slow as eels: rfm on various herhalen artists, mudguts, günter schlienz, hawlimann & stricktschek, nautapes #32

December 14, 2017 at 5:09 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Various Artists – Under The Concrete / The Field (Herhalen)

Mudguts – Granada Valley Flower Girl (Cruel Nature Records)

Günter Schlienz – Selbstportrait (Spam Tapes)

Hawlimann & Stricktschek – TEENSDREAMS (Spam Tapes)

Various Artists – NAUT #32 – Live at Northern Charter (NAU-Tapes)

 herhalen

Various Artists – Under The Concrete / The Field (Herhalen) Cassette and free digital album

A curious compilation that sits halfway between an all-star remix album and an old-fashioned call and response holla.

The backstory goes like this.  Mark (Concrete/Field) sends a bunch of unfinished, unused but much loved sounds out into the universe and waits for like-minded beards to respond with a reaction.  So what we get is a blur of interpretations and a shimmy of styles from a heady mix of collaborators.

The mood is cautiously optimistic with each collaborator (many new names to me) mining a seam of whistling iron; each piece separate in rusted glory but tied together with strong metallic links.

Cauterized bounce silver balloons with bright electric sparks.  It takes Descent to riff on the itchy scratch favoured by high priests Zoviet:France.  Air bubbles are released into the blood by Elricj with a turkey wishbone used as a funky clave.

What’s this?  A shimmering John Carpenter-style synth all trussed up in black leather? Ladies and gentlemen – introducing Amantra.

We go back in time with Wound’s piece sounding like it was composed on a Casio calculator watch (circa 1987) – a river of bleep.  Then race to the here-and-now for Matt Warren’s Styrofoam rummage and one finger keyboard bee-drone.

RFM fave Kek-W on the brilliantly titled ‘A Fax from Phillip Glass’ creates exactly that.  Four organs battle the inhuman squeal of redundant technology.  Libbe Matz Gang bring the gritty howl they are well known for in these parts.  But watch out! Scutopus’ almost 6 min drone is crispy pancake – not filled with boiling cheese and ham but gently sculpted and rough to touch. Wizards Tell Lies, another scorched earth outfit, juggle tangled loops and fine, filigree crackle.

The gloriously named artist Nude for Satan seem to be riffling through the Necronomicon while listening to copper pipes being clanged (on leaky headphones).

Classy Draaier ends the recording on a tasteful note.  A foamy sea drawing itself through smooth pebbles as the heavens dance overhead.

A perfect balm for this most abrasive of seasons.

mudguts flower girl

Mudguts – Granada Valley Flower Girl (Cruel Nature Records) Cassette and digital album

Ghostly power-duo Mudguts (Lee Culver on sounds and Scott McKeating on composition) haunt and howl their way through another impressive tape drenched in sticky black ectoplasm.

The opening two pieces ‘Original Mistake Growing Arms and Legs’ and ‘Constantly Slaughtering Something’ seem to exist beneath a level of human perception. Sure, churning voices are suggested and even become corporeal for moments but mostly these are echoes, lost murmurings and hints striving to pierce the veil of human static.

The altogether more boisterous ‘Bat’ is a multi-limbed car wash applying numerous squeegee squeals to your scalp.  The twelve minute ‘Every Single Edge’ truly made me jump with its needle-sharp intro cry.  Imagine a single string soprano violin bowed with fury cutting through an orchestra of damp tissue paper and comb artists.  Picture the clarity of intention over the glum voices of damage!

The balance is restored with the beautiful hum of ‘Carver’ a soul-scratching guitar noodle heard through heavy atmospheric interference.  And the prettiest of the lot ‘Moth’ a one minute mumble, makes me think this really could be the only surviving recording of a wet marimba covered in fragrant peat.

Mudguts once again daub the strange and the beautiful with primitive woad.

gunter

Günter Schlienz – Selbstportrait (Spam Tapes) Cassette

Totally beautiful synth wig-ins.

