only the squad survives: wnns joins rfm, then squints at laurie tompkins, giant claw and dikeman / serries / aquarius

August 20, 2017 at 6:59 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Laurie Tompkins – 45thGeneration Roman & European Bob (Sacred Tapes)

Giant Claw – Soft Channel (Orange Milk Records)

John Dikeman / Dirk Serries / René Aquarius – Day Realms (Tombed Visions)

 

Hey. Nice to see you. Come in. Draw up a cushion. Relax. Have a drink.

We may not have formally met before. I spent some time writing a blog called We Need No Swords. You know it? No? Ah well. It happened, for a while. And then it didn’t. Have a look at it, if you have time. You might like it.

But I’m here at RFM now, sort of, for a little while. You’ll probably see me popping up every few weeks or so. It takes a while, y’see. To get the words out the murk and onto the screen.

So, well, if you’re settled, let’s begin. Are we rolling? Ok.

laurie tompkins

Laurie Tompkins – 45thGeneration Roman & European Bob (Sacred Tapes) cassette and digital album

It seems only fair and logical to start this new adventure in a spirit of continuity rather than rupture. Regular readers of RFM will have enjoyed Marlo Eggplant’s fantastic exploration of the recent output of the Slip label, in particular co-founder Laurie Tompkins’ Heat, War, Sweat, Law, which Ms. Eggplant described as ‘pure play, touching objects, feeling surfaces, and hollering at friends.’

45thGeneration Roman & European Bob is a companion piece to Heat, War, Sweat, Law, sharing the latter’s anarchic spirit, non-existent musicianship and gestural physicality to create ungainly lumps of intuitive, defamiliarized sound-making.

In reality that means showers of yelps and grunts accompanied by wandering organ lines and the clacking splutter of someone banging a flowerpot. The overriding impression is of Tompkins and collaborators Sam Andreae, Suze Whaites and Owen Roberts stumbling across a ruined landscape, picking at the shattered remnants of musical forms, their attempts to remake them hindered by the fog of some post-traumatic amnesia. The yowls, patters and parps are a kind of post-catastrophe music making in a territory for which the maps are long gone.

However, if that’s true, why does it sound so much bleedin’ fun? Heat, War, Sweat, Law, although similar in approach, was immersed in an ambience of frustration, Tompkins wrenching fragments of Heaven 17’s The Height Of The Fighting into a series of despairing modernist anthems. The reference point this time around is The Streets’ ‘Turn The Page’.

“Turn the page on the day/Walk away/Cause they’re sensing what I say/ I’m 45th generation Roman/But I don’t know ‘em.”

Not that you’d recognize any of Mike Skinner’s geezer melancholy in the lines of these cracked mosaics.

Yet although the aesthetic is similar the vibe is completely different, Tompkins and his mob enacting a bizarrely celebratory set of rituals, a prelude to a primitivistic bacchanal. The overlapping hoots and hollers of ‘Fifth’ are a bewildering rush, drama-school posturing mixed with Dionysian abandonment in a proper WTF mash-up. ‘ER’ goes even more dissonant, with faux-clumsy keyboard spurts and bashed flowerpots chiming a stop-start backdrop for Tompkins’ vocal fulminations.

Time to embrace the bonkers, flower children.

giant-claw

Giant Claw – Soft Channel (Orange Milk Records) vinyl and digital album

Giant Claw is the sound of your old Windows XP machine being sliced to ribbons by malware, opening up a backdoor for digital housebreakers to riffle through your iTunes library and Amazon wishlist in a vain search for anything valuable – or at least, ahem, compromising – before giving up in disgust and sauntering off leaving a pile of soiled wreckage in its wake. That all this digital carnage is strangely comforting when served up as safely packaged entertainment for lovers of electro-jolt everywhere is testament to Giant Claw mover and shaker Keith Rankin’s cunning ability to create joy from sonic catastrophe, shredding wholesome nuggets of technological capitalism into itchy blankets of enervated jitterbug soup.

This kind of byte-scrabbled mess won’t be unfamiliar to anyone versed in the Oneohtrix Point Never school of production, which recasts the artist as a kind of hyperspace flâneur  kicking through virtual junkyards until they’ve gathered enough glitchy detritus to hack together lumbering automatons of cyber-rusted manure. But Señor Claw is a bit of maestro at this sort of thing, his two previous albums of hiccupping abrasion – 2014’s Dark Web along with Deep Thoughts from a year later – wearing their compositional nous lightly, the fused nodes of their distorted bloops, vocaloid shards and attention-addled jumpcuts only gradually revealing themselves as the delicately woven threads jig insouciantly past.

