the machine slowly unfolds: joe murray on star turbine, poulsen & klapper, rogaland hot club, forest of eyes

March 26, 2015 at 8:36 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Martin Klapper & Claus Poulsen, Rogaland Hot Club – Og Senere Pa Eftermiddagen / Rogaland Styrende Organer (tape, Gold Soundz, GS#125, edition of 25)

Star Turbine – Alterations (CD-r, SKRAT Records, skr-017)

Forest of Eyes – Leaf Litter (CD-r or download, self-released)

RFM Poulsen_Klapper 2

Martin Klapper & Claus Poulsen, Rogaland Hot Club – Og Senere Pa Eftermiddagen / Rogaland Styrende Organer

I picked this beauty up from the Goldsoundz gaucho himself Sindre Bjerga during his recent half-term jaunt to the UK with Claus Poulsen.  I’m always up for a trade but was doubly delighted to see the name Martin Klapper splashed across the carefully folded collage cover.  For me Martin’s sounds were an important entry point into an underground alternate reality where toys take a seat in the orchestra and accident holds an unreliable baton to conduct.

I asked Claus with my eyes ashine:

How did you hook up with the Klapper man?

and

Martin?  He lives round the corner from me,

…came the nonchalant reply from Claus.

Good golly!  I almost ran home to jam this silvery prize right there and then but resisted like a good human and took my time.

The seven short tracks from Klapper/Poulsen are total knockabout junk-core of the highest order. No moment is left un-squirmed.  The pace is busy like a chicken-pox itch with layers of ‘huzzzzz’, ‘hok-ko-kok’ and ‘charrrr’ expertly mixed so it’s almost tumbling into chaos but pulls itself back from the brink every time.

The attendant floppings are not in any way naive or frivolous.  Using toys, doo-dahs and soft furnishings in your music is no easy option.  You’ve got to search the possibilities as lovingly as any extended technique merchant.

The stop-start, juddering of micro-musical moments ticks my Tom & Jerry box in thick black marker.  It’s delightful to surrender to the ‘quacks’ and belches letting my brain process this particular Technicolor moment, and another, and another, and another until the grey stuff is left panting and fagged out.

I will never tire of this approach.  It’s the very sound of spontaneous invention for heaven’s sake!  It gives me the same warm glow as discovering that the sonorous snoring behind me is actually the start of a vintage Usurper or Drenching jam randomly selected for my rusty earbuds.  Turn on, Tune in, Flop out.

Rogaland Hot Club are another name I’ve wanted to catch up with for a long while now.  A Norwegian super-group (Sindre Bjerga, Anders Gjerde and Pål Asle Pettersen) made up of only Ginger Bakers this 21 minute collage of live/non-live jams all smeared together is a master class in group improvisation.  Most of us agree that music is a social activity and, as a result, the interactions between individuals in groups are one rich area of both business and pleasure.

The Hot Club play on the skronk, the sound of overloaded equipment peaking redly and knead it into unselfish group moaning and caterwauls; a King Midas of agonies hawked out by specially trained sea lions, so close you can almost smell their fishy rewards.

At the 9 mins 30 mark exactly the scene changes to a surviving audience recording of Suicide’s only Scandinavian date.  Those tricky voltage differences pitched all their Casio beats too low for a US crowd but it was perfect for the winter walkers who break out the hjemmebrent to dance like their sensible shoes are covered in foul-smelling glue.   A paddle-puddle-battle takes the place of an interval until the show gets closed by the cops, hauling in their own sound system playing Barrington Levy at ear splitting volume – backwards – as they take turns to ‘singjay’ the pages and pages of overtime claims in a newly discovered Atlantian dialect, incomprehensible to us land dwellers.

One lone voice remains, spoiling the ballots in a confused tone.

Gosh…this is one heady rush.  Available in tiny quantities; there’s only 25 copies in the whole wide world.  Move swiftly my dear reader, move with sureness and speed or let this opportunity pass you by forever.

RFM Star Turbine

Star Turbine – Alterations

This upstanding duo of Sindre Bjerga and Claus Poulsen have come a long way in the last few years. Their collective name Star Turbine is well chosen as their first set of recordings were very much the sound of the ion drive, the Dylithium raga and ‘Set the controls for the heart of the sun’ omni-chord workouts.  But all things change, even in the field of deep space research, and in 2015 we hear a very different sound-world pumping from Claus and Sindre’s sci-fi drone pipes.

The two live pieces that make up this ‘tour only’ disc are real heavy journeys into the unknown.  The lengthier ‘Leiden’ starts in the foothills of some imagined country and hikes carefully up a frozen mountain.  Electrick brooks, bubbling happily down below, become ferocious and dangerously sly underfoot the further you climb.  The pretty, crisp frost gets deeper and sloppier until each boot crunch sends up explosive plumes of fine white dust, peppering the air with paranoia and panic spores.  The trees, naturally, become spare and sparse.  The odd rough limb points skywards, blackened against the snow pointing an accusing finger to some jealous deity in the clear night sky.

And then… it’s all calm.  The occasional goat bell chimes mournfully and echoes across the valley.  Your shortwave radio picks up astronaut interference; they could be reciting poetry or sending a panic-flaming SOS, but you’re too worn out from the day’s exertions to really care.  The ‘clicks’ and ‘burrs’ of speech just manage to fight through the static, lulling you to sleep to dream of Spanish guitars played with lobster claws and melting butter.

‘Dawn Voyage’ seems to pick up the journey mid-dream with that familiar ‘same but different’ trick my subconscious loves to play on me.

Skip loads of the river bed silt are brushed and combed by some gently purring machine.  For hours it labours, occasionally letting out a gasp of steam or erotic sigh of pleasure.  By morning the silt has all gone, processed away and the machine slowly unfolds, like a lotus flower, to reveal a small statue of Niels Bohr shimmering like some solid state disco ball.  Steve Lacy asks to borrow my headphones then complains loudly they are not the Beats he expected.  I wake up with a question on my lips…

forest of eyes - leaf litter

Forest of Eyes – Leaf Litter

If you check out the link to this beguiling new record from Forest of Eyes you’ll notice Mark Wardlaw’s mission statement for his FoE project:

Rescuing folktronica from the blahs

After a good old listen to this collection of songs and environments, at home and on the move, I can conclude that ‘yes’ Mark has accomplished this mission.  Folktronica consider yourself rescued!

But Leaf Litter does so much more than that.  Forest of Eyes has re-engaged the underground ‘folk’ debate to such a new level he demands a fresh chapter in Electric Eden.

Sure enough you have the sound of wide skies, painful loneliness and horizontal grey sleet recorded direct to mobile phone.  Yup…you’ve got medieval instrumentation: your dulcimers, your fiddles your concertinas and of course your good old bowed psaltery.

But this very ordinary looking disc takes the sonic disturbance of folk (the jarring frequencies in voice and subject matter, the stubby finger in the ear) and overlays them with a carefully attuned appreciation of the everyday noise of life.  It does this in two distinct ways.  Firstly there are the songy-songs tinkered with gently, ribbed for your pleasure.

But a new world is opened with the longer pieces.  They tip their hat to the traditional song form of course but quickly kick its shins with a steel-toed clog.  But it’s not leg pain that keeps you awake at night; it’s the mead-based Mickey that you can’t quite forget.  The deft shift of brain waves that calls you back for more over the freezing hills.

So first the songs: the scene is set with an apocalyptic instrumental ‘Regeneration Scheme Cancelled’ – a choir of thin keening tones played on a tortured dulcimer and pipe contraction (the atomically powerful bombard perhaps) making medievalists weep with its delicious modern primitive style.

You want a murder ballad?  Well all you Nick Cave types take note to check out ‘Edward’, a cyclical tale that sets a new low for misery with its plaintive verse over a deep breathing drone.  Both beautiful and disturbing.