Marvellously introspective and slow as eels this tape massages my tired temples and places a warm oiled hand on my knotted shoulders.

Schlienz’ Self Portrait floats in the air faintly glowing all across side one.  The spare notes breathe into each other – a cinnamon-scented wind.

But this is in no way a dumb drift piece.  No Sir!  This is as deliberately approached as your end of year accounts.  The movements are smooth and calm.  A gentle shudder, a close cluster of harmonic moans as discrete as Eno’s Discreet Music.

Side two, ‘Campfire Suite’ takes the whole soft sheebeen outside and clusters around a real life crackling fire (just audible in the mix).  This time things are less obviously soothing and more mysterious – picture an electric loon-bird or stoned sperm whale.

Perfect and peaceful – more most welcome Spam!

hawliman

Hawlimann & Stricktschek – TEENSDREAMS (Spam Tapes) Cassette

Phew!  This hectic duo couldn’t be further removed from Gunter’s plantagenet hoofs.

Side one opens with the mud-popping farts of a bass pipe getting lustily fingered. The wet slurp is part aboriginal dreamtime part steam-driven traction engine busting hot rivets.  Percussion comes in the form of crinked coffee cans, a fistful of dry reeds and shuffling grit under the soles of a clog.  It is truly magical to hear a crisp packet scrunched, up and close to the mic, as loud as Slayer in any given Enormo-dome.

Side two is an almost prehistoric take on Don Cherry’s masterpiece ‘Mu’.  These boyos drag around sacks of cloth, sigh politely and snore, setting the scene before breaking out an ivory horn and badass drum.

We are treated to a walking mix; various beaters and rattles picked up, explored and discarded.  It’s a pleasure, a delight, to hear the invention and thought weaving as voice melts into melodica or balloon squeak tackles a wooden bamboo flute.

Clear the picnic blanket – these scotch eggs are ripe and ready to pluck.

20171214_164445

Various Artists – NAUT #32 – Live at Northern Charter (NAU-Tapes) Cassette

Gosh knows how many more NAU-Tapes Dave Howcroft has released in the last month but here’s the latest that found its way into my bulging stocking.

Admission corner – I’m breaking form here at RFM by reviewing a tape that I feature on but I don’t see why the other acts here should suffer because of my writing mumps.

And what a set of acts! Posset-Ruus Duo, Dawn Bothwell, Kleevex and Yoni Silver & Ram Gabay all braved five flights of stairs to take up residence in the sun-drenched plaza that is Newcastle’s Northern Charter Space.  Normally reserved for visual artists this wonderful space looks out over the main drag of Newcastle City Centre – a veritable eagle’s nest!

First up new duo – Posset-Ruus (soon to be re-branded The Russets but that’s a different story) take two acoustic guitars, two mouths, two Dictaphones and four speakers in a self-perpetuating loop squeezing scrambled string-action and slack tooth honks via their Dictas in what I believe they call a hot mess.  Described by some as ‘not really music’ imagined by others as Harry Pussy swapping their instruments at half time – WOOF!

Dawn Bothwell’s electronic poetry takes advantage of the view and describes the pre-Christmas rush; all mead quaff and sausage munch.  A looping module takes snatches of voice and spins a ring of bright fire making it sizzle.  Just when you thought you’d heard it all pitches are switched and a booming bottom-end heralds precise and hammering tech-noir squelch.

Keleevx pair up two of the hardest working folk in the Undergronk, Faye MacCalman and Gwilly Edmondez rasping on sax/clarinet and mouth/dicta respectively. Like a couple of daytime drinkers they read each other’s minds ready to place a new conversational nugget or curious honk on the table with practiced certainty. Seeing traditional instruments cozying up to what is basically outdated office equipment fills me with a wonderful sense of hope and I can wax lyrical if you want. But it’s all just breath at the end of the day innit?   The secret is its vital oxygen, life-giving air whistling from Kleevex into my hungry ears.  Dandy.