And so it goes with Soft Channel, Rankin’s latest missive from his empire of blown soundcards. Released on Rankin’s own Orange Milk label, its frenetic asymmetry may well prompt much gnashing of teeth from those not down with the Giant Claw ethos. After all, if one wanted to hear one’s laptop melting down, one wouldn’t have renewed one’s antivirus subscription, eh? But stick with it and you’ll be rewarded. Those chunks of circuit board gloop transition gradually into gleaming, impossible shapes, like sculptures altering their dimensions each time you see (hear) them. Ineffable snatches of alien choirs nudge up against scrolling vistas of spontaneous composition, their fraggy soundscapes smeared with streams of machine lingo fresh from the droid-brain.

The trebly pixel bursts of ‘Soft Channel 02’ make for particularly refreshing listening, their irregular blurts morphing into a prickly ooze of anime moans and hard-panned stutters. Things get double-caffeinated later, with ‘Soft Channel 006’s’ cello plucks tessellating into modem babble like some Benny Hill hack into the traffic-light mainframe.

You’re only supposed to blow the bloody ports off.

Day Realms

John Dikeman / Dirk Serries / René Aquarius – Day Realms (Tombed Visions) cassette and digital album

David McLean’s Tombed Visions label continues to mine a rewarding seam of mutant sounds that combines fire music’s euphoric blowing with the protean spontaneity of free improvisation. Here he hooks up stateside exploratory reedsman John Dikeman with Belgian guitarist-cum-sound artist Dirk Serries and Dutch powerhouse drummer René Aquarius, for a transatlantic jam that sets a determined course for the far reaches of the universe, the trio losing themselves in gorgeously tangled chains of silvery honk and glassy deep-space glister.

Dikeman, Serries and Aquarius are part of a resurgent wave of free jazz that gathers up players from Europe, the US and UK in a cross–cultural throng. Tombed Visions released the first outing from this trio, Night Realms, in 2016 (it’s also provided on the flipside of this tape for any heads who may have missed it) – and players with a similar worldview, such as Andrew Cheetham, Otto Wilberg, David Birchall, Colin Webster and Sam Andreae, have also been represented, in various combinations, by McLean over the years. Of this lot, the ABC Trio’s two releases come particularly recommended, the threesome of Andreae (tenor sax), Birchall (guitar) and Cheetham (drums) locking together in an astringent yet weirdly groovy manner that’s sure to get anyone that’s interested in non-dogmatic free improvisation foaming at the gums.

Night Realms walks a jazzier line than the spittle ‘n’ leather of the ABC squad, its blissful candour creating a beatific cocoon of sound whose radiance doesn’t let up for the 40-odd minutes of its runtime. René Aquarius, whose muscular, arrhythmic chops for Dead Neanderthals are a major contribution to the duo’s seismic force, lets loose with flurries of cymbal and percussive snare and kick-drum jolts, driving forward his partners’ explorations in tidal surges. Serries is on good form too, with circling mantras whose textural sheen are evocative of In A Silent Way-era McLaughlin.

Together, Serries and Aquarius form a taut mesh through which Dikeman slithers with riverine guile. His playing is fluid and melodic, but tough too, his curling riffs building up into a brassy lung-busting cacophony that transforms Day Realms’ opening quarter of an hour into a joyful overture. It proceeds through a series of peaks and troughs after that, although the rhythm rarely feels contrived. At around 20 minutes, Serries drops out and Aquarius moves to toms, freeing up the higher register for Dikeman to blast out in a reedy, squealing tantrum. Serries edging back in with an extended single-note drone adds another layer of hypnotism, yet the tension is allowed to dissipate, oozing out in a series of desultory splashes and plunks, before the trip gird their loins for cathartic final-minute splatterfest.

Bring the cloths, you’re gonna need to clean up around here.

