pure disco imbalance: rfm on karl m v waugh, storm bugs, midmight and panelak

May 2, 2017 at 6:24 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Karl M V Waugh – o light; a lightness (Emblems of Cosmic Disorder)

Storm Bugs – Certified Originals and Vintage Fakes (Snatch Tapes)

Midmight–Cut Cut Cut Bruise (Resipiscent)

Panelak – Sunsplat/Quatsch (Urubu)

karl mv waugh

Karl M V Waugh – o light; a lightness (Emblems of Cosmic Disorder) CD and digital album

A three-part homage to light – or to life?

Opener ‘dawn’ is a shy overture.  A gathering of electric-breath and glistening themes in a cloud of expectancy leading into the 30 minute bulk of ‘light’ – moving at the speed of morning.

The gentle yawn of night is giving up, once again, to budding and unfurling mauve tendrils stroking the un-blackening blue.

Yet this is a curious and optimistic light, the bucolic synth tones rising and falling like the warmth of the spring sunshine as it pokes yellow fingers into the places darkness prefers to lurk. The rolling nature of the soft-sound lolls between my sleepy ears carrying slight dissonant pitches and moans that build and decay, build and decay…

Somewhere in the background a gruff blustering slowly gathers pace in the same way a snowball picks up stones and leaves – mimicking the creation of a tiny world.  About 20 minutes in I feel the churning emergence start to leave traces of itself – miniscule waves that shift in graceful S-bends, travelling the twin meanders in deliciously greasy detail.

The closer, a brief tropical ‘dusk,’ is altogether more hectic as fuzzing and fritzing notes buzz in Brownian motion, shimmering like moon-birds.  It’s only in the closing seconds they jettison their fragile wings, ready to propel themselves in a steep suicidal ascent into the dead vacuum of space.

The circle remains unbroken.

storm bugs

Storm Bugs – Certified Originals and Vintage Fakes (Snatch Tapes) CD in hefty vacuum-formed case, booklet and digital album

The legendary Storm Bugs are respected old-timers residing, a bug apiece, on the South Coast and Deptford (Borough of Lewisham).  Somehow this shared maritime history, pebbled-dashed openness, wide skies and neat beaches seem to run through their infectious sound.

Certified Originals is a very helpful drawing together of recent ‘dingles’, downloadable singles that play with the seven inch format in a variety of delightful ways: the three-minute pop song, the dub version, the unexpectedly superior b-side all get shoved through the Storm Bugs’ intelligent blender.

For the uninitiated get ready for SONGS…catchy verse, chorus, verse songs with real words and underpinning ideas.  But like This Heat or something these songs all get twisted into new forms creating bold statements that weave through their deceptively dark synth-pop exterior.

Make no mistake – the sweet exterior always reveals a soft-centre of something unpleasant and darkly acrid.

Starting off gently there’s no nostalgia on ‘Hisstory of the Cassette Tape’ as it playfully pokes at both collector-scum and sepia-bores.  And of course there are bonus points for rhyming “Cassette Tape” with “Ferrous Oxide bake.”

A bewildered diary entry ‘New Resolutions’ marches like a Roman Legion with the type of buzzing synth-sound EL-P loved to chuck into CoFlow jamz.  The ghost of Esquivel squirms through ‘Up the Pylon and Down the Lane’ but in a sickly sinister nursery rhyme.

‘Pity the Small’ takes me right back to those minor-key symphonies perfected by New Zealand’s Tall Dwarves but here laced with suicidal thoughts.

And this darkness reaches a peak on ‘Take it to the Top’ a discombobulating mash-up of the ‘Are You Being Served?’ theme with a Class War manifesto.

Gosh!  I need a bit of a sit down after that.

The instrumentals are measured as carefully as posh cocktails – a snitch of vermouth, a splash of bitters  – so while tracks like ‘Storm of Bugs’ could have fallen out of an Art of Noise remix 12 inch way back when Morley was a mere annoyance, ‘Ordnance Survey’ is, without a doubt, a mosh-pit breakdown.

Wondering what 60’s corn-pop tune Popcorn would sound like full of acid squelches? Clear out your lugs for ‘MitWasser’.

These kindly Bugs don’t want you to leave this disc a wreck so they save the slick beats and hummus-rich atmosphere of ‘Triangulation’ until last; a strangely euphoric piece that started to claw-back my faith in human nature and throw a few shapes around the living room.