The brave headliners are polished metropolitan gentlemen Yoni Silver (Bass Clarinet & Violin) and Ram Gabay (half a Drum-set).  I’m not going to beat around the bush here – this is world class improv.  Yoni and Ram are inventive masters pushing each of their respective instruments though ten rounds delivering stylistic K.O’s with grace and regularity.  Yoni’s deep, deep honk is filtered through an enviable technique, rude tongue-slaps on the gummy reed, a foot in the brass bell and plastic filters clattering with the power of sculpted air.

Ram’s drums (a couple of snares, a rogue bass drum and a collection of cymbals and gee-gaws) are cosseted and stroked like old house cats. Skins are thrummed and thowked.  The mixture of texture and timing fill the air with gritty vibrations that are expertly controlled with the occasional sharp ‘crack’ brining us out of our misty reverie and back into the present.  Special mention must be made of the bass drum – a slack and sliding mobile unit skittering at the sight of Ram’s well-heeled boot.

And the interplay between the two is gob-dropping, jaw-smacking.  Nuance unwraps further nuance, in a cluttered Venn diagram alive with microscopic bristle.  This damn tape reminds me why I love improv so much – it just keeps on flowing and reforming until (one brief violin scrape later) it snips to a perfectly neat and tidy close.

As with all other NAU-tapes these are available only from the mighty Mr Dave Howcroft at howcroft.d58@gmail.com for FREE!  *but bung him a few quid eh…it’s Christmas.

 

Herhalen

Cruel Nature Records

Spam Tapes

-ooOOoo-

leery sludge grunt: luke vollar on aqua dentata, cold sore/ libbe matz gang, infernal body and scott mckeating on skullflower

March 31, 2017 at 6:01 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Aqua Dentata – Before the Bearded Overflow (Tor Press)

Cold Sore/ Libbe Matz Gang – (0+0=0) (Libertatia Overseas Trading)

Infernal Body – Barren Land (Caligari Records)

Skullflower – Bayou Perfume Advert (Bandcamp Self Release)

 

AquadentataAqua Dentata – Before the Bearded Overflow (Tor Press) CD-R

RFM house favourite, Aqua Dentata returns (well returned last year) with a collection of five untitled pieces that gleam like pebbles on the beach, made smooth by unknown excursions.

A brief soothing hum on the first track carries us elegantly into the meatier fullness of the second track.  Duncan Harrison’s clarinet-gravy provides a delectable jus to the already rich stew of synth-violin and zither.  A nourishing entrée that had your reviewer slack-jawed on the sofa – fast asleep – RFM’s drowsiest writer baby.

Track 3 takes Nigel Tufnel’s ‘simple lines intertwining’ into inner space as hovering robot fireflies bounce around a single blue light in infinite confusion – creepy right?

Track 4 is a prism of light, picking up the dust floating in the air or a music box played backwards through a stained glass window to no-one. I can’t decide which!

Track 5 is the longest; a slow mutating ‘whub’ of blunted tone-smoke to rattle your fillings. A sinister vessel rotates slowly downwards into uncharted depths and shifting arcs of colour and light. The clarinet returns bugle-like as the vessel sinks out of sight.

To summarise –  ‘Oopht.’

 

libbe matz

Cold Sore/ Libbe Matz Gang – (0+0=0) (Libertatia Overseas Trading) C30 cassette

Themed around the medical treatment of juvenile delinquents these two artists share a side each on this gnarly tape, presenting some dark electronic meditations on sinister control and repression mechanisms through medication.

The only vocals evident are disturbingly delayed speech lifted from instructional tapes (?) discussing amongst other things Largactyl or Chlorpromazine – anti-psychotic medication with the ability to flatten and pacify with some unpleasant side effects: drooling stiffness and involuntary movements, commonly used to treat psychosis it was / is used in prisons to control aggression.

Libbe Matz Gang’s, ‘Under the Chemical Cosh’ makes explicit its theme as a bruised and persistent sustained tone deviates into the spiked and poisonous sting of a scorpion, crackling with ill intent.