And the father’s lament ‘Weary Cutters’ is sung a capella with a forlornness that’s magnified by its cliff hanging ending.  There’s no happy ever after feeling… it just tails off into an agonising emptiness.

So what’s left?  These are the meaty chunks…

Riot batons crash against police shields in a direct act of provocation to open ‘Strike Breaking Bastards’ a stunning, but very grimy, very cellular song-within-a-song that seamlessly incorporates the traditional Blackleg Miner with the sort of clank you’d expect on a Prick Decay record and the aforementioned politically-tinged faux field recording.  This is brave work!

A brief noise interlude that begins ‘Poachers Killing Police’ clears the head with a sharp and creaking concertina and explosive machine-breaking, then words courtesy of North Yorkshire Police add a social commentary that’s far more powerful and thought-provoking than any Dog-on-a-string nonsense. (Baton down the hatches Ed – that’s bound to upset the punk primadonnas [Editor’s note: not fussed]).

I’m pretty sure this is turning out to be a god-damn IMPORTANT record before I even sip on the final, black psychedelic slush of ‘Mouldering Vine’.  This is an hypnotic and nauseously overlapping tune that’s as truly twisted as a Sun City Gurls ram-jam spliced with Richard Youngs’ innocent weirdness (Lake era).  The killer fade-out, like a pale sun disappearing over a damp horizon, is the perfect melancholic masterstroke.

—ooOoo—

Gold Soundz

Skrat Records (yes, the disc was ‘tour only’ but no harm in asking…)

Forest of Eyes

fizzing blue stars: joe murray on ksds, acrid lactations, smear campaign & poulsen/harrison/watson/bjerga

February 6, 2015 at 2:08 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Claus Poulsen, Duncan Harrison, Paul Watson & Sindre Bjerga – Blind Dates (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.294, edition of 66)

KSDS – Black Abba (CD-r, T-Shirt and stickers, stars, dots and the “new” junk, Starsdots016, edition of 15 or download)

Acrid Lactations – Drizzling Quids A’ Crepuscule (tape, Total Vermin, #88)

Smear Campaign – Funky Cold Demeanour (tape, Total Vermin, #36)

blind dates

Claus Poulsen, Duncan Harrison, Paul Watson & Sindre Bjerga – Blind Dates

A note on construction: these two duos; Duncan and Claus, Paul and Sindre played live to an audience in single figures in London’s free and easy Olive restaurant last year. These remarkable first-time duos were recorded and expertly mixed by Claus Poulsen and released in an edition of 66.

Duncan and Claus serve up a hubbling, bubbling mixture of tension and texture.  Drawn-out scrapes and moans open the piece until loose cheeked ‘pops’ cut some slack and open up the landscape for Duncan’s concrete word-dub.  Meanwhile a rich acoustic ripping rolls out of Claus’ fingerless gloves as he jingles a vintage synth with his toes.  The button marked ‘sexy robot talk’ is fingered to start up a hot conversation that would make Louis and Bebe Barron blush beetroot red!  A satisfying climax is sculpted out of decaying polystyrene blocks and Viking horns – classy!

Paul and Sindre begin inside a peach, pulling out chunks of juicy flesh and dropping it noisily to the floor.  Sindre starts his onyx panther purring while Paul plays an egg-slice by caressing it with red Tudor brick.

Next they turn their attention to soundtracking a rowdy bout of Olympic wrestling.  I can clearly picture the slap of stinging-pink flesh on the crash mat and feel the astringent whiff of liniment in the nostrils.  A cub reporter gets in close with the Dictaphone but fluffs the buttons (screee…) and a disco plays, thump, thump, thump in one unfortunate head until you bail and cry ‘UNCLE!’  Chucky Cheese is hosting a sugar-frenzied birthday party for Sky Saxon and the electricity keeps cutting out like Norman Collier is controlling the Black Ark.

Then things get serious.  A sound like giant granite blocks being slowly moved around the chessboard is overtaken by Wu Tang Killer Bees (swarming) then descending into the insect-o-cutor to die spectacularly as fizzy blue stars.

All this furious invention makes me ponder the position of the improviser in 2015.  It used to be a point of pride for grey beards to master the jizzle, skin or hornpipe until they could play inside out.  Listening to a record like Blind Dates makes me remember that a collection of eggs, dried seaweed and a typewriter can transform just as spectacularly in the hands of a select goon.  Ears are of the highest importance.  Imagination is gold dust.  Courage is the epaulette earned through practice and concentration.

Hold up your heads gentlemen…you join the pantheon along with yr average Derek, Evan or Han on this blow-out piece.

black abba

KSDS – Black Abba

This is a cheeky one alright.  Mocked up to ape the Sabbath classic Master of Reality this disc by KSDS might be free of all inverted crosses but it’s still a heavy trip (man).

Fans of Kosmische-leaning keyboard action pay attention!  This is whirling like a day-glo electric galaxy.

In some places heaviness comes from clustered chords held down until grim fingers bleed.  In others (‘Cosmic Radiation’ for instance) crude beats lend weight and sound like the ghost of Jacob Marley took up the drums, rattling his rusty chains.  ‘Hammer of the North’ is as claustrophobic as an oft remembered family car journey with a similar sense of tension and restrained anger; the shifting banks of delay sculpting something almost dancefloor friendly that would sit neat and tidy in the Opal Tapes catalogue.

And just when you think you’ve got the measure of things a tune of pure loveliness (‘With Anger’) swirls like some green and pleasant church organ gone up the silk route for hash and adventure.

But it’s on ‘The Stack’ that things get totally sepia-tinted kraut.  Sounding like mid-period Cluster simple lines overlap building up layer upon layer until the tinniest beat (high hats spitting like a drowning man) keep strict tempo with a military bearing.

tv2

Acrid Lactations – Drizzling Quids A’ Crepuscule

More strung-out edge-of-consciousness skronk from that most singular of duos, Acrid Lactations.

Following in the footsteps of The Who, Iron Maiden, Kiss and Johnny Cash, Acrid Lactations release their version of that record industry classic – THE LIVE ALBUM.  For many bloated groups it was a stop-gap, a cynical filler to be snorted up between tour and studio.  But for some (hopefully the old beards named before) the live album becomes more than just a different version of the same old shit.  It’s a chance to stretch out and rediscover the energy and vim that brought you together in the first place.

This collection of jams recorded between 2012 and 2014 is so live you can chew on the humus breath of the audience.  You can sniff the peculiar brew in the air and feel the starchy knit of a woolly jumper necessary for the unheated venues of the no-audience underground.

But what do you get from the Lactations in a freewheeling live space?  I sense a willingness to push things even further in these recordings.  I mean…this is performance right?  Honest entertainment for cold hard cash yeah?  Stuart and Susan know the value of a dollar and play right up to punters letting new gasses fly.  There’s a strong brass presence with the familiar Arnot trumpet joined by a whole selection of metallic blowholes from Sue (pipe, whistle, ocarina perhaps).  An old accordion is humped and huffed with a lazy foot, tattered voices mesh, taped squalls blabber and a metallic shiny sheen shimmies.

Yet it’s the very dualism of a two piece group that makes the strongest impact here.  With only four hands between them there is a delightful limitation to what can be done.  You can only juggle with what you have eh?  Sonically there’s a ‘to-you-to-me’ that’s so much more than basic call and response…it’s an appreciation of what needs to be left out, rejected, un-attempted to concentrate on the pure reaction/expression/reaction that flows like warm milk.

Most of the recordings are high energy affairs, skipping slightly quicker than your beating heart, but on occasion a delightful interlocking calmness occurs making a high tide mark in the performance journey.

Someone draw a plimsoll line so we can see how high we all got!

