Tags: amateur shoegaze, cam, constellation tatsu, crow versus crow, dictaphonics, emblems of cosmic disorder, feedback, grey guides, improvisation, joe murray, karl mv waugh, noise, skrat records, slayer, stuart chalmers, tape loops
Stuart Chalmers – In the Heart of Solitude (Constellation Tatsu)
Karl M V Waugh – Future Glows (Emblems of Cosmic Disorder)
Grey Guides – Beast Mask Supremacist (Crow versus Crow)
CAM – Mirror Confrontations (Skrat Records)
Stuart Chalmers – In the Heart of Solitude (Constellation Tatsu) cassette and Bandcamp download
Don’t know if it’s just me but this appears to be the perfect winter cassette of glum collisions. Imagine bad thoughts reverberating inside your skull; the sounds bounce and amplify and leave a sooty fingerprint. You shake your head but the dust remains however low and mellow the sun.
Regular readers will know Stuart manipulates tapes and tape loops with a sparse pedal set-up, mighty fists, secret knowledge and magical skill. But this time it’s not just the loopology that takes the starring role, it’s the singular tape content that snaps like an arrowroot biscuit.
Here Stuart uses Indian Swarmandal tapes pretty much exclusively for his palette adding a layer of glittering resonance and magnetic space to each gentle track.
The dulcimer-like tones vibrate and twang, sour as brass but with an unmistakable air of mystery. “Just what is behind those beaded curtains?” They seem to whisper, while a be-jewelled finger beckons you through a hidden door into a room heavy with musk.
I’m transported (can’t you tell?) but you need facts eh reader? The killer stand-out, the magnum opus has to be ‘reflection’. It shimmers like a Bagpuss episode viewed through sepia-specs. It builds slowly and metallically, fine interlocking coils spiralling ever tighter and tighter until sonic shrapnel bursts rudely from the shell.
There’s a slight panic, a speeding edge that propels each track into momentary discomfort. And it’s that intersection between mystic enlightenment and dangerous toppling that makes me come back again and again to this wonderful little tape.
OH YEAH…While we’re talking I’ve got to give an honourable mention to Tlon a fruity collaboration between Stuart Chalmers (cassette/pedals) and Liam McConaghy (synths). It’s now sold out in this realm but available for all you millennials on digital (e.g. not really there) editions. It’s boss alright but gone, gone, gone.
Karl M V Waugh – Future Glows (Emblems of Cosmic Disorder) Cassette and Bandcamp Download
Ultra atmospheric, lichen creeping from the South Coast’s very only K M V Waugh.
Lengthy opener ‘Fire snow (i), fire snow (ii), fresh grow’ stretches out as slow as bone growth. It starts slow and ends slow yet visits several distinct intervals on the journey: Meredith Monk on the Woodbines, bummed Didgeridoo guffs and the Electric Spanking (of war babies?).
Things grow darker on the even lengthier ‘Future glow (ii), final gravity’ that matches John Carpenter’s percussive judders over Space Odyssey’s floating-backwards-through-the-monolith-with-rainbow-brite-whurrrring . The disembodied voice offers no comfort.
Designed for the sort of snitchy mediation we can expect in today’s topsy-turvy world.
A statement? Perhaps. A coping mechanism? Very much so.
Plug in and remain alert!
Grey Guides – Beast Mask Supremacist (Crow versus Crow) Tape and bandcamp download
Encased in a top-notch Andy Wild photo-collage-art-piece (slate grey of course) this tape just fucking drips quality.
The Grey Guides hail from Morley outta Leeds and concentrate that satellite town dislocation that those city slickers just can’t replicate. The exquisite weirdness of the suburbs runs through this tape like mould in a stinky cheese.