We have moved from the cold-sweat-dread of a general anaesthetic administered by faceless medics with dead eyes and ended up at the wrong end of a sterile corridor in a Dead Ringers style body horror. The high-pitched whine that closes the storm is what you hear as the anaesthetic wears off – you wake alone in surgical gown, slowly sitting up to take-in your grotesquely transformed reflection.

Cold Sore’s track is a grey and eerie bombed-out fug of barbiturate hangover. ‘The Significance of Nothing’ limps into existence as a drowned air-raid alarm sounds forlornly while an impassive female voice rises from the murk, looping in sad resignation.

While the Libbe Matz Gang track seems to represent the panic and terror of a young person in over their head, no longer in control of their actions, the Cold Sore track is the cold sedation of a forced intramuscular injection.  Like being dropped into a restless sleep from which you may never wake.

You are alone, you don’t know where you are, who these people are or what they want.

 

infernal body

Infernal Body – Barren Land (Caligari Records) Tape

It was a gig at the Leeds Mecca of all No-Audience activity, Wharf Chambers, that I happened across Infernal Body, placed on the bill amongst some familiar names on these pages.

My curiosity had been roused as a pal mentioned they were a Black Metal band and as they took to the stage my black-heart began to sing a little. While not immediately identifiable as an unholy horde, with short hair and sensible jumpers and shirts, they conjured a very satisfying jagged and bitter Black Metal Punk fury.

The singer’s look of utter disgust as he prowled back and forth hawking up a tirade of indecipherable invective flanked by a blast of pounding negative energy had the cold brittle attack of early Darkthrone with episodes of leery sludge grunt.

Of course I picked up their tape, ‘Barren Land’ at the end of the night – feeling its icy grip in my pocket on the bus home felt reeeal good.

The format and less-than-perfect production lends itself to the kvlt vibe. A doomy, ‘Retempered Only in Blood’ sets a distinctly uneasy tone with the ghoulish vocals focusing on loneliness, isolation and self harm (a handy lyric sheet is included) as the rest of the group offer a graveyard ambience of sparse dread before lurching into the punkish ‘Red Impressions’.

There is enough dynamic and variation on offer to prevent it ever slipping into cliché or a tired rehashing of the greats. Indeed the fact that it was recorded in my old stomping ground Armley, a less than salubrious suburb of Leeds makes sense; the grim concrete inner-city smog coming through the pores of the songs like sweat.

I give dark hails to these gents and I hope to hear more work from them soon.

 

skullflowerSkullflower – Bayou Perfume Advert (self released – digital download)

Readers out there who don’t follow Matthew Bower’s every move (I mean, for fks sake…c’mon), may  be unaware that he and Samantha Davies are now pretty steadily hammering out the Skullflower / Voltigeurs /Black Sunroof releases via their bandcamp. Gone are the semi-regular CDR missives or black heraldic vinyl relics from the duo that would thankfully see a kind of blue-black bruised daylight through the lightning rod of Volcanic Tongue.

For something of a Skullflower cultist who has long mocked the fetishism of limited edition, fancy-ass physical releases, the lack of faith I’ve had in the duo’s increased digitalisation has been difficult to process. Their work has always been a thing of immersion, grandeur and time-transformative power.  And while I might end up listening to both, a ripped CD or a download, exactly the same way – on my phone – the fact one came from the physical world makes a kind of difference. In my addled reality the fact that it was once ‘solid’ means it has some sort of power over a download. Of course, all of this fancy format flapping is just another bullshit.

Spending time at Skullflower’s website and delving into their bandcamp release images, the ease with which they’ve settled into the use of this digital portal isn’t that surprising. If the images there are to be believed, the duo have constructed a world that merges totems, their own dragon obsessed art, bones, glyphs and their much loved familiars. It’s a world so clearly self-contained and idiosyncratic that the act of popping to Curry’s for some CDRs must seem like a transdimensional leap into the other.