Another fine Acrid tape on the goddamn essential Total Vermin.

tv1

Smear Campaign – Funky Cold Demeanour

The word on the street is that this ruby red tape is based on old hip hop vinyl found in Glasgow’s charity shops.  The Fly-girls and B-boys among you will perhaps notice the play on words in the title barfing up memories of your favourite gold rope wearing sexist Tone Loc.

So can you expect block rocking beats on your boombox?  Errrrrrr…not really.

Side one starts off with what sounds like a huge bath full of agricultural slurry being thoroughly mixed…a flexible hose runs from the bottom of the steaming vat to your ears so you can better hear the liquid brown churn.

Soon metallic voices start to spar and dart (could this be our Anthony?).  The distinctive ‘schliip’ and ‘f’wip’ of  turntable melts into the dull consonants like a seasoning, bringing out the highlights, shining the vowel.

Side two opens with some percussive bumming as rusty sponges are rubbed together.  A brief spurt with some human air is soon battered like a pork medallion with swathes of medieval feedback.  Yet still the lip, teeth and tongue flip and stutter like a malfunctioning mp3 file.

This minimal judder strolls seamlessly into an altogether more hellish movement of tightly bound-up humming and rubbery percussion, stretching out across all points of the compass before ‘snick’ the sound stops and the tape pops.

Having said all that (and yes I know I was starting to become really cryptically verbose before) this is all done with a sense of reverence to the source material.  This is certainly no ‘look at those people in the past, they stoopid cuz they clothes different’ schtick but a real act of honest sonic ecology.

Recycling done with no turntables nor a microphone.

—ooOoo—

Chocolate Monk

stars, dots and the “new” junk

Total Vermin (now nearly two years since a blogspot update but Stuart is clearly still active.  Be resourceful)

new year retox: joe murray on smacked cucumber, sindre bjerga, tom white, ansgar wilken & urine gagarin

January 20, 2015 at 12:34 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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SMACKED CUCUMBER – FIRST TIME IN SPACE (tape or download, SPAM, spam6)

Sindre Bjerga & Tom White – Water Information (tape, Total Vermin, #87)

ansgar wilken – thank you (tape or download, SPAM)

Urine Gagarin – Hanged in a Cavern (CD-r, Total Vermin, #83)

Smacked Cucumber

Smacked Cucumber – First Time in Space

While Christmas indulgence can be fun for a time it eventually reaches a point where the 5 course breakfast becomes less of a treat and more of a pork-based endurance test.  Let it be recorded here that from 1st Jan onwards I am pulling on my running jersey and dusting off my spikes to become a fitter, leaner guest-blogger.  I will trim off the love handles.  I will pass over the puddings and pies in favour of the simple lentil and kale combo.

Sonically too my ear is yearning for a cleaner palette, an astringent and sour mixture to wash away the sweet-honey of seasonal carols and jingles.

I reach for the most healthy sounding tape on the review pile and slip it into my walkman as I gingerly pound the streets of West Newcastle huffing and puffing like a lardy goat.

Smacked Cucumber are a new name to me, and in a effort to ‘listen without prejudice’ I keep it that way (rejecting Dr Google) reacting only to the music marching calmly out my earbuds.

And what a green and vitamin-rich sound this is!  All the excess is trimmed to leave pure, clear sounds: a rubber ball rubbed on a snare drum, creaking wooden door, a gentle ting-tingling of tiny bells, gentle traffic roar, the hushed ping of a battered zither, air blown softly over the neck of a milk bottle and a rough stone rolled slowly round a pottery bowl.

These simple yet utterly controlled and focused sounds are paired together in a sparse duo format (fondled floor tom versus earthenware flask for example) with what sounds like two players gently reacting to differences in texture and timbre, never rising past a quiet whisper.  This sensitive style of playing is EXACTLY what I need right now and I recommend this as an aural detox to all RFM readers.

I’m a curious old bird and can’t resist a quick check up of who the hell these Smacked Cucumber folk are.  It’s with joyous surprise I learn the sounds I’ve been greedily soaking up come direct from the brains of Ross Parfitt and Jen Iker – two fellow travellers I met all the way back in 2014 collaborating with the ‘holy spirit of misadventure’ Ludo Mich.  Cor Blimey guv.  It’s a small world ain’t it?

Beat the bulge, smack that cucumber!

Tom and Sindre

Sindre Bjerga & Tom White – Water Information

The sleeve notes are quite clear on this tape and with good purpose.  All the base sounds are live recordings of Sindre Bjerga made in the Summer of 2013.  Tom White then took these recordings, mulled on them for a while and applied some black-handed studio do-hickery in the Winter of 2014.  Tom’s name keeps cropping up in dispatches and a quick check of his CV reveals a pretty-darn-hot hombre presenting real-life sound art shit but still finding time to rub himself up against some creamy live collaborators – Vasco Alves and Maya Dunitez to name but two.

OK…back to the tape (and that’s TV #87 folks.  Can you believe it readers?  Total Vermin are approaching the big one-zero-zero).

Regular Sindre-watchers will be familiar with his grey-particle mist.   Somehow, using the same kit as many other folk, Sindre brings a signature flourish to his sound; like a fog of iron filings laid down in regular parquet patterns.

And, at first this is what you hear, until Tom starts to ingeniously ‘churn’ the mix.  Beware listeners…this is no regular remix project full of lazy thread layering or sneaky crowd-pleasing tactics like dropping a ‘dope beat’ (perish the thought!).

Side A ‘Images of Hard Water in the Area (Andrea Sneezes)’ begins with a ping-pong response that is soon being forced through tight tape capstans, stretching and warping it in a frankly stomach-churning way.  The queasy lurching develops into wet squeals with the canny tape delay slightly overlapping things so ‘Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet’ becomes ‘Dolphin Succumbing to Greasy Sexual Ecstasy’.  More briny rumblings reach a climax with the neat little sneezes referred to in the title.  Gesundheit!

Side B ‘Tidal Surges on the Way’ takes Sindre’s glottal tape melange and gently duffs it up until the sound is a blue and purple bruise decayed and aged like some booming My Bloody Valentine guitar riff.  The rolling and boiling sound sputters into an arrhythmic pattern that makes the dog nod.  Blimey…this is pretty heady stuff!

All in all this is an intoxicating listen.  A re-framing of intelligent ideas!  A gas-pod ready to pop – huff it up dear readers.

Ansgar Wilken

ansgar wilken – thank you

Another head-changer from the German SPAM label.

The central thread of this charming little tape is the…wait-fer-it…the humble cello played by the mysterious timebomb Ansgar Wilken.

At times the cello is played straight, pretty little tunes leaping from the springy strings. Sometimes extended techniques sneak a looky-in with cracked bows all bald and hairless being dragged across protesting strings.  Electronics and spoken word interludes pepper several of the eleven micro-pieces (only one breaks the 3 minute mark, some don’t make it to a single minute) while the spirit of Henry Flynt whips up a storm with the cascading, ever modulating drones.

There’s a feeling that Ansgar is working something out with these pieces.  Beating the blues, reaching for the light perhaps?  I dunno.  All I can say is ‘Johann Von Auben Heute’ and ‘Barn Dance’ invoke the bones of mighty, mighty Moondog and made me stomp about going

Yeah Man Yeah!

This tape has a sense of knowingness… are you prepared to let its ancient intelligence in?

Urine Gagarin 1Urine Gagarin 2

Urine Gagarin – Hanged in a Cavern

A rare CD-R of scum jazz on the tape-dominated Total Vermin.  The classic jazz trio (sax/bass/drums) is mentally Xeroxed so many times that a very real trumpet, drums and guitar mutate into splintered wooden plank, elephant seal and bulldozer and at times horrific diarrhoea, blood-hurricane and plague of locusts with the sheer force of their unhinged playing.

The whirring energy of fresh jazz is whipped and spun like a fucking top until all the sharp edges blur into a charcoal sludge.  Imagine wet clay on the potter’s wheel toppling out of control on some lame game show; the squeals of the audience replaced with Formula One’s top-throttle pointlessness.