The instrumentation is sparse. A gentle roaring (sounding rather like The Cramp’s Poison Ivy practising over in the next parish) becomes a backdrop over which indistinct keys, fetid tape grot and soft Dictaphone squelches hover on opener ‘One Eye Lower Than the Other’
The next two tracks, ‘Millipede in a Doll’s House’ and ‘Mushroom Heads are Turning’ are surely designed to spook; they come across like a Yorkshire Dead C with their sound-on-sound fullness, their squished-sonic wrongness. Black reverb ripples across backmasked guitar and throb in a fair approximation of a tape player actually throwing up; brown ribbons spiralling out, collecting in sticky ferric pools. It all ends in a grim repetition which baffles against broken ancient machinery. A woven howl (now sounding like a 16th generation tape of Kerry King’s amp fizz) smears as Gerhard Richter, using only charcoal tones and coal dust, comes up with his next masterpiece.
‘Just Burned Down a Care Home’ starts with some s-w-e-e-t tape-juggling, thumb on the soft pause squealing out fractured speech while that dude out the Cocteau Twins wonders why all his pedals now sound like elephant seals huffing petrol fumes.
Massed tape séance-traps are forced open on ‘Van Hoogstraten’s Big Pay Back: Gorton Poltergeist Revisited’ leaking thick magnetic ectoplasm with a “whurrr, whhorrr, whurrrr” rattling like an unsteady wind. It’s heady like good brandy.
Several ghostly interruptions later we happen upon the rarest of beasts, a No-Audience Underground cover version of a real-live tune (x2). The Grey Guides join the dots, reversed of course, between The Can and The Fall from a barely perceptible start; the faintest of pulses through to a garage-rock-recorded-through-codeine-infused-marshmallow finale.
I finally collapse to the unruly jaxx of ‘The Unlovely Acolyte Anointed at Last’ – Sidney Bechet clarinet played on Satan’s mouthparts and wonder. “Is this what passes for entertainment in Morley right now? “
Yeah it is?
Book me on the Mega bus boys…I’m coming down to jam!
These long-timers, Denmark’s enigmatic CAM, share six electronic improvisations with us on this classy vinyl offering.
It’s a noble three-piece set-up with Claus Poulsen, Anders Borup and Mads Bech Paluszewski-Hau on an encyclopaedic array of tapes, synth, processing, objects, things, toys, electronics and improbable occult practices.
Keen RFM-spotters will recognise the name Claus Poulsen from his work with Star Turbine (a duo with Sindre Bjerga – on tour in the UK late Feb/early March) but this is a very different animal to their ion-drive grit. CAM specialise in fast-moving tripod dialogue, texture and split-tooth wrangles ya’ hear.
The spirit of Northern Europe Improv is strong with strains of cold-dark hiss, low-frequency gloop and singular vocal hummings woven together in pan of steaming mind-think.
The six tracks on this el-pee make these impressions on my Swiss-cheese mind.
- Squiffy beats ba-da-bump like Saaaaalllllt n’ Peppppper over a humpin’ vox (heavy on a delay). Snatches of field-recorded atmosphere are tucked up nice with an analogue-warm wave; reverse-hissing seems to be become a new Olympic discipline as breath gets sucked out a puckered pair of lips.
- More moaning: a creaky bridge caught up in high wind. The cables sing sorrow in a thousand different voices. The damp thump of workboots crossing the swollen planks adds a steady beat. But what’s that I hear? The dreams of the factory workers hoping for sunnier Spring days.
- Uncertain hymns via Robert Wyatt’s fractured, dust-dry larynx. There’s a real Rockbottom vibe with that watery keyboard (a gift from Julie Christie) lapping gently at your stubby toes. The oyster grit comes in the form of treble-heavy child chatter and bubbling electronic slime.
- Primary tones/chalk sliding over wet slate/Babbit-bobble/wrenched petroleum
- Confrontations in the afternoon, seeping prose and dramatic static ripples – don’t go chasing waterfalls.
- Mind-over-matter becomes a group practice. Three individual voices hum the theme from ‘The Bridge’ in different timezones, accents and languages so voice two arrives before voice one and voice three has an acidic hangover. Deep as an oil well and twice as sticky.
OK Travellers…a reliable signpost might say Supersilent but I reckon these dudes are looser and, without doubt, DIY to the core.