Sacred Tapes

Orange Milk Records

Tombed Visions

-ooOOoo-

the intersection of machinery and imagination: marlo de lara on dj crackle and dj snip, kit downes and tom challenger, klaas hübner, matt rogers and laurie tompkins

August 6, 2017 at 8:50 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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DJ Crackle and DJ Snip – Broken Records Phantasy (Ono Records)

Kit Downes & Tom Challenger – Vyamanikal (Slip)

Klaas Hübner – Sog (Slip)

Matt Rogers – SK√-1 (Slip)

Laurie Tompkins – Heat, War, Sweat, Law (Slip)

crackle and snip

DJ Crackle and DJ Snip – Broken Records Phantasy (Ono Records) Cassette (sold out) and digital album

It ain’t nothing new to be a fan of Stuart Chalmers in these parts. From his 2015 Crater Lake performance to his recent show with BBBlood and Posset at Fuse, Leeds/Bradford is delighted when the Chalmers blows through the area.

It is of no surprise to me that he extends beyond his layered noise sets to the world of plunderphonics with such ease. In the persona of DJ Crackle, he reassigns sounds in rhythmic and parallel arrangements.  The sounds are sourced by Dj Skip (Michael Holland) whose projects include Ono, Keswicklemon, Fulbaechop, OnoTesla, Islington Mill Creativity Exchange, and Show and Thumb.

There is a balance of intention and improvisation in these tracks. The first, ‘Beach Clouds’ sounds exactly like its title, riding smooth continuous waves into the album. From here the tracks become more cut-and-paste based with beats that vacillate from halted/stilted to electropical.

The re-purposing of R & B vocal tracks with percussion in ‘Brandy Songs for Supercat’ to ‘White Moonglows’’ electronic bending of a stretched drum and time elapsed words/moans makes this album both playful and mind bending.

Ending with ‘Torch Song for Trumpet’, a high-tide call back to the first track, one is crashed on the shores with sonic waves licking one’s collapsed body.

In some ways, I find work like this more psychedelic than the psychedelic genre itself. Disorganizing captured sounds and setting them free in the air – the whole heart and soul of plunderphonics is captured in this release.

Once the sounds erupt, they become free and no longer are tied to their origins.
 

Kit & Tom 1

Kit Downes & Tom Challenger – Vyamanikal (Slip) CD and digital album

Upon reading their press release, it becomes clear this accomplished duo does several site-specific free jazz/drone tinted improvisations with saxophone and various organs/harmoniums:

“Recorded at five Suffolk churches during a 2015 Aldeburgh Music residency, Vyamanikal deftly explores the native nuances and acoustics of six organs and their surrounding environment.  Downes’ organ playing is alternately delicate and thunderous, teasing out unearthly vibrations from converted harmoniums and mighty, century-old, manual organs like Framlingham’s ‘Thamar Organ’. Challenger’s sax lines act as a conduit between the instrument and their locale, probing errant pipe tones for interferences, and embellishing distant birdsong.”

While the dual tones achieved by the organs are sustained, the saxophone flies with hummingbird silence and delicate presence. It is dream inducing and parasympathetically rich – anti-‘fight or flight’ music or perhaps at times, like in ’Sa,’ it swells into a disconcerted moment.

Yet these nightmare anxieties are delivered underscored by grounding chords. The saxophone in ‘Vistri’ becomes more central, and in its minimal interactions with the diegetic ambient sounds (of birds and wind) the track in some ways is mostly filled with places for listening. The architectures potential is audible and is by far the most site specific on the concluding track ‘Nya-Aya’.

I (not Radio Free Midwich) question the explanation, necessity, and usage of a Sanskrit word. It is a trend that is worth examining in experimental music when white Western music and art practitioners, use language or culture not of their own. There are elements of exoticism or cultural appropriation when language or culture is reappropriated for endeavours like these, especially without the presence of people which inspired the work.

Their press release states: “Named after the ancient Sanskrit term for flying machines – ‘Vaimānika Shāstra’. “  I ask, what is gained by using the Sanskrit word versus the wording ‘flying machines’? Does the album get mileage by this choice of making a nod to Sanskrit? I would argue, the album does not require a cultural derivative to be enjoyed. In its context and completion, it is well composed and highly enjoyable.

It demands repeat listens and room for wondering.

 
klaas hobner

Klaas Hübner – Sog (Slip) C50 Cassette, CD (sold out) and digital album
 

sswsw

Pictured above is ’sswsw’:

“Five laboratory oscillators that generate sine waves of different frequencies, each modulated in volume by mechanical metronomes. The metronomes rest on a light wooden board which sits on 2 aluminium tubes. This setup references Christian Huygens’ 1657 experiments with synchronisation. The free swinging board slowly synchronises the movement of metronome and therefore the modulation of the sine waves.  Spontaneous synchronisation with sine waves was developed as a performance within Corsin Gaudenz’s theatre work ‘Time is on My Side’.” (album notes)

Check out a video of all that good stuff here. Recorded at Rote Fabrik, Zürich, March 2013.

