tied, even-stevens, with Sindre Bjerga’s – Attractive Amplification. The world of violent tape abuse is one I follow avidly. But there’s nothing to separate these two outstanding tapes (of tapes, of tapes, of tapes).  Both Tom and Sindre have the muscle memory and total mastery of their mediums (reel to reel and compact cassette) to wrench brown, sticky moans from the vintage equipment.  It sounds belligerent, punch drunk and rum-sloppy to my ears.  A perfect night out chaps!

yol - er

…and finally, your humble editor:

Bubbling under: here are the releases that made my long list but not the countdown. Every one a cracker, presented here in alphabetical order to avoid squabbles breaking out in the car park:

Culver – Saps 76

David Somló – Movement

Delphine Dora and Sophie Cooper – Distance, Future

Dominic Coppola – Vogue Meditations

Hagman – Inundation

Hardworking Families – Happy Days

Ian Watson – Caermaen

joined by wire – universe allstars

Luminous Monsters – The Sun Tree

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP

Saturn Form Essence – Stratospheric Tower

Shredderghost – Golden Cell

yol – everyday rituals

[Editor’s note: I also have to make special mention of Askild Haugland and his peerless recordings as Taming Power. I’ve received two (I think, possibly three) parcels from him this year containing his work, all the way from Norway, and these recordings always have a profound and meditative effect. Some of it, for instance the 7” single Fragments of the Name of God, could quite possibly be perfect.]

OK, right – ooo! exciting! – here’s the top ten, presented in traditional reverse order:

10. E.Y.E – MD2015

md2015

…and what a joy it has been to have Paul Harrison back in the fray!  Yes, after over a decade new material from Paul’s Expose Your Eyes project was finally made available via his new Bandcamp label Eye Fiend – a repository for much missed Fiend Recordings back catalogue (Mrs Cakehead has to be heard to be believed) and digital versions of the new stuff which is otherwise only available in tiny hand-splattered physical editions.

MD2015 is a four CD-r, four hour and twenty minute set comprising discordant synth clatters, decontextualized chanting (familiar to anyone into first wave industrial music), beats: pitter, patter – galloping hooves – factory presses, intoxicating loops, delirium (remember that footage of animals drunk on fermented fruit?  This is the OST to a bootleg version of The Lion King that features those orgiastic scenes), repetition beyond human endurance / irresistible motoric groove, ‘proper’ noise – all primary sexual characteristics out and flapping in the breeze, and sorbet-refreshing shortwave-radio-ish pulse.  It is a lot of fun.

9. AAS – Balancing Ritual

aas

Y’know when your favourite stoner rock band lay down a super heavy, half-hour long, ego-obliterating, tethered crescendo but it isn’t quite enough so you and a hardy group of the suspicious break into one of the spaceships of a seemingly benevolent alien race currently visiting Earth and discover this playing inside?  Yeah?  A version of the above but clinical, steely, a step up from our humble efforts.  It’s like that and I, for one, welcome our new drone overlords…

Graham Dunning offered to send me a tape of this, I visited Bandcamp for a sneaky preview and ended up so impressed that I’d bought the download and fallen in love before my exhausted postie even delivered the jiffy bag.  I can count on the fingers of no fingers the other times that has happened recently.

8. Duncan Harrison, BBBlood, Aqua Dentata – “Ineluctable modality of the visible”

ineluctable

What an excellent three-fer.  Not only occupying a wholly justified place in the chart but giving me the opportunity to praise Paul Watson (BBBlood), Duncan Harrison (who’s Others Delete God tape, so highly praised earlier, shamefully passed me by.  Did I ever own it?  Did I send it to Joe in a moment of madness?  Ah, who knows?) and Eddie Nuttall (who, as Aqua Dentata, is producing amongst the finest work on my radar).  Here’s some extracts from marlo’s review:

…But, damn you, Duncan Harrison! The first track immediately gets me back in my academic head! ‘(Je suis) La Loi’ makes me think of psychoanalytical linguist theorist Julia Kristeva and deconstructionist scholar Jacques Derrida. The use of breath and physiological sounds makes the listening an embodied experience. The listener feels present. It is hard not to notice if one’s lips are dry or if you possibly had too many coffees…

…In ‘Nexistence of Vividence’, BBBlood returns to more of the crunchy reeling and wheeling and dealing. It is a typhoon that builds and waits. Never fully collapsing, the sounds peters out like attempting to catch water running through fingers. Yet there is an ethereal resolution to the struggle and the listeners are laid to rest, an aural wiping of the brow. Time to rest after the long haul…

…Eddie Nuttall, a.k.a Aqua Dentata, is not from this planet. I honestly don’t think he is. His music feels like extraterrestrial communication from outside our universe. Like binaural beats and subconscious interfering hypnosis, his untitled track sounds like it is made of laser beams. As a listener, you feel like you merge with the frequency and question your ability to make cognitive sense. It isn’t because of a reliance in bombarding one with several sounds but rather a direct cerebral invasion…

7. The Piss Superstition – Garage Squall

garage squall

Joe reviewed this one in the shape of a UFO. No, I don’t know why either but it is absolutely bang on:

Mag-lev trains.

The very best form of bluster.

As gentle as breath on a mirror,

Predator’s Answerphone message

The Velvet Underground trapped in a matchbox.

A map! Hectares of featureless crystalline crackle – zoom into mountains,

A corduroy vibe; not geography teacher clichés but that ribbed softness – a tickle on the fingernail.

Ride the world’s slowest roller-coaster taking 1000 years, cranking the incline.

Forbidden Planet strained with nourishing iron-rich greens,

A dream-tractor changing gear on the endless road.

Immense power restrained by gravity

A hit of strong, clean anaesthetic,

I’m counting backwards.

10, 9, 8…

6. Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No. 1, No. 2, No. 3

lp1

Joe again, not sparing the superlatives:

…But this time I throw my regular Northern caution and cynicism out the window and claim these three recordings THE MOST IMPORTANT SALVAGED TAPE LOOP RECORDINGS EVER YEAH.

What?  Like…ever?

I hear you ask.

Yes

I answer with a calm, clear voice.

Like in the whole 100 year history of recorded music?

You probe,

even including the oft- mentioned high- water mark of looping Tom Recchion’s Chaotica?

You add.  I merely smile and press play on the device of your choice.

You must listen, you must listen to truly understand

I chant with glassy eyes.

Anyway… fuck yeah!  That’s what I’m saying.  If you want to know where looping is right now in 2015/2016: PLAY THESE RECORDS.  If you are looking for an instructional map of what’s possible with simple tape loops, a couple of pedals and some hot ears: PLAY THESE RECORDS.  If you want to open up that valve in your stomach that helps you release gaseous tension: PLAY THESE RECORDS…

…Students of tape culture – your set-text has arrived.  Screw in those earbuds and get seriously twisted.

5. Ashtray Navigations – A Shimmering Replica

ashshimmer

A beautiful album in every respect and an entirely life-affirming experience.  Terrific to see Phil and Mel get such a high-profile, flagship release in what was a high-profile, flagship year for the band.  I will have more to say on this in a long-planned article which will be published around the eventual release date of the long-planned best of Ashtray Navigations 4CD box set.  Coming soon!  In the meantime: buy this.

4. Melanie O’Dubhshlaine – Deformed Vowels

mel

Likewise, Mel’s remarkable solo venture deserves a much more detailed account than it is going to get here.  Via a kind of meta-semi-improv (or something?) she continues on her utterly compelling, largely unheralded project to reinvent music on her own terms.

I imagine a Dr. Moreau style musical laboratory in which Mel cares for her cross bred instruments, incunabula parping their first notes, joyfully interacting with the sentient automata Mel has created to entertain them with.  She dangles a microphone over the giant aquarium tank in which they all live and conducts this unique performance.

Unlike anything else I’ve heard this year, or maybe ever.

3. Helicopter Quartet – Ghost Machine

ghost machine

A peerless work, even within the band’s own faultless back catalogue.  From my review:

It is difficult to write about Helicopter Quartet, the duo of RFM staffer Chrissie Caulfield (violin, synths) and Michael Capstick (guitars), because their music is so enveloping, so attention seizing, that when I’m listening the part of my brain I use to put words in a row is too awestruck to function.  However, following many hours with it, I am certain this is their best album yet.  That a work of such mature beauty, sculpted over months, is freely downloadable is surely further evidence that we are living in a golden age for self released music.  It has the austere and magisterial presence of a glacier edge, the drama of that glacier calving into the sea.

If you ever act on anything I say then act on this: go get it.