Tags: ali robertson, alien passengers, battery humans, claus poulsen, collage, dictaphonics, drone, electronica, ezio piermattei, field recording, fuckin' amateurs, giant tank, guy warnes, improv, joe murray, jon marshall, new music, no audience underground, no thumbs, noise, pascal ansell, psychic mule records, punk, scurge, skrat records, tapes, tom white, tutore burlato, uk hardcore, Waz Hoola, winter family
[Editor’s note: Joe Murray, our resident beat prophet, has convinced his skeptical editor to temporarily abandon the usual formatting for reasons that will soon be apparent. Thus there are no release details up front, pictures will follow reviews and links will be found where they lay.]
Like all my RFM comrades I have a teetering bunch of tapes to review. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. It’s a privilege and an honour to hear so many dispatches from the No-Audience Underground.
But sometimes I feel I’m doing you a disservice my friends. It’s the same old, same old format: slot tape in, listen thrice, make notes, look at any other internet gubbins, write up final copy, post to Rob and await his judgement a’ tremble.
But today I want to spice things up baby. I’m going 50 shades on this shit.
So, in order to make things (hopefully) more entertaining and experimental in spirit for you, my dear reader, I chucked all my review tapes into a drawstring bag and will pull them out, randomly, sight-unseen ready to slap into the cheap-o hi-fi. No prior knowledge, no prejudice etc.
Mystery Tape One. The first thing I notice is an ambient hiss, growing and forming, covering all the other electronic ‘chunk-ka-kuh’ like Spanish moss. Things get less rhythmic and more drawn out (elongated gong strikes / trapdoor creak) creating a soundtrack feel with some floating voices chattering. There’s a synth or something humming giving this a very European feel… a dark Froese perhaps? Now there’s electricity in the air as the test tubes fizz and pop; a scientist twitches and mugs singing snatches of opera in a cracked voice. Somehow the radio picks up their brain waves: forgotten memories of the seaside and music hall? An Anthony Caro sculpture comes to life with deep space moans. Blimey. Who’s this? I pop out the tape and check it. Bless my soul. It’s the ever lovely Claus Poulsen with Collected Dreams on Skrat Records.
Mystery Tape Two. OK…so far so good. I fumble in my bag and pluck out the next offering. It drops neatly into the wide-mouth slot and kicks off some dark rubbery knockings, slurm residue and spurks-thumb. Oh yeah man…this is tremendous stuff! There’s a treacle-like bubbling and whomping, like some living salt-water lake throbbing dangerously, searching out new tributaries with its briny fingers. This is pure sound abstraction that builds layers of thick, dark sound-paint until a giant glove smears the oily pickle. The noxious mixture spreads thin, lightening the hue and spreading the sticky mixture over frame, wall, floor and ceiling until we are all covered with the stuff – a burnt Rothko orange. Side two opens up with a fling of ducks all ecstatically hawking and honking. These sounds are passed though some electronic doo-hickery that seems to split and repeat certain quacking frequencies so sections of the greasy reverberations get plucked for presentation with a sheen and glimmer. The water fowl retreat to roost as we dip our ears below the slick surface of water to luxuriate in music for rowing boat hulls; wooden creak and swollen pop. Gosh, this tape is really hitting the spot. Who do I have to thank? I should have known…it’s ‘The Ambassador’ Tom White with his Reconstruction on Alien Passengers.
Mystery Tape Three. This tape starts off with some nice tape gunk that moves unhurriedly between half-tunes played on fuzzed-out organ. A female voice with the smoky cadence of William Burroughs tells a tale about some sci-fi travel (or something) while Working Men’s Club beats (tiss-be-be-bon-tiss…) flit in and out of the organ tunes. And then found sound and field recordings get thrown into the mix. Not in a haphazard manner, no sir, this is finely tuned and tweaked like the exact halfway point between a Radiophonic performance scored by the late great Broadcast and waking up from a particularly vivid dream. I have to be honest with you readers… I’m stumped here; I have no idea what or who or when this is. It’s certainly more lyrical than the usual shimmy but the narrative and structure are all over the shop giving this a delightfully Victorian psychedelic edge. I can’t wait any longer; I crack under the pressure of not knowing and check the cover. Ahhhhh….it’s that beautiful and wonderfully eccentric duo Winter Family who are playing here with their How Does Time tape on Psychic Mule Records. It is indeed a play, a play designed to be listened to on a very particular train journey between Besançon in France and La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland for very particular watch makers. The ultimate commuter listen.