THINKS TO SELF << In fact those stun/concussion groups of the early 1990’s like Ascension or Blowhole are not just a great reference to this CDr.  Why don’t they play that shit rather than Fleetwood Mac over the bloody racing car monotony?>>

OK…back on the case Joe…This trio are in full-on crazy mode.  With no let up or pause it’s like Harsh Noise Acoustic, a continuous, rolling, tumbling, boiling of pus-soaked bandages; the flames from the stove flickering a septic green and rising dangerously high.  The curtains catch fire and you must abandon the building with Arnott/Cummings/Pitt scorning your yellow cowardice.

If you got the stones slip this one on high!

For more of this damn-hot action check out some live Urine Gagarin doing it Nice & Sleazy.

—ooOoo—

SPAM

Total Vermin

[Editor’s note: the TV site hasn’t been updated for nearly two years now but Stuart is evidently still active.  The resourceful can track him down and the rewards for doing so are legion.]

the medicinal quality of northern noise, its alloys and compounds

May 13, 2014 at 10:16 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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posset – friction rivers (tape, Singing Knives Records)

sindre bjerga / posset – split (CD-r, gold soundz, gs#123, edition of 25)

star turbine / inseminoid / fordell research unit / xazzaz – nundungeon (CD-r, gold soundz, gs#122, edition of 25)

I, Torquemada – The Book, The Eye, The Scourge (download, Oracle Netlabel, ORE106)

Oppenheimer – Oppenheimer (CD-r, molotov, 26)

oppenheimer – js/ls/ms, js/ls/ms/mks (tape, Matching Head, mh202)

Inseminoid – Vanessa Howard’s Night Light (3” CD-r, Sheepscar Light Industrial, SLI.022, edition of 50 or download)

posset - friction rivers

Surprisingly perhaps, given my status as long-term noise aficionado, I suffered my first ever migraine last week.  Silver worms squirmed into the top right of my peripheral vision, wriggling downwards until their glistening made it impossible to read the newspaper I was holding.  Then the left hand side of my face, upper jaw to receding hairline, seized up completely – as if a phantom of the opera mask was held clamped in place over the affected area.  The pain made me feel nauseous but, in denial about what might be occurring, I decided that a few painkillers and a lie down would be sufficient treatment.  The worst of it lasted about three hours.

During the following week my face and scalp remained ‘tight’ – the muscle under my left eye twitching like an oyster dripped with lemon juice.  Worse though was a near constant state of seasickness which had me imagining I was swaying from side to side and made it difficult to sleep, to stomach food or to concentrate on everyday tasks.  I took some time off work and visited my GP who was sufficiently concerned to prescribe some medication and insist that I saw her again if anything changed.  My Dad suffered a minor stroke when he was about my age so we all wanted to make sure my brain wasn’t exploding.

Unfortunately, things deteriorated over the weekend and I reported even more, even stranger symptoms – a sunburnt feeling on my arms and hands being the weirdest – to my GP yesterday morning and she referred me immediately to Accident and Emergency at Leeds General Infirmary for a neurological assessment.  I was at the hospital for six hours, four of which were spent waiting in A&E.  I’ve been before in the evening and seen the bloody, alcohol-soaked horrorshow but the daytime parade of elderly patients rubbing numb limbs whilst spouses laughed nervously, each trying not to let on how frightened they were, was even more upsetting.  Anyway, I eventually saw a bunch of doctors, had my noggin sliced with X-rays and got the all clear.  Nowt wrong with me that a few painkillers and a lie down won’t see to.

Why am I telling you this?  Well, it explains why I’m sat here typing instead of being out gallivanting.  Given that all has not been well between my ears, medical opinion (and common sense) suggests that I should probably not press ’em up against the speakers at Wharf Chambers.  The timing is heartbreaking as this week sees sets in Leeds from Neil Campbell, Popular Radiation, Spoils & Relics, BBBlood and RFM comrade Joe Murray as Posset.  It would, of course, be a glorious way to go out – to have my head literally explode at the peak of a Paul Watson racket-crescendo, say – but my worried wife would much rather I was around to, y’know, help with the baby n’ all that.  Thus here I am in Midwich Mansions, self-medicating my sulk with doses of noise from Tyneside, Edinburgh and Norway.

sindre and joe split

First then to my man Joe and his nom-de-gurgle Posset: a cassette monograph on the ever lovely Singing Knives and shared credit for a split with the ubiquitous Sindre Bjerga on the latter’s Gold Soundz imprint.  Between the pair of them we are treated to a symphony for spittle and poorly-lubricated door hinge, a Punch and Judy show as performed by the inmates of Charenton Asylum directed by the Marquis de Sade, a fleet of aquatic budgerigars trilling, gargling and discussing the price of kelp, trainers squeaking on a basketball court during a game played by the anthropomorphic animal croquet teams from Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, a wheelie bin full of post-midnight, soggy gremlins plotting mischief and a chipped vinyl Oliver Postgate storybook LP playing forlornly on a faulty wind-up gramophone.  Occasionally in Sindre’s tracks some drone bleeds in as if his million other projects are leaking through a badly aligned tape head.  Tremendous stuff, full of verve, exuberance and humour as well as a surprising and touching emotional range.

nundungeon

Speaking of Sindre’s million other projects: Star Turbine, his excellent duo with Claus Poulsen, leads off a compilation that could well have been curated with me in mind as the ideal listener.  Four bands: Star Turbine, Inseminoid, Fordell Research Unit and Xazzaz – all favourites of mine – each donate a single 10(plus) minute track to a CD-r celebrating that line up playing the exquisitely named Nundungeon in Edinburgh earlier this year.  The Turbs are in a playful mood, bringing Sindre’s current solo style to stamp gleefully around in the space afforded by their usual spacey drone.  Inseminoid I will be coming onto shortly thus my later comments can be slotted in here: ‘______’.  Fraser Burnett of Fordell Research Unit simply cannot put a foot wrong and his confident, expressive drone work is as satisfying as remembering there is an uneaten Easter egg still in the cellar head.  Mike Simpson of Xazzaz is capable of exactly the same level of customer service but does it with added pedal-stomped, bristling loudness.  Sindre had this one for sale on his recent jaunt ’round the UK – you better drop him a line to see if it is still available.

i, torquemada - the book, the eye, the scourgeoppenheimer - molotov 26oppenheimer - mh202

Mike Simpson also plays a part, I think, in both I, Torquemada and Oppenheimer – the former being a duo of Frater J (Jamie of Wrest?  Jerome of Charles Dexter Ward?) and Frater M (Mike, probs), the latter being mainly a quartet of Jamie, Jerome, Mike and RFM heartthrob Lee Stokoe of Culver and Matching Head.  I’m sure the omniscient Scott McKeating will set me straight if I have the details wrong.  Both acts perform an industrial strength improv noise rock, or free punk, or doom skronk or harsh guitar wall or whatever – subgenre post-it notes won’t stick to this surface caked with filth.  There is a perverse relish in referencing the Spanish Inquisition or the Manhattan Project with your band name and a dark, hopeless abandonment is certainly celebrated with the music too.  It’s as morbidly beautiful as the glistening wings of a sea bird caught in an oil slick, as terrifyingly faceless as a coin eaten smooth by a corrosive fluid.  I am reminded, quite purposefully I suppose, of the famous quote from J. Robert Oppenheimer following the Trinity test:

We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’ I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.