2. Guttersnipe – Demo

guttersnipe

Wow, this kicked the fucking doors in.  With this CD-r and a series of explosive live performances Guttersnipe owned 2015 – they were either your new favourite band or you just hadn’t heard of them yet.  Luke got to review this one, here’s an extract:

Guttersnipe whip up a frightening noise on drums, guitars, electronics and howled vocals that will have you reaching for the light switch. The cassette fidelity smudges the freejazzmetalhaze into a fog of terror from which emerges the fangs of a gaping gob ready to bite you. I’ve been listening to a lot of black metal recently and these vocals could have the corpse painted hordes crying for their mama.  However, they are not the guttural grunts of the alpha male but more a feminine screech of desperation and disgust which the other two respond to by conjuring a blackened and unsettled miasma.  Calling this disc demo leads me to believe that Guttersnipe are selling themselves short.  This is impressively original material that comes over like a Xasthur/Skullflower hybrid with a hefty slug of secret ingredient.  Marvellous job.

Amusingly, and presumably because he hadn’t seen them live at the time, he seems to imply this duo is a trio – a testament to their ferocity (and my skills as an editor…).

1. namke communications – 365/2015

namke - 365-2015

Finally then, the winner of the Zellaby Award for album of the year presented by Radio Free Midwich is, in an unusually literal sense, the album of the year: 365/2015 by namke communications.  Here’s some context from a piece I wrote in March:

…old-friend-of-RFM John Tuffen, in a project which recalls the conceptual bloodymindedness of Bill Drummond (who has raised ‘seeing it through’ to the level of art form), is recording a track every day throughout the whole of 2015 and adding them to the album [on Bandcamp] as the calendar marches on … each track is freshly produced on the day in question and, as might be expected, vary enormously in style, execution and instrumentation – there is guitar improv, electronica in various hues and field recording amongst other genres welcome ’round here…

Indeed, added to various forms of (usually light and expansive) improv and field and domestic recordings of life’s ebb and flow were many forays into sub-genres of electronica, techno as she is written, actual *ahem* songs, drones of many textures, experimental sketches with software and new toys, callbacks, the odd joke (all tracks in February had the duration 4’33” following a twitter exchange with me) and so on and so, unbelievably, on.  I can’t claim to have heard all of it – of course I haven’t – and there are misfires – of course there are – but the level of quality maintained is gobsmacking given the scope of the exercise.

Each track was accompanied by notes, most with a picture and then a tweet announced its presence too.  John was no slacker on the admin – I approve.  In March I suggested:

This one I have no qualms about dipping into, in fact I would recommend constructing your own dipping strategies. As the year progresses you could build an album from the birthdays of your family, or never forget an anniversary again with a self-constructed namke communications love-bundle. Won a tenner on the lottery? Create your own three track EP with the numbers and paypal John a couple of quid. Or perhaps a five CD boxset called ‘Thursday Afternoon’, in homage to Brian Eno, containing everything released on that day of the week? Or condense the occult magic with a set comprising every 23rd track? Ah, the fun to be had. Or you could just listen to it on a daily basis until it becomes a welcome part of your routine…

I was at least half-joking at the time but engaging with 365/2015 has proved a unique way of experiencing an album.  During the worst of my illness, as I spent nights trawling Twitter unable to sleep, it did become a valuable part of my daily routine.  Literally a light in the darkness – Bandcamp page shining on the tablet as I lay in bed – John’s project, existing due to nothing but his crazy drive to create (the whole thing, 40+ hours, available as a ‘name your price’ download!), truly helped me through.  A clear and worthy winner.

In conclusion…

So, that is that for another year.  John’s prize, should he wish to take me up on it, is for namke communications to have the one and only release on the otherwise dormant fencing flatworm recordings some time in 2016.  A surprise baby sister, perhaps, for his lovely available from namke communications released by me back in the day and now (I think) a teenager itself.

Many thanks to my fellow writers and to all who support us – for your time, patience and enthusiasm – it is much appreciated.  Heartfelt best wishes for the New Year, comrades.

All is love.

Rob Hayler, January 2016.

—ooOoo—

employees of the month: joe murray on hardworking families, jon seagroatt and ian staples with bobbie watson, stuart chalmers, ramleh, robert ridley-shackleton

December 19, 2015 at 10:23 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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Hardworking Families – Worse than a Stranger (tape, don’t drone alone, edition of 50 or download)

jon seagroatt ian staples with bobbie watson – deathless (CD, Future Vinyl, CD1501 or download)

Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No.1 (CD-r, Must Die Records, edition of 50 or download)

Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No.2 (CD-r in fold-out sleeve, Ono, edition of 50 or download)

Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No. 3 (Preview) (self-released download)

Ramleh – Welcome/Pristine Womankind (7″ vinyl, Format Supremacy)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP (7″ vinyl, Cardboard Club, edition of 100)

worse

Hardworking Families – Worse than a Stranger

My most favouritely-named artist in the No-Audience Underground offers us a tape woven like a friendship bracelet. This time the grubby threads are replaced with electric-pylon-hum and carbon-monoxide-alarm-shriek, backed with sparse bristling gristle.  It moves like folded towels; the texture flexes and changes under stress.

‘Bryantwood Road, Washington Street’ swells with double intensity in places then turns back on itself, revelling in its own knock-kneed skinniness. Serious knob-twiddling releases the kind of low bass throb that gives your tin-pot dictator a wet dream as they disperse an angry mob. But the icing on this beefy cake is the see-saw panning of a single sickly tone that wraps itself, like a possessive lover, round your brain stem in three dimensions.

Side two introduces us to the ‘Pasternoster’ an augmented field recording made in some brutalist concrete nightmare – it’s pretty darn cavernous!  Rubberised breadsticks get rattled in a quiver as assembled umpires discuss furniture polish (quietly).  The sweet swish of Air Max on a dusty floor makes dry circles in my ear buds while some joker miked up the fire escape.  And, to add a point of detail, these recordings are reconstructed without electronic condiments, they are never rushed or fudge-sticky.

The dull thud of capitalism is gradually tuned out… but not before Hardworking Families is decorated as employee of the month.

deathless

jon seagroatt ian staples with bobbie watson – deathless

We’ve got used to imaginary soundtracks for films; so what about a record of a book?  Jon Seagroatt, Ian Staples and Bobbie Watson  must have bloody loved Steven Sherill’s 2004 novel The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break because they’ve based their immaculate playing ’round its 313 leathery pages.

Jon and Ian play a particular flavour of experimental music that’s as charming as the soft ‘plonk’ of a well-lobbed shuttlecock.  It’s sparse and serene with a gritty undercurrent of processed drones/electronics over a keening flute (and probably other woodwind family members).

In parts it’s as English as teabags and disappointing caravan holidays, but there’s something that keeps me thinking of the Rune Grammofon back catalogue with its clear sound and chilly cadence.

The croaky swell of hot breath pushed through copper pipes nestles well with the shimmering slide guitar and post-production twiddling.  Bobbie’s minimal vocals (there’s only a couple of minutes worth on the whole disc) are kept back as a secret weapon and hauntingly warped like silvery raindrops.  It’s a very classy listen.

But what’s going to make you uncles and aunties sit up and click on the links is the connections this band are mixed up in.  Check this out: the dark-folk of Comus, spooky beards Current 93, power-improv legends Red Square and, strangest of all The Temple City Kazoo Orchestra?  These folk were no-audience before many of us were born.

Sit up straight, turn off that god damn phone and listen to this in flickering candlelight.

lp1lp2lp3

Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No. 1, Loop Phantasy No. 2, Loop Phantasy No. 3 (Preview)

Ya’ll know I steer clear of the dreaded hyperbole.  I’m not one of those ‘BEST BAND EVER’, ‘THIS SHIT CHANGED MY LIFE’, ‘I WAS BLIND AND NOW I CAN SEE’ kinda zine-writers (Ed – feel free to add sarcastic comment here) [Editor’s note: I’m saying nowt].

But this time I throw my regular Northern caution and cynicism out the window and claim these three recordings THE MOST IMPORTANT SALVAGED TAPE LOOP RECORDINGS EVER YEAH.

What?  Like…ever?

I hear you ask.

Yes

I answer with a calm, clear voice.

Like in the whole 100 year history of recorded music?

You probe,

even including the oft- mentioned high- water mark of looping Tom Recchion’s Chaotica?

You add.  I merely smile and press play on the device of your choice.

You must listen, you must listen to truly understand

I chant with glassy eyes.