Mystery Tape Four. Your typical Northern pub chatter sets the scene with clattering bottles and knowing laughter. An on-stage introduction welcomes you and says, ‘This is for d boon’ before a proper guitar riff chugga-chuggas. OK…that’s a reference to the wonderful Minutemen – I get that; are we jamming econo? Is this gonna be some tour spiel dude? But, at the same time I’m expecting some tape collage work to start up, a wonk-move or gurgled gob etc. Some music concrete shit and all that doings. But no…this is pure UK hardcore, recorded very, very live, possibly from some archive with guitar/bass/drums and an angry attitude. Think Heresy or something but with a bit more of ‘baseball bat to the face and neck’ feel. The songs come in short, sharp blasts. Three or four in a row – chunka – chunka – cheer – crowd babble – chunka- chunka. It’s invigorating stuff and seems to get looser and more chaotic as the tape goes on (always a bonus for me). I’m totally lost here. No idea who it is or even how it crept into my review pile. Shall we look readers? OK…it all comes flooding back. This is Battery Humans on Fuckin’ Amateurs with their For D Boon tape. It is recorded live and recently: 6th September 2014 to be precise and features one Guy Warnes AKA Waz Hoola, the unsung hero of the northern drone scene, on drums. The usual F#A! standards of presentation apply with anarchy inserts, random gaffer tape sculpture and art fliched from Viz Comic. Side B is another live recording but this time from Scurge in 1991. You want rage? You got it.
Mystery Tape Five. I press ‘play’ and an undulating, chemically insistent, flute trills with the sort of chaotic abandon that pins Old God MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI into a restful slumber. A thousand chaffed lips puff noxious gas through human thighbone pipes while the jester dances merrily on (like he’s posing for a Marillion album or something). Gosh…this is pretty intense. The next track saunters by sounding like that crap ‘pre-computer’ computer game Simon hooking up to Terminator’s Skynet and crashing civilisation as we know it into a frosty digital sludge. Blimey…there’s a hard stop as I turn the tape over but as soon as I click things into life the holy racket starts again. This time I’m getting something like a rouge Funkadelic jam; real cosmic slop rejected by Mr Clinton for being too out-there as layers of keyboard fuzz and squealing huff pile up and up and up. A brief moment of calm (the keys ape Vangelis in blade runner tights) lets me breathe again before I’m pushed out a 30 storey window (metaphorically, dude – don’t panic, man) and, as I tumble, I catch snippets of Mexican TV, Concrete Noise, psychic experiments and terrible quiz shows as I hurtle past the apartments spinning dangerously out of control. An uneven gravity pocket spares me a sticky end and I land, gracefully and precisely, into a pair of oxblood Doctor Martins – the world’s kindest bootboy. Crows cackle around me, applauding with electric beaks. I check the details, no wiser of this tapes provenance but washed clean by its synesthetic high, to find out it’s my old Papal Bull buddy Jon Marshall and noise-nudist Pascal Ansell cavorting under the No Thumbs banner. This beauty’s called Slug Birth and is available from the brand-spanking-new Tutore Burlato label. If TB is a new name on your radar the quality hallmark of its founder, one Ezio Piermattei, should seal the deal.
Mystery Tape Six. A hawking ceilidh – all X-ray gingham and a skilful cheek-slapping solo. Reet…now there’s some ‘brum-t-t-tuh’ ursonating richly, fupping my sonics. Gosh…this is a tasty oyster to be gulped down whole. A general Scottishness takes hold with gristle and blum; stiff wire wool scraping and beautifully played Dictaphone garble. I almost trip over my big feet in my rush to turn it over as I’m aching for side two. And that’s where my experiment has to end. No system is perfect. It’s darn near impossible to ignore the fact a voice immediately states…
I’m Ali Robertson
…in Ali Robertson’s voice, soon to be joined by a variety of other familiar burrs. This side is one long ‘game’ of read personal biographies all overlapping (stop-starting) set to strict rules that our cuddly despot is keen to enforce. Waves of casual voice and chatter settle into strange rhythms – probably some mathematical fractal shit, interlocking as neat as a Rubik’s satisfying ‘click’. So yeah…durrrr…it’s Ali Robertson and his handily titled Ali Robertson & Friends tape on the always brilliant Giant Tank label.