These Tyneside nihilists would have been amongst those laughing.  They see the big – the biggest – picture.

inseminoid - vanessa

Inseminoid, the duo of Lee Stokoe and George Proctor (of Mutant Ape and Turgid Animal), are connoisseurs of horror cinema, vintage porn and exploitative art in general but their heavy drone pieces are importantly different to the gore-splattered gusto of their colleagues above.  They curate a carefully sustained atmosphere of unease, understanding that true terror is often found not in the act but in its consequences, not in the situation but in its implications.  Repeat listens brought to mind haunting, half-remembered, dream-troubling passages from my own limited experience with horror fiction.  For example, I always found the reveal in Ringu 2 that Sadako was actually alive and sealed in the well for thirty years before dying to be as viscerally nauseating as any of the deaths portrayed.  Or how about a scene from one of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood stories where a guy foolishly pokes a seemingly dead monster and has his hand bitten off?  In a moment of genius, Barker steps back from the gore for a couple of sentences to let us in on the shock and dismay this moment of idiotic bravado has caused.  We see the awful, disproportionate consequences and are appalled.  This is what Inseminoid are up to: cool, considered, implacably hostile – absolutely compelling.

—ooOoo—

Singing Knives

Gold Soundz

(Editor’s note: there are various Gold Soundz resources revealed by a quick Google/Discogs search but none seem current.  As such, I’ve linked to Sindre’s own page and you can ask him about these releases directly.)

Sheepscar Light Industrial

Oracle Netlabel

Molotov

Matching Head

minty magma: joe murray on ezio piermattei, forest of eyes and sindre bjerga

May 9, 2014 at 2:53 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 3 Comments
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Ezio Piermattei – Turismodentale (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.284)

Forest of Eyes – Winter Wakeneth (CD-r, self-released)

Sindre Bjerga – Dig Your Own Hole (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.275)

ezio piermattei

Ezio Piermattei – Turismodentale

Our Dental Tourist, Ezio Piermattei presents sun-dappled sonic environments for all you butter and beer lovers.

At a brief 30 minutes in total these untitled pieces combine and divide like a string of fizzing sound-sausages.  The somewhat sparse details on the back cover cite the dexterous shuffling of ‘voice, objects, instruments, tapes, electronics etc’; but that doesn’t really give you a clue about what’s going on here.

The structure has become the star.  The sound of the sound itself is the Diva.  Sure the bricks and mortar recordings are just dandy (door bells, balloon scrape, guitar/piano dollop, Nonna & Mamma voices) but this disc is as much about editing and sound sculpture as it is about creating goofy noises.

This bunch of sounds is moulded into a Devil’s Tower pile of mashed-up spuds; each part occupying a unique space stuck together with starchy ‘baaah’ or church bells or humming zooks.  But (and here’s the trick) nothing trips over itself or peaks into the red.  Sounds are allowed to play out on their own; distortion and volume are seen as showy and unnecessary with such a clear and deliberate palette.

Environments are precisely described: a cool drawing room with beautiful parquet floors, the busy school science festival, a tense family gathering to celebrate an ill-advised wedding.  All these imagined places as real to me, the listener, as the poorly-ventilated bedroom in which I type these very words.

Ezio does that great Southern European thing of being fun, clever and serious in equal measure.  It’s the restraint in these pieces (subtly harking back to a l-o-n-g tradition of avant-garde music in Bologna) that staggers.  Maybe it’s coz they get more sun or something but there is a real lightness of touch to this… Nothing affected or clichéd – just a joy in turning simple sounds into something new and exciting.

the terrified horses

Forest of Eyes – Winter Wakeneth

I’ve known Mark Wardlaw as feature of the Newcastle sub-underground for a good few years.  With an encyclopaedic knowledge of Black Metal, Noise and Durty [sic (or sick?) – Ed] Southern Hip-Hop he’s always a great person to bump into and shoot the shit.  A new hat he can now add to that freshly shaven head is ‘traditional folk guru’ with his furtive Forest of Eyes project.

I’ve seen Mark’s create merry hell in bands Pills from America and Wasp Bombs and witnessed his countless collaborations (ranging from teeth-looseningly dangerous to loftily high-brow) but this one knocked me for six.

“Why’s that?” I hear you cry.  “Is it too much for you old man?  Too crazy and wild for your Guardian-reader’s cardigan and rheumy old blood?”

Not a bit of it…this is a beautiful record.  But, on first listen, it’s just about as removed from obnoxious noise rock as I can imagine.

There are two distinct threads going on here.  Very proper, yet darkly pagan, unaccompanied folk tunes (some from the 16th Century) which I am guessing skirt round the ideas of Sacred Hart singing.

I said pagan before but of course that’s tosh…these are Christmas songs.  Holidays are definitely not coming for Forest of Eyes.  These songs hang on the cruelty and indifference of the season for serf and yokel; the freezing wind howling over the sands, fingers frozen, food sparse and the terror of the long night.

Yet with a strange twist it’s utterly modern.  Recorded with a pragmatic innocence on mobile phone and sung in an unassuming Northumbrian burr these tunes are relentlessly lonely, with a sense of 21st Century anomie.  They are a willing rejection of values and aesthetics.  In their own slow way they are as firm a ‘No’ as one created from an overdriven effects box or shredding guitar solo.

Phew!

Between each dismal tune Mark teases out an abstract sketch on Appalachian Dulcimer or bowed Psaltery.  What could be an awkward palette-cleanser becomes a sound-picture of winter.  The thin string tones are sparse and crackling like frost.  They have a fragility matching the intricate fern patterns ice makes on wet windows.  Even the crunch of fresh snow makes an appearance on ’11’.

Make no mistake…Forest of Eyes is no backwoods luddite.  He’s all computered up with his Bandcamp page if you please.  Drop him a line and ask for a song.

(Editor’s note: the image above is not the cover – it has none that I know of – it’s just the first thing that Google Images came up with when asked to search for the band name and album title.  Cool, eh?)

sindre live

Sindre Bjerga – Dig Your Own Hole

On first spying this disc I felt a twinge of nostalgic excitement.  Could Sindre really be recreating the awful Gaye Bykers on Acid flick Drill Your Own Hole in some perverted tribute?  Gosh no.  But reputations remain intact as Sindre presents two very powerful sets from 2013.

Track one is recorded at Oslo’s Polyfokt Festival and starts off almost dubby or industrial or something with stabbed-up metal clank.  Soon a rough-ass drone takes over like seriously pissed bees erupting into whale blowhole hiss and skeech.  Citizen’s Band (CB) radio interjections ride the valuable ambergris floating on the ocean as waves turn to glass and rub harmonically, filling the world with fat bulbous tones.  Prawns and shrimp crackle beneath the reflective membrane, scratching quietly to freedom.

Track two is recorded in the historic Klinker Club a few days later.  Maybe it’s the London influence but this one seems a bit more sharp-elbowed. The deep-sea drone is choppier, the shrimps more restless.  Their polite crackles have become guttural ‘ch-luncks’ and ‘hupps’ lurching in a dangerously drunken manner.  Machines misfire and malfunction.  Levers and pistons jam in their cylinders making the whole engine judder and splutter leaving me high and dry at 7 minutes in.  Woah…I envy the punters what got to see this as it all erupted like minty magma.