Anyway… fuck yeah!  That’s what I’m saying.  If you want to know where looping is right now in 2015/2016: PLAY THESE RECORDS.  If you are looking for an instructional map of what’s possible with simple tape loops, a couple of pedals and some hot ears: PLAY THESE RECORDS.  If you want to open up that valve in your stomach that helps you release gaseous tension: PLAY THESE RECORDS.

From the Stone Age goof with lovely sounding rocks to James Brown’s well-drilled fonk to Larry Levan’s sweaty yoga-stretch to Prince Paul’s magpie fingers we all love a loop.  The act of repetition does something to that brain/body connection.  We smile, we twitch… we bust a fucking move.  And with that repetition comes the delicious recognition of the eventual slip, the change, the move out of the established pattern that leaves us all grinning at our cleverness – we spotted it first!  We picked up on that micro-change that slid away from the beat like a rubber Mungo Jerry.

You want examples? Hard data yeah?  Take ‘Loop Phase 4’ on Loop Phantasy No. 1.  A single xylophone reverberation and gated piano-hammer strike, plays with a gentle jarring.  It starts to overlap.  It returns on itself and sets up an internal rhythm and logic cell that mutates gently over four sweet minutes. A final few seconds of digital crunchiness brings us to a shuddering climax.

And while …No. 1 and …No. 2 are definitely more swoony and dreamy …No. 3 employs the kind of up-tight funk cut-up David Byrne dreams of in his SoHo loft space.  What’s that?  More evidence?  OK… slurp this up: ‘Pop Plunder 20‘ is equal parts Van Jackson/Dicta-frottage and wonky thumb.  Jeepers.

Students of tape culture – your set-text has arrived.  Screw in those earbuds and get seriously twisted.

ramleh and rrs

Ramleh – Welcome/Pristine Womankind

This is real treasure!  A box of stash from 1994 has been recently opened up for the N-A U. Naughty noiseniks Ramleh are in full-on thug-rock mode here with a guitar, bass, drums and electronics line-up shattering the song format by being so astoundingly belligerent.

‘Welcome’ is a one-riff-then-lurch-into-electronic-breakdown sort of thing.  The twin guitars are bone-crushingly heavy and swing dangerously like a bowling ball rocking about in a wet cardboard box.  The cymbal crashes are worthy of a separate mention as they sizzle like Bonzo walloped them with his heavy oaks.  The overall sound is pretty bloody angry… pissed wasps taped into an empty jam jar.  It’s buzzing.

On the flip ‘Pristine Womanhood’ is even more exposed and unconstructed.  It starts and ends with a menacing closing-time choir howling something threatening.  In between this terrace chant the electronics shift up a gear to give Theremin-style whoops over duelling twin-guitars; less Judas Priest and more Deliverance decamped to damp, dirty Cumbria.

But how do you get a copy of this heavy, heavy slab?  Although the Format Supremacy label is now pretty much defunct, sending a reasonable £4 in the UK (inc postage) or £7 for anywhere else in the world (inc postage) via Paypal to hasan.gaylani@btinternet.com will secure a fresh copy of this oily sump-jam.

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self Titled EP

The singular Mr Ridley-Shackleton takes his trademark scuff-jizz and lays it on some hot wax, man.  I’m totally delighted to say that the gritty Dictaphone feel is in full effect with no attempt made to clean up this shit for the fussy pants vinyl crowd.  Some people are forever cassette souls.

I’ve spoken before about the RR-S ‘pocket jazz’ sound and this is still evident in big fucking lumps.  But in his duffle coat he’s sneaked in a Hall & Oates that play fragging keyboards and warm-whumping beats.  The delivery, classic RR-S; part polite hip-hop MC/part loose-soul-maverick, makes me think of Guru Gwilly Edmondez and imagine what a dream duo these two would make.

It’s time to Kross up the Kriss, Kriss up the Kross

and

Oh baby! Hold me

leak out slowly like mercury from a fractured thermometer.

Over the five tracks the texture gradually moves from limp AM radio jam to stiff grogram shuffle.  By the time we get to ‘No Grey Area’, this seven-inch-closer, minute hairs are a riffled burr on the bright tape.  They bristle like magnets.

Your generous ears will no doubt latch onto the construction and form here. I know it’s going to sound like highfalutin crit-jizz but RR-S sculpts his music; building things, not so much in blocks but in the thin layers he uses in his postal art. This thin layer becomes a second skin, a grimy bandage on your wrist, spare ends flapping in the wind.

Where can you pick this hep-platter up?  Try the unstoppable Cardboard Club blog for £4 of direct action.

—ooOoo—

don’t drone alone

Jon Seagroatt

Stuart Chalmers

– on Must Die Records

– on Ono

Cardboard Club

circuit diagrams soaked in brandy: joe murray on robert ridley-shackleton and waste farm

October 23, 2015 at 7:14 am | Posted in no audience underground, not bloody music | Leave a comment
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Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Sober Junkz (tape, Cardboard Club, CC11, edition of 12)

Waste Farm – Waste! (tape, Piped-in From Head Office Records, pifho017)

?????????????

?????????????

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Sober Junkz

The singular RRS drops another mind-bomb on our door mat with Sober Junkz, an almost unconscious unraveling of the super-ego.

Adopting the persona of a middle-aged DJ Ridley-Shackleton mumbles through an unhinged afternoon show with nothing but Whitehouse audience recordings to play instead of Toto’s Africa three times per hour.

This pure right-brain shuffling between gentle coughing and distant feedback (er… like the rains down in Africa) sits uncomfortably with the braggadocious whittering concerning RRS and Kanye facing up as presidential candidates.

As ever the packaging is classic Cardboard Club [Editor’s note: above are scans of my copy]; masking tape and crayon daubed with careful joy around a plastic zip-loc.  But it’s the sheer ‘otherness’ of this tape that shifts it to my ‘caution’ pile, clearly marked, to ensure I play this when I have my full faculties about me.  Without a suitable warning this tape could set up a feedback loop of intense crypto-listening that can lead to gentle catatonia!

In an act of retro-vandalism I replaced the name ‘Cage’ with the name ‘Ridley-Shackleton’ in my handy Penguin Cassette Guide:

Cornelius Cardew, our own British avant-gardiste, is quoted as saying that there seems to be a sense of logic and cohesion in Ridley-Shackleton’s indeterminate music. ‘The logic’ Ridley-Shackleton replied, ‘was not put there by me.’

He can say that again! Even so, a tape like this of highly experimental music does give the listener an excellent chance to work hard at the apparently impossible music…what it all means is anyone’s guess, but perhaps one should not take it too seriously.  The transfer is atmospheric rather than sharply focused. (March p204)

GREENFIELD, E. LAYTON, R. & MARCH, I. (1979). Penguin Cassette Guide.  Middlesex: Penguin Books Limited.

Joe fucking Orton me like!

waste

Waste Farm – Waste!

This conundrum snuck into a package from that Shareholder Sandy Milroy and feels like a solo project from a dude in a skinny tie surrounded by banks of antique synths.  To complete the scene a TV flickers blue smoke from the corner of the room while circuit diagrams are soaked in brandy.  Got a mental picture?

Side one opens with a sound as tactile as silvery-birch or slippery elm.  The wooden electrics shimmer all over ‘Dale Baker 201’ making it hard to pick up, running through my clumsy fumbling thumbs.  But it’s light man, relaxed and all; a smiling face at closing time on Princess Street.

Then the mood changes to delightfully sleazy as ‘Spoonfood’ (electronic tones pump like a punctured sausage…slow offal ooze) and ‘Woomb’//‘Meat Scarecrow’ (three-note stabs uncover a crystal skull – each beam of reflected light hints at an alien tone) soundtrack that thick tentacle wallop the Belgians seems to favour.  OK… a bit more grit; you’re accepting the invitation to an empty.

Side two drops a clue to its Caledonian lineage as ‘The Specimen’ merges distant street chatter with a lolloping synth line.  So far so good… but when that thick bass tone drops it’s like Wolf Eyes’ ‘Stabbed in the Face’ decided to get really fucking stroppy.  Gloopy like black molasses the jellified tones stick to your hands, face and chest.  It’s probably best to just submit, I think, until I find myself pounding a bleeding fist against the wall, thumping out this slow heart-beat, riding the waves of limp sizzle and ruddy ripping.  I’m locked in and they are slowly approaching!

Balancing the fine line between head-banging euphoria and deeply unpleasant industry.

Serving Suggestion?  Check out this euro-weird animation LIGHT YEARS.  Use your eyes to see but plug your ears into WASTE FARM instead.