Upon opening the album, with its artist notes and images, I was extremely excited! The album description of the artist alone delighted me and the various media forms in which he explores: “SOG is the magisterial Slip debut of Klaas Hübner, the Berlin-based sound sculptor, improviser, and instrument-builder whose installations coax out uncanny chants from whirly tubes, ceiling fans, styrofoam, and cassette tapes.”

Hübner’s construction and composition are equally beautiful. While the sounds are merely one dynamic of the experiments, the process to its execution is intriguing. Hübner’s work takes up space.

They visually are stunning in their technological construction. As objects, they are intricate and shiny. Conceived as an extension or expansions of various sound and technological historical experiments, as in ‘sswsw’, the work is enthralling.  The work is the material.

One is very aware that these processes/objects emit natural sounds at times, they are built with hands and structures. Sounds meet at the intersection of machinery and imagination. The tape loops used in the ‘schwarzwald’ installations are ugly and light. This vacillation is what pushes the instrumentation beyond many tape loop releases/recordings.

music-for-ceiling-fan-tubes

Music for Ceiling Fans and Tubes: “Lying on their backs below a ceiling fan which rotates just above their bodies, Lysandre Coutu-Sauvé and Klaas Hübner play this composition. One whirly tube is attached to the fan generating a permanent hum, while the two play small tubes as flutes and percussion on the fan blades.”

Watch this goof here.  Recorded at T10 studio, Berlin, January 2015.

This not to say that the compositions lack melodic or traditional musical structures.  A constant beat is provided while flutes guide us to down a wandering path. It does not have a destination but rather like two flutes in conversation they move across various ecospheres.

Perhaps the best part of these compositions is the footage that accompanies the pieces in the notes. One can listen to a track, experience the sounds as they stand, and then revisit the actual set up and machinery used through Vimeo. I particularly recommend listening to the organ and welding track ‘Chateau Poulet’ and opening the footage of the performance. It is refreshing to see works like this in our review pile.

I enjoyed the well conceived nature and the sensual complexities of Hübner’s work.
 

matt rogers

Matt Rogers – SK√-1 (Slip) C30 Cassette, sold out CD and digital album

Press release description: “SK√-1 is the debut Slip missive from British composer Matt Rogers: a suite of solo scorchers belched straight out of the jack of a GravesEnd Casio SK1.”

If one were to take an orchestral arrangement and push it through a misfiring Commodore 64, you might get the sounds Matt Rogers fired in this album.

Unlike the overt sonic attacks of harsh noise, these compositions are strategic and evolve into several fronts. Don’t get me wrong, you are still being attacked. Perhaps it is the instrumentation evoking Cold War computerized technology or the laser-like precision of the ripples and oscillations.

One never is comfortable and even in the pauses and sustained notes, there is no peace. It is unrelenting in its persistence and yet sounds like it is crumbling in its execution.

While these are composed pieces, the affect is the immediacy of a live noise set in which danger and immediacy are integral to the experience.

Then track 5, SK√-1 ■■, arrives on deck. Like a circus-tent taunter or a hypnotic slot machine, it is joyous and bouncy yet still demanding…

 

  • Track 6, SK√-1 □□, is more pensive and thoughtful.

  • Track 7, SK√-1 ▪■, is a call to re-organize the efforts, a gathering and planning of resources.

  • Track 8, SK√-1 □, is the victory of the invaders, littered with small uprisings.

It is not difficult to imagine a space war of sorts listening to this album.

Another impressive release from Slip.

laurie tompkins

Laurie Tompkins – Heat, War, Sweat, Law (Slip) C25 Cassette (with fold-out A3 poster of ‘business wanker’ artwork) CD (sold out) and digital album

Laurie Tompkins work reminds me of early K Records, like Beat Happening on too many drugs.  Or maybe angry cats?

Embracing unprocessed sounds and the humanness of voice, it is absurd and yet structured. Without reading as intentional, each track is present to the sounds played with. The work is very human-centered, not like Carl Rogers’s psychology, but from where it originates.