Notwithstanding the ghastly title, Bayou Perfume Advert is a great waking whirl of guitar-bleeding that’s closer to gushing pitchshifted mechanics than fret board hysteria. There’s no reinvention of the wheel in this opening flow; it’s the instant launch of the abstract expanse – vistas revealed, minute details there for the taking.

If Davies and Bower have a trademark move it’s the swift draw-you-in –fade-up. Making the listener instantly Jonah to Skullflower’s whale/wail.  Marvel to the rattling grind of feedback and incense-detritus timbres, the Daddy-long-legs legs guitar lines. A gathering of loops without seams, of patterns that never had a start or finish in the first place, Bayou Perfume Advert is a fully formed thing that shifts like patterns of falling/fallen ash.

With a hallucinatory undertow of Astral Social Club / Sunroof!, the core elements of Bayou Perfume Advert are the free guitar sounds – the circling peregrine soloing. While there’s little clearly defined emotion in what Skullflower do, even when signposted by song titles, there’s definitely a living consciousness in this, more of a reach or a search without a goal.

Pared down to a snappy one liner: it’s a 27 minutes blast of blitzkrieg in stasis…elongated shards of. But how the duo make this sit consistently more entertaining than their peers remains a mystery.

Sure, it’s half an hour long, but it feels (in a good way) like it’s a abyssic gape of time, drawn out in wormhole  minutes. Vital – it’s alive and it draws (probably again for me) comparison to some great shifting wyrm.

Oubourous without end or beginning.

 

Tor Press

Libertatia Overseas Trading

Infernal Body

Skullflower Bandcamp

-ooOOOoo-

new midwich product! ‘blisterpack’ on bells hill

May 20, 2016 at 9:03 am | Posted in midwich, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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midwich – blisterpack (3″ CD-r, Bells Hill, BH 012, edition of 50 or download)

blisterpacksmall

Yes, yes, I know there is an unwritten rule that nowadays radiofreemidwich does not cover the work of its contributors or editor (a great shame as we are a pride of geniuses but, y’know, ‘integrity’ and all that) HOWEVER a new midwich ‘side’ is a rare occurrence and no money is being requested so: fuck it let’s go…

Your tireless editor is proud to announce the release of blisterpack by midwich on Scott McKeating’s Bells Hill label.  In a development that might raise eyebrows amongst long-term midwich watchers this, err…, ‘mini-album’ comprises 12 tracks totalling a mere 18 minutes.  There is a little of the drone I am usually associated with but, in the main, this is a collection of fun, spiky sketches in the mode of the short interludes you’d often find on earlier midwich recordings.  Scott requested short tracks and it is an aspect of midwich I really enjoyed returning to.  I’ve joked that this is my punk album but it is more like a ‘loops and breaks’ type thing, I guess.  If any of you out there do remixes, create radio jingles or whatnot then feel free to use it for that purpose.  Hope you dig it.

There is a Bandcamp link below but Scott also created 50 copies of this on 3″ CD-r and got Lee ‘Culver’ Stokoe to design some cover art (which is free of his usual prurience – see above).  As we are both true, hardcore, no-audience underground 4EVA these physical objects are not for sale, instead they are offered up as gifts or in trade.  If you’d like one get in touch with me or Scott (try @scottmckeating).

—ooOoo—

midwich on Bandcamp

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.