—ooOoo—

Cardboard Club

Piped-in From Head Office Records

the cracked paving stones: joe murray on robert ridley-shackleton and sindre bjerga

June 3, 2015 at 2:37 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Robert Ridley-Shackleton – The Cardboard Prince (tape, Hissing Frames)

Sindre Bjerga – Listening Fictions (CD-r, Crow Versus Crow, edition of 50 or download)

cardboard prince

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – The Cardboard Prince

The problem with creating your own universe is you need to have something to fill it with.  If you are going to play God you’ve got to have God’s balls!

Luckily our Robert Ridley-Shackleton has the minerals to populate the great waste with planet-sized swirls of smart ideas and novel approaches.

On this new tape, The Cardboard Prince (referring to a cut-out Prince Rogers Nelson perhaps), RR-S travels nearer to Around the World in a Day than the The Black Album with a richly psychedelic mixture of slub-slub pop, troglodyte bass and camp hand-claps.

The distance covered by his almighty hand is vast.  Of course RR-S represents with his trademark ‘pocket jazz’ on ‘Royal Goo’ – born of a canary-yellow cagoule if I’m not much mistaken.  But damp-electronics grate against the ‘Nasty M.F.’ with a shopping list to add Technicolor tones to the grey pulp.  And that dusting of frivolity, the gleeful rapping and broke vocals, add what my mate Tony used to refer to as ‘pop-sparkle’ to the proceedings.

Pop indeed sparkles on the ‘proper’ songs that see-saw all rinky-dink like roiling pepper or disappear down the corridors of a leisure centre into chlorine-scented silence.  And just when you think this is a cynical push for acceptance in the straight world RR-S heaves in a true conceptual piece, a screwed-up paper jam that parties in the palm; A4 warped and folded until it squeals.  Or check out ’18 and over’ a true unconscious blather, a between-the-thoughts ramble that shines a light on the day-glo soul.  Hidden like a B-side gem it makes the songs shine all the brighter.

Hey.  If RR-S gave me an apple, I’d take a bite.  What about you?

ADDITIONAL FEATURES:  This set of songs comes on a recycled tape.  My host tape was originally bible stories for children, dreadfully overacted with some sick new age synth work.  Damn lemony. [Editor’s note: on my copy Shack’s recording cuts out just as someone on the bible tape says: “…and he is inside you.”  Well creepy, or well Prince-like, or both.]

listening fictions

Sindre Bjerga – Listening Fictions

I open the envelope carefully and pull out the oversize sleeve.  Doubly-exposed roses on the outer sleeve, and busy hydrangea on the inner, hint at the richness of urban decay and natural beauty.  Imagine sunny-yellow weeds pushing up through the cracked paving stones.  And, like rhododendrons growing unashamed on a roundabout, the beauty lies in secret just waiting to snag your piggy eyes.

Sonically this disc presents two live sets from the hardest working man in the NA-U, Sindre Bjerga, and recorded live in South Korea if you please.  Blimey, there must be something in the water as he’s firing off sweet shots like a blunderbuss all over this marvellous looking disc.

A meditative Bjerga approaches the first set like a salmon monk, scales of pink a’glimmer.  He carefully fades up dark purple washes of swoon (MBV through a kinked hose) and overlays fruity Dictaphone scree.  The scene is well and truly set.

Dove-grey drone is carefully blended into the canvas until a rude microphone ‘bristly fumble’ changes pace to prep the surface for slowed-speech-mung.  Tim Rice gets few props on these pages but his inexplicably popular dirge ‘Don’t cry for me Argentina’ gets a going over, Sindre style, until the ghostly beat, a cold-lamping knock leads the amplified ‘tank’ game for the Atari (circa 1986) to a false end.  The real end?  It’s a very fucking jaxxed-up tape warble…wonderfully noshed.

The second set presents us with a blockier sound but it’s ever so wet and choppy.  Hey man – the first minutes are worthy of the great Henri Chopin with that contact-mic-lodged-down-his-French gullet sound.  Bliss in a pillow case.

After this organic shredding things get really violent with the sort of anti-social ripping back and forth you’d expect from a teenage DJ’s bedroom – heavy on the crab cakes.  Flash Gordon’s rocket ship buzzes like New Year fireworks spitting green sparks onto your New Monkey tapes while you spank the thigh of the tin man (all hollow echo coz of lack of a heart I guess).  Wire-wool scrapes things clean, the fibrous tendons reaching deep into muscle tissue.

As the music snips off you’re left clamping that glossy sleeve with sweaty fingers, jaw gently chewing and eyes wide.

—ooOoo—

Hissing Frames

Crow Versus Crow

i’m all for baubles: joe, luke and rob on robert ridley-shackleton’s cardboard club

February 20, 2015 at 1:14 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Picking Speeds G.O.L – Shirty Shorts (tape, Cardboard Club, CC01, edition of 10)

Duplo Chat – Just Chattin’ (tape, Cardboard Club, CC02, edition of 7)

Bob Tale – Toxic Shock Demo (tape, Cardboard Club, CC03, edition of 5)

Smithers – Is Ure Carpet Right? (tape, Cardboard Club, CC04, edition of 12)

Picking Speeds – Afternoon Vans (7” lathe cut vinyl, Cardboard Club, CC05, edition of 10)

faniel dord / Picking Speeds G.O.L – Who can I help? / Back is Block? (tape, self-released)

cardboard club

  [Editor’s note: a parcel from blog fave outsider artist Robert Ridley-Shackleton is always a treat.  Tipping its contents onto the kitchen table affords a view into another world, existing orthogonal to our own, in which Robbie has become a giant star by mimicking, satirizing, collaging or obliterating the cultural detritus he finds slung out by, well, everyone else.  He is a noise-womble. Shortly before Christmas he decided his label Hissing Frames was no longer a large enough pouch to hold his prodigious output and the sub-label Cardboard Club was born.  Being a generous guy, he sent copies of the half-dozen initial releases to me, Joe and Luke (this was just before the new era of gender equality at RFM) and so we decided to write a joint review in which we’d each begin at a corner and chew our way in until we met in a perverse Lady-and-the-Tramp-eating-bolognese-style three way.  Here goes.  Joe first:] Picking Speeds G.O.L – Shirty Shorts This slinky tape is a single-sided wormhole, a backwards trip through the looking glass.

Drink me!

…he says.  And as a veteran loop/noise/collage/mungtape operator, who are we to argue with Mr Picking Speed G.O.L.? As a whole this tape serves as a map of several territories.  Across 45 minutes or so we visit a number of kingdoms and principalities.  As you’d expect it’s a Babel of languages and customs, but the seasoned underground traveller is quick to pick up the meaning behind the semi-industrial clatter and howl. As tasty as a bowl of salty olives we find ourselves listening to a squid inexpertly fitting the lid on a Tupperware box, the sinister whisper of a faraway ghost, spoken word fribulation and the all-to-human cut/jaxx organ hiss-pokery that makes the heart sing. But of course these groovy individual parts build up into a more complete picture.  The very fractured nature of the edit leaves clues regardless – a lo-fi gentleness, a light touch with the FX, a funny-bone caress [exhibit A: a jalopy take on the lone toker’s ‘Wake me up before you Go-Go!’]. The last 10 minutes or are a gentle comedown with the warm, soft rattling of one of my favourite Dictaphone techniques – smooth pocket jazz.  Being a trainspotter type I like to have a flutter on the hardware involved.  My guess?  It’s the Olympus PearlCorder S701 in the left hand pocket of a Navy blue Duffle Coat.  As Picking Speeds G.O.L goes about his daily business play and record are surreptitiously engaged allowing said Dictaphone to pick up all the tweedy scratching but nothing  more.  It’s a sonic buffering of which I never tire. Now me:

Duplo Chat – Just Chattin’

Bob Tale – Toxic Shock Demo

Smithers – Is Ure Carpet Right?

faniel dord / Picking Speeds G.O.L – Who can I help? / Back is Block?

[Editor’s note: as my much loved/horribly abused walkman is finally broken beyond repair, my ability to listen to tapes is currently very limited.  In order to get through the above I had to listen to them in a row one afternoon whilst off work with a heavy cold.  I think this was a pretty good way of experiencing them but, on re-reading, my notes are brief and don’t make much sense.  Mea culpa.]

So, both Luke and I got copies of Just Chattin’ and both of us were left scratching our heads.  It appears to be a full tape of what Luke described as ‘quiet HNW’ – like a tabletop of clockwork noise makers, overwound and recorded with the levels in the red and then mastered so as not to wake the neighbours.  Towards the very end I think I started to understand the itchy scrabbling of it all but this one wasn’t for me.