It is pure play, touching objects, feeling surfaces, and hollering at friends. It is undirected and let loose to build, fail, and climb. Sometimes solidifying into group efforts and other times the mere audible process of attempting to connect and communicate as a group.

The lack of digital instrumentation is welcomed and with percussion often sounding like handclaps, snaps, and stomps, the definition of instrument seems to be made up on the spot. The last track ‘Regret’ is the most song-like in its structure. Almost like the party at the end of a chaotic time, the track attempts to find a harmony in the rhythms played like a broken hand crank machine.

The album is reminiscent of absurdist noise projects like Usurper and The Earwigs, something beyond intentional humour.

Unlike the rest of the Slip releases, it comes off like sonic polaroids after your best friend comes over to play and now the house is trashed.

Definitely a choice for those who enjoyed unprocessed sounds/recordings.

 

Stuart Chalmers’ Batcave

Slip Bandcamp

-ooOOOoo-

the developing process: chrissie caulfield on chaines

September 20, 2016 at 9:56 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Chaines – OST (poster package plus download, Slip, [SLP017])

cover

My last review, of Furchick’s Trouble with a Capital T, mentioned that I was drawn into that album by a compelling opening track. In contrast I have to admit that the opening track on this particular album did actually put me off it for a few moments. However, persistence is a virtue which is often rewarded.

I encountered Caroline Haines’ music via the Feminatronic group on Soundcloud (which I heartily recommend, by the way) and her excellent track ‘Eraserhead‘ . From this I went to her Bandcamp site to see if she had anything worth reviewing for this blog… she does, readers, she certainly does.

The title track(s) of OST are for a collaboration with a visual artist but I’ve been so engrossed in the music that I haven’t even bothered to see if there is a visual element to the work apart from the prints that come with a tape – I’m really all about the sound, as you might have guessed. ‘OST1’ is a ritornello of noise interrupted by acoustic and electric guitars and industrial samples with the voices of collaborator Mary Stark and others rendered almost indistinct. It is variously terrifying, intriguing and occasionally comic as you never quite get a handle on what is going on. I must have listened to this track ten times or so and it always sounds fresh and new. Hearing it on different speakers or headphones just brings out nuances that you’d missed earlier.

The first track ends with Mary’s voice coherent for the first time and segues into ‘OST2’ where she has much more to say… certainly more that’s comprehensible. Over a guitar and percussion ostinato with occasional backing from what I suspect are the noises of an old-fashioned film projector, Mary talks about her film making in an entertaining and engaging way, including her love for the obsolete film technology which adds so much to the sound of the piece. Between the more normal speech parts we have Mary reciting timing countdowns or ingredients lists from an old-style chemical film developing process. This reminds me so much of evenings spent in my father’s darkroom making black and white and (later) colour prints. I can almost smell those chemicals again, though I’m not sure that’s necessarily a good thing, they were horrible!

‘OST3’ opens with ambient washes of gentle, slightly clipped (in a good way) noise – like wind with bits of smoke in it. Mary then explains more about the haphazard way she produced her first prints in a badly-equipped darkroom, the equipment she uses for her works, and growing up in the North West. As the Bandcamp notes state, this is in some sense a love letter to analogue film – the descriptions and anecdotes presented here are compellingly presented and are integrated really well with the sounds. The way the different sentences are EQed and the reverb on the voice really serve to bring out the messages and turn the disparate parts into a wonderfully coherent whole.

And so back to that first track, ‘Here’, that nearly prevented me from getting further with this wonderful album. It starts with out-of-tune whistling – need I say more? About the only acceptable incidence of any sort of whistling in music, in my opinion, opens Supertramp’s ‘Easy Does It’and after forty years I’m still unsure about that. But once you get past this drunken obstacle the track opens out into something rather lovely and the whistling becomes half-drowned in synth pads and noise. It does work, and the noises at the end close it off well, but I still have trouble with the solo opening. Sorry!

The final track, ‘I Found This’ continues the industrial theme with some great off-kilter rhythms accompanied by indistinct vocals. It breathes in and out like a huge mechanical squeezebox building to gentle and not-so-gentle climaxes that consume you before dropping back to just the vocals and then starting again. This is more of a pure ‘music’ piece than the OST ones, the clanks and string sounds being the main driving force behind it, with the vocals adding a mysterious side-order. These are surely the sounds of human beings subsumed by the machines they are working.

—ooOoo—

Slip

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