So my excellent friends, I hope that worked for you? Me? I’m refreshed and re-born! My ears are prickling with cleansing static and expectation.
But tell me: how are you doing?
the machine slowly unfolds: joe murray on star turbine, poulsen & klapper, rogaland hot club, forest of eyesMarch 26, 2015 at 8:36 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: anders gjerde, claus poulsen, drone, folk, forest of eyes, gold soundz, improv, joe murray, mark wardlaw, martin klapper, new music, no audience underground, noise, pål asle pettersen, rogaland hot club, sindre bjerga, skrat records, skronk, star turbine, tapes
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)
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?
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.
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
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.
Skrat Records (yes, the disc was ‘tour only’ but no harm in asking…)
Tags: ap martlet, chrissie caulfield, claus poulsen, dave thomas, drone, helicopter quartet, henrik bagner, new music, no audience underground, noise, skrat records, small things on sundays, violin
Small Things on Sundays – Searching For (vinyl album, Skrat Records, skr-011)
ap martlet – a tabletop mountain (self-released download)
Helicopter Quartet – Helicopter Quartet (self-released CD-r or download)
Regular readers will know I am sometimes prone to flights of whimsy. Daniel Thomas – friend, comrade, astute cultural commentator – went as far as to coin the neologism ‘haylerise’ (ha! I just clicked on ‘add to dictionary’ when the spellchecker underlined it!) which he defines as:
Verb: the spontaneous creation and attribution of a narrative as a response (usually involuntary) to an audio recording.
I was so touched and flattered by this amusement that I promised myself that I’d never be so vain as to mention it on this blog. Ah. Oops-a-daisy.
Anyway, whilst Dan’s joke does describe my reaction sometimes (indeed my response to certain artists is a kind of ‘narrative synaesthesia’), it isn’t always the case. Occasionally something is so engaging, so entertaining, such a good fit to my taste that the only option when it is over is to immediately press play again. Never mind making up stories – expending mental effort in that direction is wasting energy that could be better spent just enjoying what I am hearing.
When I finally escape this reverie I find myself in an evangelical mood: wow, I think, people gotta hear this! But paradoxically these releases are often the most difficult to write about. All I want to do is grin, maybe throw some horns during the heavy bits and make that tip-of-thumb-touching-tip-of-forefinger-whilst-nodding gesture that means ‘yeah, OK!!’ during the beautiful bits. I want to play it to someone else and watch as their eyes open comically wide and they start grinning and nodding too. It’s a bit visual for a wordy blog like this. I suppose what I can do here is implore you thus: folks, if you take anything I say seriously then perhaps you should check at least one or two of these items out. Look: I’ve got my earnest, sincere face on and everything.
First up is Searching For, the new vinyl album by Small Things on Sundays. These guys and their label – Skrat Records – are impressively organised: this was sent to me a month before its official release date (19th January) with a helpful full page press release that I’ll be trying not to crib from too much. Those with eagle-eyes and elephant-memories will have noticed the format is ‘vinyl’ and will remember the last time I was sent something on this heritage medium (LPs from Molotov/Fuckin’ Amateurs) I had to guess at the contents due to my turntable not working. Well, since then it has had a stern talking to, has been threatened with the business end of a screwdriver and has grudgingly agreed to cooperate. Thus I’ve given this platter multiple spins, even with my beloved wife in the room.
Yes, you read that right: officially sanctioned by the whole Hayler household and I reckon the baby will dig it too. The duo of Henrik Bagner and Claus Poulsen have garnered favourable reviews here before (Small Things: here, Claus solo: here, Claus as part of Star Turbine: here) but this is probably the lightest and most accessible of their recordings that I have heard. Is it noise? Yes, of an ambient, airy, spacious nature. Does this mean it is insubstantial? Absolutely not. It has been constructed with charm and love and the interplay of the various elements (press release sez: “The basic sounds on the LP are derived from live improvisations, using turntables, bowed guitar, toy keyboard, viola and laptops.”) is subtle and sophisticated. Technically it is detailed, balanced and yet unselfconscious and transparent. It can burble happily as background drift or, should the volume be tweaked upwards, immerse you in its slow-moving fluidity. Very lovely.