Toxic Shock Demo by Bob Tale is a short performance by Robbie’s lip-curling, Elvis-channelling, bequiffed, Alan Vega impersonator.  His breathy squawks slide over a trilling, pitter-patter (more treble than) bass line.  I’d be disappointed if he didn’t record this wearing a leather cat suit.  Duped onto tapes recycled from The Children’s Talking Bible which means that as Robbie cut out a mellifluous voice said

…who should he see walking towards him but Elijah!

…which in my fragile state made me laugh pretty hard.  Then cough.

Is Ure Carpet Right? by Smithers (‘Jon & Rob’) begins with some brute radiophonics – all wabwabs and squiggly pot-flipping with poorly earthed pylon fuzz and 8-bit cheat mode flicker – then a storm of harsh noise gathers over which protestations are groaned.  In amongst the gurgle loops I think I heard:

In your dreams!

…and…

We’re not dead, we just look it!

…but who knows?  Outdated methods of communication – Morse code, fax machines – struggle to be understood over noise whipping like tent fabric in a blizzard.  And then it’s done.  More Children’s bible:

…before the cock crows, Peter…

Heh, spooky.

Lastly from me: the split tape Who can I help? / Back is Block?  by faniel dord (which I’ll go out on a limb and suggest is a pseudonym of Daniel Ford) and Picking Speeds G.O.L (no, I don’t know what the acronym stands for either).

The faniel dord side is something completely unexpected: actual, y’know, music played on actual, y’know, instruments.  Over the course of five songs guitar and ukulele are picked and twanged with aplomb, lyrics are sung in a clear and decipherable manner and a dog joins in for added down home, back porch authenticity.  It is funny and charming and an absolute pleasure.

…which is also how the Picking Speeds G.O.L. side could be described, though for very different reasons.  Reminding me of 2013’s Piano Sonatas for Prepared Oven Mitt, this is a similar stream of consciousness recording seemingly allowing unmediated access to core Robbieness.  Is this what it’s like being him?  Could be.  We hear pocket scrabbling dictaphonics, details of surreal errands (returning socks to the butcher), bursts of mutant electro pop and in-character-with-husky-voice musings on traditional Christmas decorations (from which this article takes its title).  Whilst acknowledging that to some this must sound like inane self-indulgence, I can’t get enough.  If there was such a thing as Robbiecam I’d have it on constantly in a little box at the top right hand corner of my laptop screen.  What is he playing at?

…and finally Luke on:

Picking Speeds – Afternoon Vans

I will get right to the grit of it and declare that this is a straight up shazzy slice of drizzly English weirdness: we get the junk foraging, we get the two note laments on knackered keyboards, we get looped synth squelch with sleazy crooning and we get untamed scree blurts all slapped across the platter with much gusto and flared nostril.

I can almost picture Robert finding a £5 keyboard in his local charity shop, selecting the preset ‘sex grind’ and frightening the old dears with pelvic thrusts before getting booted out for making cyber growls and dog bothering feedback. I guess this mental image is fed by the knowledge that the guy can carry off a purple leather jacket – not something you can say for most people. [Editor’s note: heh, heh – bang on.  This criminally limited lathe cut is boss cracked and a high point on which to end our tour of Shack’s Cardboard Club.]

—ooOoo—

Cardboard Club Hissing Frames

the 2014 zellaby awards

January 4, 2015 at 8:23 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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zellaby award envelope

The deliberations are over, the ballots are burning.  White smoke billows from the chimney here at Midwich Mansions.  Ignore the salty wave of ‘best of 2014’ lists you saw prematurely ejaculated over an appalled December – here is the real thing. ‘Never finalised prior to January 1st’ – that’s the Zellaby pledge.

And what a conclave it has been!  Scott turned up early and presented his nominations as a hyperlinked series of Discogs listings – he spoke using a vocoder throughout and would only answer our questions if we assigned them catalogue numbers.  Joe’s effervescent enthusiasm remained undimmed despite a trip to Accident and Emergency following a foolhardy attempt to gargle Christmas tree baubles.  New kid Luke seemed happy to fetch and carry despite our hazing pranks – oh, how we laughed sending him to Wilko’s for a tub of left handed CD-rs!  All I had to do was sit in my wing-backed leather chair, fingers steepled, and pass Solomon-style judgement.  My beautiful Turkish manservant took copious notes during procedures, of course, and whilst those are being transcribed I’m afraid I must begin with some sombre news: the underground is dead.

An article making this claim by David Keenan was published in the December issue of The Wire magazine and caused adverse weather in the crockery.  Having finally read it I can confirm that it is, by and large, laughable.  The friend who sent me a copy included this note:

Here it is.  I will look forward to reading your response as it would be great to see his flimsy, self-obsessed nonsense getting torn apart.

Hmm, yeah, tempting as it is to to embark on a comprehensive rebuttal what does it really matter?  I hate to disappoint but engaging with the wilful fucknuttery to be found in publications like The Wire is like arguing about the properties of phlogiston – it might be of vague historical or semantic interest to those with too much time on their hands but is ultimately pointless.  My favourite response has been Tom Bench‘s (@TJDizzle) satirical summary of Keenan’s disdain, tweeted in reply to some genuine outrage from Duncan Harrison (@Young_Arms):

yr not tru underground because u have friends and sometimes talk to them about music

Lolz.

Some of the fallout has been quite interesting though.  Just before Christmas, RFM started getting hits from an Italian language music site that was, on investigation, carrying an interview with Keenan in which he is asked specifically about the idea of the ‘no-audience underground’ as popularised by this blog.  In his short response he manages to invent a barely recognizable straw man version of the notion, take a swing at it, miss, then step back as if he’d actually landed a punch.  Admittedly, Google Translate may have knocked some nuance out of his answer but, as I was able to read it, it was good for a hearty chuckle and fuck all else.

Phil Smith, currently researching the history of Termite Club for a book chapter, wrote a thoughtful piece largely agreeing with Keenan that contained the following tragicomic scene:

One of the saddest moments of the year for me (on a lovely day) was Neil Campbell & John Tree talking about whether there was ever in our lifetime likely to be a music revolution like (say) punk again (one which Keenan seems to want), & shaking their heads in total ‘of course not’ resignation, the required kidz soaked in computer games & all manner of other entertainment drips & (I suppose) music, whatever it signifies to people, only ever welling up in such a way as part of a business move anyway.

I laughed out loud reading this.  Not only have these rueful old geezers forgotten at least one revolution we’ve already had since punk (rave culture – musically game changing, actual laws passed to disrupt it) but the internet enabled golden age is orders of magnitude more significant than punk.  Here’s a piece from yonks ago which begins to explain why and, for good measure, here’s another from double-yonks ago about why The Wire is hopeless too.

Neil Campbell, emboldened by Keenan’s piece and nostalgic memories of poorly received gigs unearthed in response to Phil’s Termite research, ramped up his usual silliness.  On Twitter he lamented the lack of confrontation nowadays and took the piss with his #realnoaudienceunderground hashtag.  I was interested to find out if there was any substance behind his bravado so devised an experiment.  After waiting for Twitter to move on, I called Neil out on some random nonsense in a deliberately antagonistic manner.  As expected, fight came there none.  Indeed, after explaining what I was up to both publicly and via direct message (the latter, I admit, did contain the phrases ‘full of shit’ and ‘you ol’ fraud!’) I found myself unfollowed.  Ah well, so much for confrontation.

(Aside: Neil has form for practice/preach discrepancy.  After hearing him proclaim several times that he’d rather read a bad review than a good one I took him at his word and minced three Astral Social Club releases including the album Electric Yep.  I did this with heavy heart and even ran it past Neil before posting.  He replied with a jaunty ‘hey you know me, go ahead’ but after I did he deleted the RFM link from the list of friends on his Astral Social Club blog and has not submitted anything at all since.  I was amused to find myself excommunicated for heresy.  Ah well, so much for bad reviews.)

I get the impression that Neil might be a bit uneasy with his current status as universally loved sacred cow.  Or maybe he digs it and is frustrated not to be a Wire mag cover star?  Who knows?  I love the guy, have done for about fifteen years, and hate to jeopardise a friendship with a shameless ad hominem attack over something so inconsequential but… dude has clearly forgotten how to take a kick to the udders.

So, in summary: those that say they want confrontation don’t, or rather only want it on their own terms or at a safe distance, those that lament the lack of revolution need only to open their eyes to what is happening around them and those that proclaim the underground dead are talking pish.