—ooOoo—

Chocolate Monk

Forest of Eyes

Sindre Bjerga

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

November 22, 2013 at 8:38 am | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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COLOUR OUT OF SPACE / 6

INTERNATIONAL EXPERIMENTAL SOUND FESTIVAL

Performance Weekend: 8th – 10th November, 2013, Brighton, UK

COOS poster

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

—ooOoo—

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

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

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

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

coos_dylan nyoukisCoos_maya dunietz

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

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

coos_jon marshallcoos_charlie collins 2

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

coos_sharon galcoos_sharon gal 2

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

coos_will 2coos_possetcoos_drench 2

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

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

COOS Jooklo Duo 1COOS Jooklo Duo 2

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

COOS f ampism

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

COOS Usurper

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

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

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

joe/murray/on/bjerga/iversen/bandcamp/project

October 13, 2013 at 6:47 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Bjerga/Iversen – various Bandcamp downloads.

b-i - extended techniques b-i - harmonic halflife b-i - endless tapes b-i - maps of electric transmissions b-i - random systems b-i - three units of magentic flux b-i - crumbling layers b-i - divided by zero b-i - dripping galaxies

(Editor’s note: apologies for the delay in comms from RFM – ten days between posts is most unusual.  The silence has been due to your faithful editor taking a short recuperative break.  No music, no email, no writing, no work of any kind save chopping wood for the fire – just time spent with wife and child.  Most refreshing.  He is now back, batteries recharged and arms flailing like the duracell bunny, so hopefully the flow will recommence.  First up: some bullet points from Joe, to follow: the hard word from Scott.  Take it away Joe…)

Bjerga/Iversen are a Norwegian duo who take the long view of things.  Over the last ten years Sindre Bjerga and Jan-M. Iversen have released approximately 125 (according to discogs) CD-Rs, tapes and floppy discs and clocked up almost as many live appearances all over Europe.  Their latest project, over and above their normal avalanche of releases, is to place an album each month on Bandcamp.

So who are these extraordinarily busy men?

If you poke a stick randomly into the tangled mess that is the no-audience underground you’ll not jiggle long until you hit upon the name Sindre Bjerga.  He pretty much is the essence of D.I.Y. avant garde: running Goldsoundz, touring extensively everywhere (recently Russia & Japan and the UK jaunt every October) and releasing a slew of records on every micro-label of note; Discogs lists at least 100 solo releases…and this I fear is a conservative estimate.  He is a solo player and the consummate collaborator; plays in a bunch of semi-regular groups (be sure to check out Star Turbine with Claus Poulsen) and you know what?  He’s a funny, modest and generous chap to boot!  Sindre flits between hazy drone, four-track recidivism, jump-cut dictaphonics and, more recently, rambunctious vocal studies. Sindre is the improviser’s improviser.

When left to his own devices Jan-M. Iversen is almost as prolific, recording solo and with guests, masterminding the drone lounge and also finding time to knock out a tower of ambient/drone videos. A look through his back catalogue is sobering, racking up dozens of remixes, collaborations, solo CD-Rs and tapes culminating in the cheekily titled masterwork ‘Monotonous – A Collection of Drones’ released in a snazzy 10 CD box set emblazoned with Jan’s grinning boat race.  Jan’s solo work mainly digs the rich seam of electronics.

Together they specialise in longform drone and organic interrupted glitch.  On paper the idea of the punk-ass fiddler making show with an electro-boffin seems destined to failure.  But they both bring out a third quality, a more-than-the-sum-of-it’s-parts-ness that gently skims over the rough surfaces like weed-drenched plaster.  Time is taken.  And the occasional allusion to Prog Rock fits like a velvet loon.  In an alternate reality I can see Peter Gabriel era-Genesis using Bjerga/Iversen as intro music to stull all the patchouli beards before their theatrical pomp takes the Old Grey Whistle.

Ask them if they are a noise band and the answer is an emphatic ‘no’ but the hallmarks of noise: drawn-out minimal sound sources, clotted notes and the abandoned factory vibe are all here.  They prefer the term psychedelic drone and with such thorough fieldwork who are we to argue.

The concept of ‘ghost sounds’ is visited again and again with mere whispers sneaking through the cracks in the tiling, mould becomes grout and shadows fall where you least expect them.  At times they are the sound of candle light, with the heaviness of felt.  You often get a curious shifting effect too.  This is no clumsy ‘me to you’ approach but more like some old ‘49er panning for gold; sluicing the freezing cold water and gravel to find the dull nuggets with their heavy burden of gravity.

But what does this generous clutch sound like?  In a sloppy-soundbite style, exactly like this…

  • Extended Techniques: Musical saw orchestra in an electric India, arc welding.  The noisiest of the bunch.
  • Maps of Electric Transmission: Magnetic waves breaking on the shore while deep sea divers struggle for oxygen beneath.
  • Three Units of Magnetic Flux: Algebra comes to life!  Force vs Flow…who will win?
  • Divided by Zero: Table Tennis paddle swats steel wool for tin reverberations.  For ex-punks.
  • Random Systems: Stavanger nightlife re-imagined for Tubular Bells.  Seriously pretty.
  • Harmonic Half Life: Almost a found-sound documenting the nightly slosh of an empty accident and emergency room.
  • Crumbling Layers: Featuring a recognisable stringed instrument tugged and bothered among future traffic noise culminating like a Liturgy out-take.  Very beautiful.
  • Dripping Galaxies: Fourth, fifth, sixth-generation tape of a marble being rolled round a Bizen-yaki bowl, played out through crackling Walkman.
  • Endless Tapes: Once a prophesy, now reality.  Keening geese made of lightning weave feedback loops in and out of the negative zone.  Dr Strange looks on and begins the forbidden incantation.

In an ultra generous offer these fine, fine releases are pay as much as you like on the Bandcamp site.  So, if you have a hankering for music that’s “Carving great gestures out of minimal motives: Immersive soundscapes built from naive assumptions” then look no further.  Spare a dime if you can…you know the score.

What’s that?  You want more?  Then be sure to visit Andy Robinson’s fabulous Striate Cortex label for even more future-ethnic drone from these mighty gentlemen.  Bjerga/Iversen…the mark of quality experimentation.

Bjerga/Iversen Bandcamp project

alien menagerie: rfm catches up with oracle, kevin sanders, north east noise and shoganai

August 29, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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ErosM – Demo II (download, Oracle Netlabel, ORE97)
La Mancha Del Pecado – Masiva Pared Dedicada Al Placer (download, Oracle Netlabel, ORE99)
Crown of Bone – Children of the Corn, a Tribute (download, Oracle Netlabel, ORE100)

Seth Cooke / Kevin Sanders – split (CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 25, or download)
Kevin Sanders – heard more saying less more nothing enraptured in their mud of nothingness (or “no matter”) (hairdryer excommunication, download)
Petals – Salivate Stone (tape, Dirty Demos, edition of 30)

Suburban Howl/Mutant Ape – split (tape, Turgid Animal)
Sindre Bjerga – foreign tongues (tape, Matching Head, mh195)
Culver/Xazzaz – split (tape, Matching Head, mh196)

The Truth About Frank – Live 10/04/13 Hogwash 6 Fox and Newt Leeds (self-released download)
Charles Dexter Ward – CDW 310513 (self-released download)
Charles Dexter Ward – CDW 121012 (self-released download)

Shoganai –  ショウガナイ (self–released download)

shoganai

Eagle-eyed readers will have noted that since joining the organisation in May RFM’s new staffers Scott McKeating and Joe Murray have been doing a lot of the heavy lifting.  As they frolic – sweating, bare chested, rearranging the rockery in the grounds of Midwich Mansions – I close the window to avoid breathing in their heady, powerfully erotic musk.  There, behind closed curtains in the cool darkness, I mumble into the whisper-ma-phone that links my property to Idwal Towers and discuss possible sightings of an absent muse with Uncle Mark.

She was here until recently: the Summer season has seen (*ahem*) ‘major’ articles by me about Lucy Johnson, Robert Ridley-Shackleton and the purported golden age of internet-enabled uber-punk amongst other things, a dozen (re)releases plastered up on the midwich Bandcamp site and the publication of the first two issues of North Leeds most popular noise/art microzine The Barrel Nut with much more to come.  Not bad, eh?

And yet… in the face of a review pile of over thirty items, some received more than two months ago, I feel guilt-stricken.  It’s an oddly masochistic response as I have every reason to take things at my own pace.  This is ‘only’ a ‘hobby’ after all and I have, to put it mildly, a lot on.  However, it still pains me to see quality pile up whilst I don’t have the energy to attend to it.  Leaving aside my own musical fumblings, writing is how I pay my way but, despite being thrilled by a lot of what I am hearing, my organs of musical appreciation are currently worn to sorry nubs, my powers of whimsical metaphor generation flummoxed.