 

drowned church, boiling noise: scott mckeating on joseph curwen, benway, deceiver

September 17, 2014 at 1:38 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Joseph Curwen – From Beyond (tape, Cruel Nature Records, CN008, edition of 30 or download)

Benway – Surfs Up (tape, Fuckin’ Amateurs, Fa 79, limited edition)

Deceiver – Tour 2013 (3” CD-r, Human Beard Records, limited edition)

joseph curwen - from beyondbenway - surfs updeceiver - tour 2013

Dictated via whisper-ma-phone from his undersea lair, Scott McKeating – RFM’s mysterious third voice – opines thus:

Joseph Curwen – From Beyond

My initial thought on the way that this tape’s opener, ‘From Beyond (Part One)’, begins is that it might actually make a great intro for an industrial metal song – its stasis drone crawl could well portend some epic pounder setting the goth club dance floor alight. However, Joseph Curwen (aka Newcastle resident, Alexander Roberts) is drone through and through thus no easy catharsis here. Instead the track fills the mind with a drowned church stillness, the silt disturbed by a loping pattern of notes, a mouldering noise toying with melody. ‘From Beyond (Part Two)’ is another low-visibility water piece, currents pushing the tones a little higher up the scale this time. It’s the most markedly Lovecraftian of the tracks: a distant but approaching din hints at chaos crawling through the deadening ambient fug.

The three parts – two short, one long – that comprise Side B are a little less inspiring. The relative lightness is not unwelcome following Side A’s murky grey but allows the listener’s attention to wander to the less cosmic chaos of everyday reality. Whilst the initial tracks have the hypnotizing creepiness of a time-lapse film of verdigris creeping across a forgotten bronze statue, this second side allowed me the headspace to worry about the car’s MOT.

A word about the cover art which is surprisingly ‘new agey’ given the content. I presume it is meant to depict the ultraviolet alternate reality revealed by the occult machinery in Lovecraft’s short story. Unfortunately, what it reminded me of was the opening scenes of that steaming-curled-dog-egg Prometheus.

Benway – Surfs Up

After all that droning sometimes it’s good to get your head kicked in by a bit of noiserocknroll. Here’s Martin of Fuckin’ Amateurs fame to set the scene:

Benway was the group put together by Steve Savage aka Steve The Goon aka Steve Pierce the week after I interviewed him for a forthcoming the punk book. He was in Dementia Praecox and a local character at the time. After the interview he mentioned getting a band together so I introduced him to some mates.

Benway (presumably named for Burroughs’s dubious doctor) is the sound of the assembled players orbiting the very aptly named Savage’s scuzzily serrated guitar. There are various jams available on cassette with a revolving line-up of players like Wrest, One Wobbly Egg, Noisebastard / Noisebear / Mark and our very own Posset who backed and enveloped Steve in venues like the legendary Morden Tower (R.I.P., alas).

The main track on Side A of this one is a great howling thing. A loose feedback fouls everything (even the poorly recorded radio forecast attempting to butt its way in) mixing up a sonic morass. Riffs are ragged chugs, pounded on an anvil as bass turns steely cold. This piece is a one instrument show with a band sound; the Moe-Tucker/krautrock rhythm of Jamie’s drums is the next loudest thing but still a flickering match in the pitch black train tunnel of guitar. Of course, it’s a Fuckin’ Amateurs release so there’s the ubiquitous dicto-surveilled audience chat and, as a bonus, Side A also offers some solo drum work (not a drum solo) from Wrest.

Side B is a different thing altogether, Savage offers up four tracks of reverb friendly instrumental and crystal-tipped electric guitar work. Melodic and reminiscent of Robby Krieger’s playing on ‘The End’ (something another punter also mentions in the recorded chatter after the show), it’s a good counterpart to Side A’s roughness.

Deceiver – Tour 2013

Having already berated Matt Goodrich, Human Beard Records label boss, for not giving this disc a catalogue number, there’s little point in me grumbling on RFM about it too [Editor’s note – yes, if you weren’t already locked in the cellar, I’d lock you in the cellar for excessive nerdiness]. Anyway, when not thwarting my Discogs obsession, Matt is a member of the mighty powerviolence band Water Torture and is also the fellow behind the noise project Deceiver, now based in Rochester, NY.