Before moving on a word about terms of engagement.  Whilst I’ve enjoyed a few physical fights in the past (yeah, I may be short and out of shape but I’m fucking mental), I find this kind of swaggering jaw-jaw to be boring, childish and unproductive.  Comment if you like but unless what is posted is novel, substantial and engaging I am unlikely to respond.  I won’t be tweeting about it under any circumstances.  I have washed my hands and will need an irresistible reason to get ’em dirty again.

—ooOoo—

BOY!  WHERE ARE THOSE NOTES?  Oh, thank you.  Have a shortbread biscuit.  Right then, shall we crack on with the fun bit?

—ooOoo—

Radio Free Midwich presents The Zellaby Awards 2014

Thank you for bearing with us.  Firstly, an apology: due to, y’know, austerity n’ that, this year’s ceremony will be taking place on the swings in the playground at the muddy end of the estate.  Nominations will be scratched into the paint of the railings and refreshments will be whatever cider Luke can prise from the grip of local vagrants.

Secondly, the rules: to be eligible in one of the following five categories this music needs to have been heard by one of us for the first time in 2014.  It does not need to have been released in 2014.  As the purpose of these awards is to spread the good news about as many quality releases as possible, should an artist win in one category they will not be placed in any of the others.  I do not vote for any of my own releases, nor any releases that I had a hand in, er…, releasing (with one notable exception this year).  My three comrades are free to ignore these rules and write about what they like.  The price paid for this freedom is that I, as editor, have final say.  Thus the awards are the product of the idiosyncratic taste of yours truly with input from my co-writers along the way.

A couple of omissions explained.  Long term readers may be shocked to find no mention of previous winners Ashtray Navigations or the piss superstition.  Phil and Mel have been preoccupied this year with moving house, full time unenjoyment and various celebrations of the AshNav 20th anniversary and have not been as prolific as nutcase fans such as myself would like.  There has been one cassette of new material, Aero Infinite, which, to my shame, I only became aware of recently and do not yet own.  Believe me, the pain is fierce.  Bookies have already stopped taking bets on their planned four-disc retrospective winning everything next time out.

Julian and Paul have shared a split live tape with Broken Arm and had a CD-r, The Dialled Number, The Bone-Breaker, The Heavenly Sword, out on Sheepscar Light Industrial but, in my humble opinion, their defining release of 2014 was getting nothing to appear on the developed film, a mighty album which is sadly ineligible for this year’s awards because it was released by me on fencing flatworm recordings as their ‘prize’ for winning album of the year last time.  See, complicated isn’t it?

There are also many releases on the guilt-inducing review pile that I suspect could have been contenders had I found time to digest them properly: apologies to Ian Watson, Prolonged Version, Troy Schafer, Seth Cooke etc. and thanks for your continued patience.  For the first time, two entries in this year’s poptastic final chart are previously unreviewed on RFM.  Mysterious, eh?

OK, enuff with the preamble.  The first category is…

5. The “I’d never heard of you 10 minutes ago but now desperately need your whole back catalogue” New-to-RFM Award

Joe votes for Yoni Silver:

I heard Yoni Silver play a solo bass clarinet set on November 1st this year. Over the course of 20 minutes I blinked repeatedly and snapped my fingers; my mouth hung open like a codfish and eventually my eyes filled with hot tears. I’d emerged from a jazz-hole that ranged from barely-there, reductionist ‘hummmm’, to wet-chop dribble/spittle outta the brassy pipes, to full-bore Ayler-esque gospel skronk. It was so good I didn’t just clap and holla…I vowed to start a record label to immediately box this shit up. Yoni’s discs are thin on the ground but live shows with proper jazz cats and beards like PWHMOBS are gathering pace. Watch out!

Luke goes for Botanist:

Ever fantasized about a forest dwelling black metal troll singing songs about plant life on drums and hammered dulcimer only?  Me too.  Well, fantasize no longer: he exists. Just when your jaded ears smugly tell you they’ve heard it all along comes the Botanist.

taming power - twenty-one pieces - cover

…but anyone paying attention will have already guessed that the winner this year is Taming Power.

I might have indulged in some ill advised Campbell-baiting above but I am profoundly grateful to Neil for taking the time to introduce me to the world of Askild Haugland.  This quiet Norwegian has amassed a sizeable back catalogue of tape and vinyl releases on his own Early Morning Records, most of which were recorded, edited and annotated around the turn of the century and have remained largely unheralded since.  His work – created using tape recorders, cassette players, shortwave radios, electric guitars and the like – is perfection viewed from shifting angles, filtered through prisms.  His patience and dedication to uncovering every nuance of his processes are truly inspiring.  It has been an enormous pleasure to promote his music to a (slightly) wider audience – exactly what this blog is all about.  The chap himself seems lovely too.  Read more: Neil’s accidental guest post, reviews, more reviews, Early Morning Records catalogue.

…and when you return we can move on to…

4. The “Stokoe Cup”, given for maintaining quality control over a huge body of work making it impossible to pick individual releases in an end of year round up

Joe makes a compelling case for the Peak Signal 2 Noise broadcasts:

If Cathy Soreny and her Sheffield-based gladiators had released ten 25 minute compilation tapes in a year featuring the creamy froth of the N-AU we’d stand to attention and sing a rousing song. To create ‘visual cassettes’ for your telly and computer screen and navigate the machinations of the community TV industry and come up with such a thoroughly curated, imaginatively shot and god-damn funny series is just the bee’s knees. PS2N has opened another glossy window into the N-AU.

Luke keeps it pithy:

The Stokoe Cup should clearly go to Lee Stokoe.  ‘The underground is dead ‘ announces David Keenan in The Wire this month ‘shut up you prat’ is the reply from Radio Free Midwich.

Scott agrees:

Predictable enough, I HAVE to say Lee Stokoe. Browsing my discogs list for 2014 acquisitions it’s virtually all Matching Head tapes – either the new ones or tapes from the 90s that I didn’t already have. Its consistent to the point of sheer ridiculousness.

daniel thomas - that which

However, the editor has other ideas.  This year’s winner is Daniel Thomas.

Dan’s output in 2014 has been prodigious.  He even wins in two categories that don’t exist: ‘1016’ the opener on Enemy Territory is my track of the year (go on, play it whilst reading the rest of this article) and the ‘flower press’ edition of That Which Sometimes Falls Between Us / As Light Fades put together by Dave Thomas (no relation) for its release on Kirkstall Dark Matter wins packaging of the year too.  The latter album is perhaps the definitive expression of ‘extraction music‘ – the sub-genre I defined as a way of herding the work of Dan, Dave, Kev Sanders and other fellow travellers into a manageable fold of headspace – and one of at least three projects involving Dan that could have been album of the year.  For the record, the other two are Hagman’s Number Mask on LF Records and the remarkable Dub Variations by The Thomas Family in another beautiful package hand crafted by Crow Versus Crow:

It is the bead of sweat on the brow of the tightrope walker. It is a time-lapse film of dew condensing onto a cobweb.

Dan shows no signs of slowing, nor of relinquishing his choke-tight quality control.  I cannot wait to hear what he has for us in 2015.

…and now a favourite moment for the editor:

3. The Special Contribution to Radio Free Midwich Award

Scott goes for a far-flung ambassador:

It has to be Miguel Pérez.  For making RFM a global concern, and being full of passion, he’s the man.

Joe, as ever, finds this a tough one to pin down.  He suggests…

…we should say a thank you to all the readers and contributors … to everyone who has waited patiently for a review/carried on reading without sending us hate mail…

…which is a sentiment I share, of course, but this year I think one particular set of contributors has to be recognized in this category.  God knows how 27 different acts are going to share the gong though because the winners are…

Michael Clough - eye for detail cover

The artists who submitted tracks to eye for detail – the midwich remixes album:

Andy Jarvis (Vile Plumage, NIHL), ap martlet, Aqua Dentata, Breather, Brian Lavelle, Chrissie Caulfield (of RFM faves Helicopter Quartet), Clive Henry, Dale Cornish, Daniel Thomas, devotionalhallucinatic, DR:WR (Karl of The Zero Map), dsic, foldhead (Paul Walsh – who accidentally started it all), Hardworking Families (Tom Bench), In Fog (Scott McKeating of this parish), John Tuffen (of Orlando Ferguson), Michael Clough (who also provided cover art), Michael Gillham, Neil Campbell (Astral Social Club), Panelak, Paul Watson (BBBlood), posset (Joe Murray also of RFM), Simon Aulman (pyongyang plastics), the piss superstition, Van Appears, Yol, and ZN.

