clipped moustache, ragged heart: joe murray on melting, staraya derevnya, east of the valley blues

April 18, 2016 at 12:01 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Melting – Dusk (tape, Crow Versus Crow, CVC002, edition of 50 or download)

Staraya Derevnya – Kadita Sessions (tape, Weakie Discs, edition of 13 or download)

East of the Valley Blues – eotvb (self released tape, edition of 100 or download)


Melting – Dusk

Where’s the bass in my life?

Where’s the soft heart-beat thump that warms like amber sun?

Being a student of glossy tape-gonk and spidery improv my listening is wonderfully rich in detail and dynamics.  I’ve got yucks and texture a’plenty for sure but it tends to be high-end mosquito-frequency stuff.  That’s my bag and I’m very happy to dig it; but sometimes I get a fancy for a bit of the other, something less scratchy that I can lose my damned black soul in.  Sometimes only a bit of bass will do.

It was in one of these moments of longing that guru and taste-maker, Crow Versus Crow’s Andy Wild, came to the rescue (again) with a tape of gloriously deconstructed & blunt hip-hop beats from the mysterious Melting.

And when I say mysterious I’m not just referencing the notoriously publicity shy Melting’s ghostly persona.  I mean mysterious in approach and result.

Now I know I’m woefully under-educated in this kind of beat-led music but the one thing I do know is the importance of repetition, of patterns being introduced, developed and then slowly taken apart.

Melting bucks this trend royally, making things full of decay and rot right from the off.  Sure the beats are as neatly clipped as any military moustache.  The occasional high-hat or woodblock snaps sharp and bright like a polished medal.  But there’s such a wonderful oddness to the timing, it seems free of the usual 4/4 prison that privileged westerners like me unconsciously fall into.  I’m searching for classy metaphors but only have my rusty jazz dictionary to hand.  Like Miles would holla:

It swings like a motherfucker!

But beats are only part of the story.  The samples man!  The samples are smeared as thick acrylics.

So, the base materials tend to be dark and gritty.  Moulded into roughly cylindrical forms and stacked in irregular patterns.  A greasy tarpaulin is overlaid to form a 3D landscape in this delirious geography experiment. Finally, the bass is a broad sluggish river, bubbling slowly like sweet Arabic coffee.

Soon things get itchy like a tremor, freaky like a fever.  On ‘Sleep’ a broken vocal sound, a single explosive ‘nweh’ is woven round a calliope caught in a steamy glitch.

And things get sadder (heartbreak sequenced and sampled) as ‘Road’ makes it with the Rhodes piano sorrow-chords and a broken ‘wha-ba-whep-whup’ spoken refrain.  My inadequate mind is looking for things to compare this to.


I stutter,

Errrr…Burial, made of black soapy mould (there’s a slight antiseptic wince to this) or even Coil without the tin hats.

A slithery guitar sample, wriggling like Robin Guthrie’s beard, grouts ‘Trick’, and ‘Sigh’ with its brisk celery chomp and Orac-crackle takes me back to those old Street Sound compilations but buries the sunny US vibes in stinging Yorkshire sleet.

This saucily packaged tape (it’s hand stitched, a touch lacy and excitingly black) ends with a very real ‘Slump’.  Four minutes of dubbed-out ‘ah, oh, ah’ that struggles to keep awake until it collapses under its own weight.

Melting, the sound of dozing by an industrial radiator and waking up with blood sores.


Staraya Derevnya – Kadita Sessions

A group-think collective of felt hats and bright woollen familiars.

I’ve always been a fan of a good intro, you know the sort of thing; the precise, delicate hopscotch of ‘Then He Kissed Me’ or the spectral icicle ring heralding the permissive ‘60s in ‘Hard Day’s Night’.  When you get off on the good foot you’ve done most of the hard work.  You’ve got your people on board.

On ‘Hram’ this singular Israeli/UK collective, who seem to have been operating on the fringes of freak-folk for years, warble one of the soon-to-be-great-intros-of-all-time with a wonderfully unhinged beefheart-ian howl.  Oh yes, I’ve climbed on the Staraya Derevnya Express and I’m waiting to get my ticket clipped without waffling my blanket at all.

Intros aside, Staraya Derevnya seem to be drinking a mead-based cocktail that’s equal parts Richard Dawson (in his Eyeballs incarnation), Kemialliset Ystävät and Ø+yn.  No ice, no lemon!

Little instruments are brought out of duffle bags, carefully unwrapped and laid on the polished wooden floors.  A small bowl of cloudberries appear out of a pocket for nourishment and all are encouraged to pick up and play, jamming on the one, riffing off the misty morning.  So it’s all gentle bells and plaintive whistles, a dusty harmonium, warm metallic mbira and urgently strummed guitars – the sound of many playing without ego, building a collective sound that shimmers like moonlight on a lake.

But Staraya Derevnya are no strict caretakers of convention, the picket fences and genre boundaries have been kicked over with fuck-off boots or subtly undermined.  Even the folk DNA is spliced with suspicious reggae on ‘Lordan’ and coffee-house down-tempo jazz fusion mixed with Black Metal insect narration on ‘Het’.  And with three separate participants contributing ‘cries and whispers’ the dismal mutter becomes as crucial as the guitar and shuddering percussion to propel this grooviest of covens.

I take a breather as ‘Sages’ starts… this is an almost straight REAL WORLD ethno-jam, but then the sheer bonkers singing disappears upwards into the kind of grating metal-on-metal and feedback hawking that would keep a New Blockaders fan happy.

Blimey, all this genre-hopping is backed up with a typically internationalist view; an Israeli collective, mixing their sounds in London, releasing tapes on Polish label (only 3 left!) and named after a stop on the St Petersburg Metro.

N-AU worldwide!


East of the Valley Blues – eotvb

Wonderful!  Wonderful, wonderful!

This tape was playing when the first rays of Spring sunshine shot like misty timbers through my window and the jazzy daffodils belched out warm yellow hugs.  And no, I don’t think that’s any coincidence brothers & sisters.

This tape is a truly innocent joy.  Why?  Firstly, it’s the simplicity.  We’ve got two guys, two Power Moves brothers, sitting on that metaphorical back porch finger-picking like the late great Jack Rose, improvising with a sibling’s sensibility at that slightly ragged speed we all associate with the beating heart in love.

Secondly, we’ve got notes that shimmer in a cascade; I’m getting nylon waterfalls as things tumble and tremble, roil and buckle as ten calloused fingertips gentle rustle the strings.  This is all about the movement, the restlessness of a leaf caught in an eddy, the churn of water spilling from a red hand pump.

Finally there’s that slight sense of anticipation, a yearning that’s probably something technical to do with the key it’s all played in.  But for a goof like me it just tweaks my memory zone; this music looks backwards at endless summers and looks towards bouncing grandchildren on the knee.  This is music of time, its passage and its baggage; the highs and lows, the dusty wrinkles and the fumble in the sheets.

And am I noticing a slight change in the way time is behaving around me?  Not so much time stopping but stretching, those strict minutes becoming supple like a cat’s arching back.  Maybe reader maybe.

Lovers of this plaintive guitar-pick often yell out a challenge:

So… can I play this next to Ry Cooder & Vishwa Mohan Bhatt’s sublime A Meeting by the River?  Does it hold its own beans compared to Phil Tyler’s exquisite banjo snaffle?

Me?  I’m lost in the buttery light right now, light-headed with Beat road dreams,

If you heard it you wouldn’t have to ask… click the god-damn link and get heavy in the valley.


Crow Versus Crow

Weakie Discs

East of the Valley Blues

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