Deceiver do a great line in fierce, boiling noise, in lo-fi audio recordings of disintegrating city scapes. Bass is used to underline certain passages, but Tour 2013’s single ten minute track is formed mainly from layers fading in then being disintegrated by the knotted razor-wire sound. The track could be digitally sourced, but as it moves organically – clouds of scuffed metal consume each other – I prefer to imagine a string of effects pedals, each throttling the next in a macabre, red-faced, eye-bulging daisy chain. There are hardcore vocals here too, courtesy of noisemaker John Kerny (aka Dead Weight) who red-raws his throat by screaming like a wrong ‘un at someone/something. Absolutely no idea what’s he’s saying, but it’s clear that he’s pissed off.

—ooOoo—

Cruel Nature Records

Fuckin’ Amateurs

Human Beard Records Bandcamp / Discogs

outpourings of fried mind: scott mckeating on sunroof!

August 17, 2014 at 9:58 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Sunroof! – Rock Power (vinyl LP, Nashazphone, np-13, edition of 500)

sunroof! - rock power

(Editor’s note: emerging from his undersea lair for just long enough to hand me a brass tube containing the manuscript of the below, Scott McKeating – RFM’s mysterious third voice – returns to an old obsession.  Over to Scott…)

Having been lost in a wilderness of real life, I’d like to offer up a long overdue rumination on a recentish rerelease of Sunroof!’s Rock Power.  Originally a European tour CD-r from way back in 2003 via the Rural Electrification Program label, it is now available on the inconvenient as fuck format known as vinyl.  Egyptian label Nashazphone have provided the opportunity to support Sunroof! (in)directly rather than tussle with the ebay/discogs crowd.

Those that can recall the distant past of RFM will perhaps remember my devotee status at the altar of all things Bower and Sunroof! has always been one of his more eclectic variations. Sometimes studio solo, other times bolstered by ‘members’ like Neil Campbell (more of whom later) or Jazzfinger’s Has Gaylani and Ben Jones, this has often been the project that the man turns to when he’s of a mind to use a (relatively) brighter palette.

These seven untitled live tracks, in collaboration with Vibracathedral Orchestra’s Mick Flower and using loopage supplied pre-tour by Neil Campbell, feature far less emphasis on the blackened, crushing, coruscating whiteout of senses familiar from his other work but they still surprise – perhaps even subverting the usual template for a Sunroof! record.

It begins with a basic rock riff, something from a lo-fi garage jam, but there’s Bower filigree around it. Feedback like Martian vines snake in, around and through the (again: relatively) comprehensible sound of electric guitar.  Imagine an elastic fingered Crazy Horse with Young’s solos played through a live socket dowsed in blade-sharp bleach, piss and vinegar. With Flower on guitar, Bower is (we presume) assaulting his own set of strings, along with masking taped keys and various pedals, tempering them into a feedback assault. The programmed patterns and more familiar electronic drones throughout have been identified by Neil Campbell as featuring some of his own loopy contributions.

‘2’ leaps back into more familiar Sunroof! territory, concentrating on the flutter-by bleeps and squelching E-rushes that open out in other weirder, wider melodic arteries. Train rhythms cast from the outpourings of fried mind synths provide grounding for the track, whilst around it wrangled knots of guitar are lassoed and channelled into rivulets of burbling notes and soft battery splutters. While Rock Power has plenty of evolving/revolving tripped sounds and fried guitar moments, it can still throw an oddball. There’s the glam break beat riff of ‘5’ giving the record the feel of gnarly stasis stomper, locked in a dusty record groove. Or the shiny VU chime of guitars on ‘6’ that are cut into ribbons by the high frequency furious scratch of metal filaments.

So, this is a Sunroof! record that features sounds that are as close to ‘rock music’ as any used by Bower before.  Don’t fret though: under the muscled, cyclical riffs the album’s guts are still churning noise and intestinal loops.

—ooOoo—

Nashazphone

(Editor’s final note: what’s that popping noise?  My beautiful Turkish manservant appears to be opening a bottle of champagne!  What’s the occasion?  Radio Free Midwich’s 400th post?!  Well, I never!  Chin, chin!)

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