This year I finally joined Twitter which, as a wise-cracking, smart-arse, mentally unstable narcissist with self-esteem issues, turned out to be a perfect platform for me (though for those exact same reasons I think I’ll have to exercise a bit more caution with it in future).  One of the first things that happened was a throwaway comment about a midwich remix project ballooning into an actual album that had to be retroactively called into existence.  The final release six weeks later contained 27 re-workings of tracks from my back catalogue and lasted a total of 3 hours 40 minutes.  The process was humbling, exhilarating, joyful and unprecedented in my personal experience.

The album remains available here (along with more detail as to its construction).  If you don’t already have it, I recommend you treat yourself with that Christmas money from Gran.  I’m charging a fiver for the download and all dough raised is being given to The Red Cross.  The total donated so far, after PayPal and Bandcamp fees, is something like £180.  When I reached a ton I had a giant-cheque-handing-over-ceremony, again following whims blurted out on Twitter.

Many, many thanks to all involved – you are elite members of the pantheon of the righteous.

—ooOoo—

BOY!!  DIM THE LIGHTS.  What?  Oh yes, we’re outside aren’t we.  Fetch me a shortbread biscuit then.  What do you mean there are none left?  Well, just give me the one you are holding.  Gah!  The impertinence!  Anyway, finally we come to the two main categories…

—ooOoo—

2. The Label of the Year Award

Joe goes for No Basement is Deep Enough:

You could easily mistake No Basement is Deep Enough’s tape goof for a zany Zappa-esque prank. But peel away the layers; brush the fringe to one side, open that single plush tit and you are rewarded with some amazing music. Almost like a wonky Finders Keepers NBIDE have unveiled some new ghouls and re-released some remarkable old gizzards (Alvaro – The Chilean with the Singing Nose, Ludo Mich and Sigtryggur Berg Sigmarsson) in frankly outrageous packaging. Old or new, experimental classicists or gutter-dwelling hobo these gonks are pure trippin’ for ears.

Yeah, I’ve been involved as a one of these gonks this year but I think that means I can give you an extra bit of insight into how curator Ignace De Bruyn and designer Milja Radovanović are such wonderful human beings. I told them about getting some mentions in The Wire (Ed – you’ll love this) and they didn’t give a shit. “Ha, we always get mentioned in The Wire without any clue how, what, where, when” said Ignace, “and let’s keep it like that” he chortled into his waffle.

Luke narrows it down to two:

Beartown Records.  A consistent champion of no audience sounds and nice and cheap, they sent me a parcel addressed to Luke ‘ the sick’ Vollar which contained a postcard with ‘sorry just sorry’ written on it.  For this reason they are my label of the year.

Also a mention for Altar of Waste.  I find it comforting to know that somewhere in North America there is a guy called Cory Strand transforming his favourite films / TV programmes / music into insanely limited and lovingly presented sets. Twenty disc drone interpretation of Harry Potter limited to five copies!? He also releases loads of drone/HNW discs that are lovely items to look at and listen to including my album of the year [SPOILER REMOVED – Ed]

Scott apologises:

Sorry, Matching Head again.

Luminous worthies, for sure, but I reckon my choice has been phosphorescent:

kevin sanders - ascension through apathy

The winner is hairdryer excommunication.

The solo venture of Kevin Sanders has released, I believe, 26 items in the calendar year 2014.  Unbelievably, during the same time, he has also had his creations released by other labels, has played live, has moved house and job along a lengthy diagonal line from North to South and has let fly with a gazillion opaque tweets.  This guy’s heart must beat like a fucking sparrow’s.

But never mind the girth, feel the quality.  Kev’s hairdryer excommunication sits alongside Lee Stokoe’s Matching Head as an absolute exemplar of the no-audience underground micro-label as expression of personal vision.  Each release is a new page in the atlas mapping the world he is presenting to us; each trembling drone, each nihilistic/ecstatic scything fuzz is a contour line.  Like all great labels, hXe is greater than the sum of its parts and only gets more compelling as those parts collect and combine.  I appreciate that this might appear daunting for the newbie so here’s five to be starting with – you’ll thank me for it.

Now you see why I have to strictly enforce my ‘win allowable in only one category’ rule.  I could have created a top 40 (!) that just contained releases by, or involving, Askild, Dan and Kev.  Astonishing.  So, leaving those guys sat chatting under the climbing frame, we finally come to the blue riband, best in show, gold medal event:

1. The Album of the Year Award

Woo!  Lists!  Click on the album title and you will be taken to the original RFM review (if such a thing exists) or another applicable page (if not) where you will find details of the release (label, whatnot) and, most importantly, how to go about hearing/purchasing these marvels.

First to the lectern is Mighty Joe Murray:

It’s taken a real effort to whittle this down but here’s my top 5 in order:

faint people

1. The New Band of the Faint People – The Man Who Looked at the Moon

Keep yr Wounded Nurse. These micro-pieces are stitched together with a domestic hand juggling fly agaric.

2. Rotten Tables, Golden Meat – My Nose is Broken

This cheeky release opened a new stomach pouch and gassed itself in…yeasty and fruity. Biggest smiles of the year.

3. Pascal – Nihilist Chakai House

It goes, “tk tk tk tk tk …. po/po/po – ping.” Blistering like hot metal pipes; fragile like seaweed.

4. Spoils & Relics – Embed and then Forget

Stream-of-consciousness becomes conscious itself…a living, breathing music as fresh as green parsley.

5. CKDH – Yr Putrid Eyeballs/Fungal Air Creeping Adders

The most violently restrained listen of the year by a long shot. Needle sharp. Music to break radios.

Scott briefly interjects:

skullflower - draconis

Skullflower – Draconis

As sylph-like a heavyweight as you’re ever likely to hear.

Now over to the office junior Luke:

Album of the year…

midwich - the swift cover

Midwich – The Swift

Utterly sublime floating tones, get your cranky toddler off to sleep in minutes, limited to 15 copies only?!  Madness. [Editor’s note: ha! What is more shameful? Luke sucking up to his editor or me for publishing it?  Yes, I know its me – shut up.]

The rest:

Spoils & Relics – Embed and then Forget
culver & posset – black gash
Skullflower – Draconis
Aqua Dentata – The Cygnet Procambarus
Robert Ridley Shackleton / Werewolf Jerusalem / She Walks Crooked – April Fools
Ashtray Navigations  – Aero Infinite
Yol – Headless Chicken Shits out Skull Shaped Egg
Dylan Nyoukis – Yellow Belly
Ezio Piermattei – Turismodentale

..and last of all, to your faithful editor.  I have chosen twenty items (well, twenty three including cheats).  The first half are presented in no particular order, the second set in the traditional ‘top ten run down’ ending with the actual, objectively verified best album of the year.  In my opinion.

10. NIHL / Female Borstal / Dear Beloved Henry / Albert Materia

female borstal nihl splitdear beloved henry

The perils of the split tape, eh?  I dug the Female Borstal side of the former, sadly didn’t get on with Albert Materia on the latter.  However the sides by NIHL and Dear Beloved Henry were bloody marvellous and, if they’d appeared on the same object would have rocketed up these rankings.  So I’m imagining an ideal world in which they did.  NIHL got a haiku:

Seduced by darkness

beyond guttering arc-light –

like moths, like dead souls.

Praise for Dear Beloved Henry – equally heartfelt, less formatting:

…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.

9. Helicopter Quartet – Leading Edges

helicopter quartet - leading edges

 …the album expresses a profound vision with an austere but soulful beauty.  Imagine a slate-blue version of Ashtray Navigations psychedelics or a restrained take on the intensity of, say, Swans without the self-loathing bombast. The band may jokingly self-describe as ‘semi-melodic mournfulness’ but this is a deeply serious music with, I think, plenty to say about the difficult, forlorn, wonderful, awe-inspiring condition we find ourselves in.

…Helicopter Quartet are, to my tired ears, a near-perfect example of how musicianship can be harnessed in a noise context.  Chrissie and Mike balance their considerable skills with an understanding of how to use noise to pluck the soul of the listener and have it vibrate with a slightly discordant, emotionally complicated, seriously intended, profoundly satisfying resonance.