So what to do?  It don’t seem right to sleep on so much good stuff so I’m going to embark on a desk/head clearing news round-up and see what happens.  I apologise to those kind enough to submit their work recently – you may not be getting the 1000 word flight of fancy you were perhaps hoping for – but I call on the discerning readership of this flagship blog to do their duty and check this gubbins out.

crown of bone

First then: RFM offers heartfelt congratulations to our Mexican cousin Miguel Perez and his comrade-in-arms Pablo Mejia on the occasion of the hundredth release from their netlabel Oracle.  A remarkable achievement, an admirable dedication.  Number 100 itself is Children of the Corn, A Tribute by Crown of Bone.  From the off this is ruthlessly pummelling – watch where you have the volume set prior to pressing play – and until a change of direction in its final minutes (during which the soundtrack of the film that inspired it is sampled, I’m guessing) is like screaming into a hurricane.  You already know if you like this kind of thing – check it out if you do, it’s a great example.

Other noteworthy recent releases include Masiva Pared Dedicada Al Placer by Miguel’s own La Mancha Del Pecado.  This is a feature length (96 minutes!) rumbling drone which sits static in a culveresque way, like some machinery of war idling as a mechanic fine tunes the engine, before exploding with speaker-challenging bass in an all too short final section.  I was so amused by this that I imported the file into Audacity and, as expected, the wave form looks like something that you’d use to unblock a sink, or bash someone over the head with.  At the other end of the spectrum we have a four track, 21 minute EP titled simply Demo II by ErosM.  This music is sombre and delicate, weighty and expressive.  It shows discipline, ambition and a seriousness of intent that makes its short running time all the more remarkable.  Those of you into Geordie drone/noise should be tempted across the Atlantic to pick this one up.

seth and kev outsideseth and kev inside

Closer to home, we find a split release on hairdryer excommunication featuring field-recording-based tracks by label boss Kevin Sanders and bearded polymath Seth Cooke.  I’m saying nowt about Seth’s effort here because (spoiler alert) I’m going to proclaim his genius (again) in a soon come review of his latest for Sheepscar Light Industrial.  Kev’s ‘side’, a piece of augmented atmospherics titled ‘Eight aisles (for Truro Court)’, brought on an irresistible attack of vanity on my part as I thought I could hear the influence of my very own ‘eaves’ in its construction.  It’s a largely domestic recording buzzed up with accompanying fuzzy drift.  I put on a Christmas cracker paper crown saved for such occasions, proclaimed myself King of Drone and strutted up and down the hallway.  Then I listened to his latest work, heard more saying less more nothing enraptured in their mud of nothingness (or “no matter”), four tracks of entirely lovely, glittering brilliance constructed from nothing but a ukulele and a fuzz pedal.  I was, all joking and whimsy aside, moved.  Once I’d finished gawping I tore up my pathetic headgear in a fit of jealous rage.

petals - salivate stone front

Also well worth getting hold of is Salivate Stone by Petals, Kev’s usual nom de plume.  This tape has been released in a perilously limited edition by Dirty Demos and comes lovingly cocooned in a bed of tissue paper within an oversized case.  The content is spring-loaded, high tension, balanced, held by the slightest of catches.  Spiralling screws lift a heavy vibe upwards whilst friction heats the barely greased moving parts until they throb and grind against one another.  Birds tweet.  Clearly, he is the King.

suburban howl-mutant ape sleevesuburban howl-mutant ape tape and insertculver-xazzaz mh196

Whilst I’m on interestingly packaged noise tapes, I have to mention the Suburban Howl / Mutant Ape split on Turgid Animal.  Here you will find two sides of unnerving catharsis housed on a neon orange cassette safety-pinned into a hessian bag painted in camo colours (shades of TG’s industrial 7″s) and accompanied with an exquisite mini-comic detailing a suicide by self-butchery.  The object as a whole has a satisfyingly doom-struck, hopeless aura.  Two new tapes on Lee Stokoe’s Matching Head label are dressed in his standard livery of black and white sleeves with the minimal information provided typewritten by hand.  The Culver / Xazzaz split sees Lee’s giant robot square up to Mike’s lizard monster in a contest to decide who wins the North East.  An honourable draw is the all-too-predictable outcome and both end up side by side, content to stamp on the false noise pretenders that dare challenge them.  foreign tongues by Sindre Bjerga documents three involving live sets from his travels in 2012.  Has he now got something released on every noise micro-label in the world?  He can’t be far off.

Others are content to release their own live stuff.  I know nothing about The Truth About Frank other than what can be gleaned from their Bandcamp site but suffice to say that a friend of Hogwash, that is the admirably eclectic and regular experimental music evening hosted by Dave, Noah and Benbow, is a friend of radiofreemidwich.  My own single figures was recorded at one of their gigs.  TTAF’s set is a three stage affair – a shuffling beat, looped, layered barely intelligible voices, orchestral stabs to finish – that I found engaging and entertaining.  They don’t try and do too much in their twenty minutes, each idea is allowed time to breath.  They also submitted a bonkers photoshop collage to The Barrel Nut #2 – guys, check your email!  I’m waiting on a postal address so I can send you a few paper copies!

charles dexter ward

Also to be found on Bandcamp are two live sets by Charles Dexter Ward performed at the Cumberland Arms and Morden Tower respectively, both to be found in that Newcastle I keep going on about.  These pieces are beautiful.  There is fuzz tone shimmer with enough bite to chew your ego to mush.  There are chopped and filtered loops heavy enough to anchor the vibe yet sinuous enough to let the groove flow and build.  They do the thing that a successful live recording must do: make you wish you’d been there.

Finally, then, we have the album of the year.  Well, maybe – it is certainly a contender.  ショウガナイ by Shoganai was one of those out of the blue ‘hi, let me introduce myself, would you like to hear my album?’ surprises that makes this ‘job’ such a joy (the cover is the pic that heads this article).  The fella behind this project, remaining semi-anonymous for his own reasons, has produced a piece of work so ambitious and accomplished that the fact that it is available to download on a pay-what-you-like basis from that Bandcamp left me stupefied.  More evidence of the golden age, should it be needed.

Some details: your download will contain nine tracks spanning 41 minutes.  These episodes are clearly the product of a single aesthetic but vary in construction.  There is computerborne surrealism, the programme code distorted by a horseshoe magnet ordered from the Acme catalogue, there is deep-fried tropical psychedelia the like of which wouldn’t be out of place on a Space Victim or AshNav album, and there is the cooing and squawking of an alien menagerie, recorded rooting and strutting about the forest floor on a distant, poisonous world.

I’m imaging (the muse! she returns!) one of these creatures sitting patiently in a tree, humming and carving intricate patterns in the bark with an impossibly sharp talon.  Earlier it was furious having found itself caught in a snare – the indignity!  It freed itself immediately, of course, and is now waiting for the return of the witless hunter that set the trap.  The unsuspecting fool is going to be disembowelled for his trouble.  The creature trills to itself, musically…

…and on that happy note, I call ‘enough!’  Plenty of links within the body of the article – go hear for yourselves.

kosmotroniks: new from michael clough and striate cortex

May 10, 2013 at 7:52 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Ürlich Uhrlich – Kosmotron II (2 x 3″ CD-r in handmade package, Striate Cortex, S.C.58, edition of 50)

Various Artists – SCFREE (CD-r, promotional compilation, Striate Cortex, S.C.FREE 1, edition of 50)

Uhrlich frontUhrlich insideUhrlich insertUhrlich inside insertSCFREESCFREE CD-r

Great to see Andy Robinson’s mighty Striate Cortex back in the conversation.  The multi-zellaby-award-winning label has been quiet of late due to Andy having to concentrate on those tangled processes that exist outside of music (I believe they are referred to collectively as ‘life’) but the wait for his return has been worth it.