Next is a tabletop mountain, the latest chewy treat freely downloadable from ap martlet, the solo project of Dave Thomas (otherwise to be found sparring with Daniel Thomas in Hagman). This one is an entire Summer’s day spent fried on acid – getting sunburnt, eating ice cream, laughing at bees – squashed down to a delirious ten minute summary. Or perhaps the orgiastic climax of a drunken party held by a buzzing gang of animate hairclippers, come alive Toy-Story-style after the barber has gone home for the night.
I remain amazed that Dave just sneaks these modest masterworks of electrical wrenching and tweaking onto Soundcloud. If I ever came up with stuff as good as this then I would organise a parade with elephants in feathered headdresses. My dream would be to find someone with the vision (and money) to release, say, four of Dave’s best 10-15 minute Soundcloud tracks as a 12″ double pack – mastered in muscular fashion on vinyl as thick as manhole-covers – then batter the world over the head with it until it topped the best-of-the-year lists in every publication from radiofreemidwich to Total Carp Magazine. C’mon, patrons!
Finally, there is the self-titled debut by Helicopter Quartet, the duo of Chrissie Caulfield (violin, synth) and Michael Capstick (guitar, bass) augmented by their gigantic collection of effects pedals. This is available as a donations welcome/free download from that Bandcamp or a snazzy CD-r made up to look like a dinky vinyl LP (pictured above) from the band in person. It has four tracks, lasts about 33 minutes and is awesome.
I was lucky enough to be on the bill with Chrissie at the Hogwash gig where I played my final pre-fatherhood midwich set (coming soon: more about forgets who also played that night). I was mesmerised by her command of her kit: violin and a bewildering array of effects pedals (about 20 by my reckoning). The shifts in tone from high-modernist drone-screech to grime-caked sludge metal to wistful, ambient folk were so assured they suggested rigorous rehearsal yet so fluid as to seem entirely improvised. Fuck, I thought, gobsmacked: follow that.
(Aside: Chrissie’s recorded solo stuff is as good. I wholeheartedly recommend, for example, Outside which is freely downloadable from her own Bandcamp page. It is a collection of augmented field recordings made around Leeds and is an engaging, accomplished, delight.)
Chasing things up after the show led to me downloading the Helicopter Quartet album from Bandcamp and falling in love with it in the heady, two-week, whirlwind romance that followed. There are passages as austere and fragile as the most accomplished 90s post-rock, there are moments of abrasive heaviness deep enough to take down anything Swans are up to nowadays, but most importantly it is thick with beauty. Not anodyne prettiness, not superficial attractiveness but beauty as awe-inspiring force of nature.
By the time Friday 25th January rolled around, the date of the next HQ gig, I was a fan. As I excitedly waited for the bus into town the weather was inclement but not distractingly so. By the time I got to Wharf Chambers, however, it had deteriorated to white-out blizzard. Sadly, this occurring during the crucial deciding-whether-or-not-to-leave-the-house hours led to the gig being poorly attended. This was disappointing, of course – I imagine money was lost – but even if the room had been packed out (as it should have been you lazy good-for-nothings! What’s a little snow compared to ART, eh?) I think my experience of their set would have been just as latched-on and unmediated. They were terrific.
Despite also enjoying the ethereal folk of headline act Lost Harbours, I decided to leave a few minutes early on the off chance of getting a bus. The weather remained awful but, amazingly, they were still running. God bless public transport. The ride – surrounded by giddy drunk people, mostly on the wrong side of the road, at speeds of around five miles per hour – was a pleasant blur and I did something that I haven’t done in years: listened to the band I’d just been to see on my walkman as I journeyed home. My righteous determination to attend has been rewarded handsomely.
Here’s the Bandcamp link again. A copy of the CD-r can be borrowed from the UML.