8. Sophie Cooper – Our Aquarius

sophie cooper - our aquarius

 

When I wrote in the RFM Christmas message to the nation…

To be transported by a work of art – to be lifted from yourself, your surroundings and placed elsewhere for the duration – is a profound experience and, as someone who has trouble with self-sabotaging mental illness, one that I greatly appreciate. Catch me right and the bus to work is swapped for a magic carpet skimming the treetops. Find me in a susceptible mood and waiting at a pedestrian crossing becomes standing at the bedside of an elderly relative, brimful with a mixture of love and trepidation. Listening to music pans the muddy water sloshing inside my head, nuggets of gold and squirming, glistening creatures are uncovered. It – thus: you – is a constant source of revelation, of insight and of inspiration.

…it was no coincidence that I had been listening to this album a lot.  My apologies to Sof for not getting around to reviewing it but, hey, Uncle Mark did over at Idwal Fishers.  The cad suggests that it is ‘by no means a flawless release’ but if he dare repeat that in my vicinity I shall strike his cheek with my glove.

7. Stuart Chalmers – imaginary musicks vol. 1

stuart chalmers - imaginary musiks vol 1

The world his music describes is fully formed and the listener’s experience of it is immersive and ego-dissolving but carefully placed ticks – a filter echo, a moment of dictaphonic skwee – bring you back to the surface by foregrounding its artificiality. It’s like a South Sea Islands version of Philip K. Dick’s Time out of Joint. Imagine walking on the golden beach, admiring the dancing palms, looking out over the glassy ocean to the setting sun only for it all to suddenly disappear and be replaced with a featureless white room and a scrap of paper at your feet with the words ‘tropical paradise’ typed on it. As with all the very best stuff: the more I listen to it, the more I want to listen to it.

6. The Skull Mask – Nocturno Mar / Sunburn

skull mask - nocturno marskull mask - sunburn

Another terrific year for the prolific Miguel Pérez, RFM’s Mexican cousin.  From the bloody-minded free noise of his improv duo ZN to the incense-and-bitumen ritual drone of The Will of Nin Girima (released on new label-to-watch Invisible City Records), I doubt a week has passed without me spending some time in his company.

My favourite of his projects is The Skull Mask and these two recordings were released either side of Miguel’s return to acoustic guitar.  The former is made of enveloping, tidal drones containing half-submerged reversed vocals.  It can prove oppressively menacing or hypnotically soothing depending on your mood as you encounter it.  Just like the night sea it is named for.  The latter is ravaged, desert psychedelia improvised with raw acoustic guitar.  There is no shade under which Miguel, or the listener, can hide – this is completely exposed music and is riveting.

5. Yol – Headless Chicken Shits out Skull Shaped Egg

yol - headless chicken

From the preamble to a review by Joe:

For the uninitiated Yol has carefully and modestly created his own footnote in the frantic world of kinetic poetry.  Imagine tiny fragile words battered with broken bottles.  Innocent syllables and posh sibilance swashes getting clotted and clumped together.  Those classy phonics all chopped up and smashed; ground out like spent fags and stuttered wetly in a barely controlled rage…

Musical accompaniment is of the most primitive and brutal kind.  Forget the chest-beating Harsh Noise dullards, this is frighteningly naked and exposed.  Short blasts of destruction come from broken machinery, sheared plastic shards, bits of old hoover and burnt cutlery.  A more dicky commentator would say recordings are made in carefully selected site specific locations.  The truth?  Yol’s breaking into empty factory units and shouting his rusty head off.

4. Spoils & Relics – Sins of OmissionEmbed and then Forget

spoils and relics - sins of omissionembedandthenforget

The closest the RFM staff come to ‘critical consensus’.  I can’t decide which of these releases I prefer so you are getting ’em both.  From my review of the former:

Their music denies narrative … The palette used is a largely abstract selection of found, domestic and field recordings as well as sound produced by the various electronic implements that make up their ‘kit’.  The source of any given element is usually (and presumably deliberately) unclear.  They are examining the innards of everything, poking around where noise happens and taking notes.  It is more akin to the meta-musical experiments of AMM and their progeny.

Don’t be scared off – this music is not dry and scratchy, it is layered with humour (ranging from the wry raised eyebrow to banana skin slapstick), tension and a whip-smart self-awareness that speaks of the telepathic relationship between the band members when performing.  A piece by Spoils & Relics is about sound in the same way a piece by Jackson Pollock is about paint.

From Joe’s review of the latter:

There is a constant flow of ideas all itchy with life; reminding me of a similar feeling – running your finger over a gravestone, nails gouging the names.  I’m caught up in a multi-sensory melting of meaning into a constant ‘now’ … Listeners who favour that hi-fidelity will be delighted.  Beards who dwell in the no-fi world of clanking tape jizz are going to be entranced.  Skronk fans will be be-calmed.  Zen droners will wake up refreshed and sharp.

3. Ap Martlet – Analog Computer

ap martlet - analog computer

The title is perfect – it calls to mind a room-sized, valve-run difference engine humming with contented menace.  These three tracks seem less compositions than iterations of an algorithm set in motion by a wonky punchcard being slotted into the machine upside-down.  ‘Comdyna’ and ‘Thurlby’ are both rhythmic in an abstract sense – the latter being a low impact step aerobics class for retired ABC Warriors, the former an exercise in patience and discipline as a series of low-slung tones are held until they start to feedback, then released, then repeated.  The final track, ‘Heathkit’, is a coruscating, brain-scouring, fuzz-drone.  It is the kind of sound that in a workshop you would wear ear protectors to dampen but here it is presented for our contemplation and admiration.

2. culver – plague hand

culver - plague hand tapes

[Editor’s note: a sudden attack of prudishness has stopped me from reproducing the covers of this release.  Scans can be found accompanying the original review.]

I need to account for Matching Head catalogue number 200: plague hand by culver, a twin tape set containing four side-long tracks totalling, you guessed it, 200 minutes.  Each of these four untitled pieces (the sides are labelled a,b,c, and d and that’s all you get) is a sombre Culvanian documentary: a long, wordless panoramic camera sweep taking in the scenery with an unblinking 360 degree turn.  Each is different from the last, all are wholly involving and will have the attentive listener crowing ‘aww… man, I was digging that!’ and reaching to flip or rewind as soon as the track ends.  I say ‘attentive listener’ but really there is no other kind because you have no choice in the matter.  This isn’t background music – allow yourself to get caught and your ego will be dissolved like a fly in a pitcher plant.  It is a masterwork and a fitting celebration of the numerically notable point it represents.

[Editor’s second note: Lee later told me that this is in fact all one track with various movements.  Just so as you know.]

…and the winner of the Zellaby Award for Album of the Year 2014 is:

1. Aqua Dentata – The Cygnet Procambarus

aqua dentata - cygnet procambarus

My review took the form of a science fiction (very) short story.  Eddie’s music does that kind of thing to your head.  Here it is:

In some future hospital you are recovering from a horrible accident. Within a giant glass vitrine, you are suspended in a thick, healing gel – an amniotic fluid rich in bioengineered enzymes and nanotech bots all busy patching you up. From the waist down you are enmeshed in metal, a scaffold of stainless steel pins keeping your shape whilst the work continues. The first twenty minutes of Eddie’s half hour describes your semi-conscious state of prelapsarian bliss, played out over dark undertones of bitter irony: every moment spent healing is, of course, a moment closer to confronting the terrible event that put you there.

During the final ten minutes the tank empties, bizarrely, from the bottom up. Pins are pushed from healing wounds and tinkle and clatter as they collect below you. Attending staff shuffle nervously but maintain a respectful distance and near silence. As the gel clears your head, your eyes slowly peel open, the corners of your mouth twitch. You look out through the glass at the fishbowled figures in the room. You weakly test the restraints you suddenly feel holding you in place, and with a sickening flash it all comes back and you rememb———

No-one in what this blog lovingly refers to as the ‘no-audience underground’ is producing work as consistently brilliant as Eddie Nuttall. The back catalogue of his project Aqua Dentata – growing with the alien beauty and frustrating slowness of a coral reef – contains not a wasted moment. His work – quiet, long-form dronetronics with metallic punctuation – is executed with the patience and discipline of a zen monk watching a spider construct a cobweb.  Best dressed man to feature on this blog too.

—ooOoo—

So, that is that.  Eddie’s prize, should he wish to take me up on it, is for Aqua Dentata to have the one and only release on the otherwise dormant fencing flatworm recordings some time in 2015.  I’ll keep you posted on negotiations.

Oh, and should any of you be interested in how this blog does – y’know, number of hits and all that – I’ve made the annual report provided by WordPress public and you can see it here.

Heartfelt best wishes for the New Year, comrades.  All is love.

Rob Hayler, January 2015.

 

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