Kosmotron II by Ürlich Uhrlich is a double 3″ CD-r (truly the format of champions) housed in an example of the exquisite handmade packaging that Striate Cortex is justly famous for.  The CD-rs are ‘on body’ printed and housed in windowed paper envelopes.  These are held against the cover with sashes, behind one is a pro-printed insert containing (very minimal) release details.  The cover is a gate-fold constructed from handmade card and held shut with its own painted sash.  A remarkable object.

Ürlich Uhrlich is one of several mysterious aliases adopted by Michael Clough.  This guy’s invaluable contribution to the underground scene in Leeds, prior to his treacherous decamping to that London,  has been documented elsewhere (see herehere and here, for example).  Nowadays he will be better known to readers of this blog for recordings under his own name and as one third of synth/psyche supergroup Truant (with Phil Todd and yours truly making up the trio).

However, he also has a long history of creating pastiches, homages and oddities and making them semi-available under assumed identities, often with meticulously plausible back stories for the ‘long lost’ artist now ‘rediscovered’.  Nowt has been said (to me at least) about Ürlich Uhrlich so I’m tempted to have a go myself: I’m imagining a German Jewish refugee who fled the Nazis in the 1930s and went on to become a pioneer of electronic music, a genius sound engineer and a shadowy but influential presence both in the foundation of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop and in the New York ‘Downtown scene’ of the 1960s…

Andy reckons the music could have soundtracked Tron and, yeah, I can hear that, but I’m tempted to go much further back.  The tightly wound, relentless back-and-forth of these analogue throbs and pulses suggest a kind of teeth-grinding, cheek-chewing, speed-freak non-narrative: ‘and then, and then, and then, and then…’  Perhaps it should accompany Warhol’s Empire?  Or maybe a time-lapse film of a giant copper clad cathedral dome oxidizing and being encrusted with livid green verdigris?

We could even get a little more active.  How about multi-limbed sport-bots thwacking a dozen basketballs at once to each other across an empty floor of an underground car park?  Or, especially during the bibbling sections of the second track, angry artificial intelligences throwing packets of information around in the hope of winning a competition the rules of which our pitiful brains could not begin to grasp?  Yeah, as good as that.

Also worthy of note is the ten track various artist compilation SCFREE.  This artefact is not for sale but will be supplied free of charge alongside paying orders made to Striate Cortex until the edition of 50 is extinguished.  Andy invited submissions stipulating they be about five minutes in length and ambient(ish) in nature.  The idea being to both encourage business and to promote the work of worthy artists with a connection to his label.  Slick.  No midwich track due to, y’know, ‘life’, but there could well be something from me on volume two.

Anyway, even without me it is pretty much all good.  Everything has the chance to engage, nothing has the chance to outstay its welcome, most leaves you wishing it was twice as long.  My favourites are the four tracks that top and tail the album.  The opener, Tim Newman’s ‘Park Page is Empty’, is a lovely, guitar-led see-sawing throb.  The second track, Mark Bradley’s ‘Sacred Musics’ is a Vangelisian curve of precious metal, slightly discordant to keep its edge serrated (a prime example of what an ex-girlfriend of mine used to call ‘wob-wob’ electronica).  At the other end of the compilation, the ninth track, Daniel Thomas’s ‘Heavy Density’, is the kind of refried physics you might hear whilst lying in your garage-constructed time machine, resisting the temptation to crawl out of the box, at peace, trusting the math and waiting for the cycle to conclude.  The final track, ‘Moonship (Phase One)’ is a live piece by Small Things on Sundays which suggests a desert camp fire scene on a sandy planet.  Huge, docile pack animals purr and buzz as they sleep nearby, ornithopters flap overhead, some radio chatter is ignored as the explorers relax.  Beautiful.

Striate Cortex

six inches of silver from sindre bjerga

January 23, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Sindre Bjerga – Misdirection (3″ CD-r, edition of 50, and download, Sheepscar Light Industrial, SLI.014)

Sindre Bjerga – Black Paper Wings (3″ CD-r, LF Records, LF030)

Sheepscar Light Industrial - Misdirection - coversindre bjerga - black paper wings

There was a joke, told back in the 1980s, that any tape left long enough in the glove compartment of a car would turn into Greatest Hits by Queen.  Readers old enough to remember this ubiquity will be cracking a wry smile, I hope.  The contemporary no-audience underground equivalent would be: any pile of blank CD-rs left near a lap-top long enough will mutate into a limited edition release by Sindre Bjerga…

Harsh?  I don’t mean it to be – just a little affectionate fun had at the expense of Sindre’s mind-boggling productivity.  The chap sure is prolific.  Nowt wrong with that in principle, of course: he is clearly a force for the good, a paragon of the noise underground, and I am glad whenever any expression of his ongoing project arrives at Midwich Mansions.  With a back catalogue so large and varied it is inevitable that not every release will appeal to every punter but I’ve found Sindre’s quality control to be amazingly trustworthy given his output.

What remains consistent from one release to the next is a sense of personality.  Whatever sub-sub-sub genre he happens to be working in – space-drone, gurglecore, dictaphonics, others of his own devising – he imbues it with an engaging, informing intelligence.  Playful, unafraid to meander, yet always attentive, thought through and sharp when it needs to be.  The two releases above, both on 3″ CD-rs, the latter a live recording, exhibit this ‘sindreness’ in spades.  Allow me to tell you a story…

Misdirection is the journey to the facility.  It starts with a bone-shaking clatter as you leave the compound, but the solid tyres of the vehicle are untroubled by the debris cracking and shattering beneath their tread.  Then it is out into the storm.  Great gales shift sand dunes as if they were waves on the ocean.

They’d laughed at you earlier as you’d fitted a microphone to the outside of the vehicle.  “The silence in the cab unnerves me,” you’d replied with a shrug.  Now you turn it on and listen to the scouring ebb and flow until the mic gives out, blasted to a nub.

Black Paper Wings begins at the doors of the facility.  The sound of the descent in the lift segues seamlessly into the oppressive, surprisingly loud roar of the life support systems down here.  Soon you are ushered into a nondescript room and suddenly all that separates you from the creature you came to see is a two-way mirror.

It is finishing its dinner.  An impossibly wide mouth takes unexpectedly dainty bites from lumps of native flora and fauna, simply prepared.  Once finished it picks up a sliver of chitin and uses it to clean between its rows of pin sharp teeth.

It picks up its ‘book’.  You know from your notes that it weighs 50 kilos but it tosses it across the table as if it were a cheap paperback.  You know this is some kind of autobiography: a log of dreams, memories, pictures, documents.  The pages are sheets of metal that crinkle like tin foil when turned but always lay glass-flat.  Sounds and pictures come alive at the creature’s touch.

The book has fallen open towards the end and the creature starts examining, for the millionth time, the events leading to its capture and incarceration.  It triggers samples of distorted conversation, surveillance film.  A fury starts to engulf it as it nears that page, its hissing roar shaking the mirror in its reinforced frame.  And then it stops, unable to bring itself to go any further.

Instead it flicks back to the opening chapters: a happy time playing with siblings, having fun impersonating humans.  It seems deflated.  It plays snippets of audio at random, like a tired child pulling the string of a talking doll.  It sweeps its dinner plates to the floor, just to hear them ring, chime and clatter.

Finally it turns to the mirror and pulls itself upright.  It knows you are there, of course, and it begins to speak.  Its language is one of pops, clicks, gurgles and squeaking whines.  ‘What is it saying?’ you think, ‘what does it want?’ and, with all its major sensory organs straining in your direction, you are reminded of a quote from a book you once read:

…a ghost desires only one thing: to live again.

LF Records

Sheepscar Light Industrial

More from Sindre

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