Consumers!  Satisfaction is yours to demand.  Order a Storm Bugs solution – NOW.

 midmight

Midmight–Cut Cut Cut Bruise (Resipiscent) CDr and digital album that comes complete with another Midmight album ‘Almost Clear’

Midmight (be-masked and anonymous) offers a whole flotilla of mind-engorging short pieces on this unapologetically boisterous collection.

Some sort of electronic dissonance (hot-wired light sabre, explosive durian fruit?) takes centre stage buffing away at crumpled field recordings – often TV sound and domestic detritus – like a donkey’s tail swats bothersome flies.

The rhythm and timing of these swoops is both unknowable and difficult to categorise.  At one point they seem to batter the taped sounds into submission (‘Abdominal Cavity’), at others they accompany as delicate parsley sprinkled on fresh gazpacho – see ‘Springville Auction’ for details.

‘Make no Mistake’ seems to mould the spitting energy into a quick ska-beat; ‘Let’s Pretend’ is a slow rinser from the Wolf-dong camp.

Sucking on a pencil I decide it’s probably a mistake to over-think this set of JAMZ.

Just raise your fist and yell!

panelak

Panelak – Sunsplat/Quatsch (Urubu) Tape and digital album featuring 25 different J-cards?

A whirring, churning, ever transmogrifying mulch of lo-fi tape magic!

Phew – them’s powerful words eh?  What if I was to tell you young Pascal Ansell has created his very own Faust Tapes on this ecstatic Panelak release?

You’d read on with damp lips eh?

Huge, broad swoops of sound are moved with ease across a broad and ordered canvas.  The shudder of tape grot rubs shoulders with children singing and ukulele strums along to winged-eel keyboard.

Field recordings (a gondolier, a market place) are wrenched across a digital interface and looped, chopped and edited with fine cotton gloves.   You get the picture?

But it’s this fine sense of editing, a sure hand and a keen ear, that takes these colourful and varied sounds and turns them from dull bronze into a winner’s gold.

Each side holds a single 20 minute piece; one named Sunsplat and one named Quatsch and both contain more singular sound-moments than I can shake my walking stick at.  If your experience of this form of sound-collage/gonk montage has been ham-fisted or without any internal narrative fear not!   On this fine, fine tape Pascal has arranged each sound into a logical (un)sequence of deliberate/accidental, stressed/relaxed, acoustic/electronic.  As a result the damn thing flows like a soul-river; deep and clear and free.

Individual moments create a framework to hang your hat on; but be sure to listen out for…

Elongated moans

                 >>>vintage tape scritch & scratch

                                                                                                  >>>hi-pitch headphone feedback

Italian TV (backwards)

     >>>clunky egg-slicer manipulation>>>crab-hand guitar loop>>>Portuguese translation aid

                                                           >>>the dry plastic click of a cheap mic

Basic keyboard exercise played with three hands>>>

      unsuccessful radio tune-up>>>

                                                           old rehearsal tapes cut into pieces>>>pure disco imbalance

 

If you find joy in the miniature click your heavy fingers on the link and listen to the sweet action.

Dial up P.A.N.E.L.A.K for mighty change.

 

Emblems of Cosmic Disorder

Snatch Tapes / Storm Bugs

Resipiscent

Urubu Tapes

-ooOOoo-

the exact sound of the place: sophie cooper on steven ball, amanda feery and michael tanner

May 29, 2015 at 11:41 am | Posted in new music | Leave a comment
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Steven Ball – Collected Local Songs (self-released download)

Amanda Feery and Michael Tanner – To Run the Easting Down (forthcoming, Awkward Formats)

steven ball - collected local songs

Steven Ball – Collected Local Songs

Last time I saw Steven Ball was when he came to a gig I was playing in London and he told me then that he was working on a collection of songs. Being a fan of Ball’s music and ‘songs’ [Editor’s note: you’re fired!] I was instantly intrigued and now, six months or so later, Collected Local Songs has become my favourite release of 2015 so far.

Ball is best known as half of Storm Bugs who were one of my favourite acts performing at Nottingham’s Rammel Festival in 2012.  We met then and after this I’d quite often bump into him around the New Cross/ Camberwell / Deptford areas of South London so hearing an album from him that retells sounds and experiences specifically from around that area makes a lot of sense to me.

The mood of this record is really laid back. Minimalist loops of echoing guitars and bowed strings set the pace over which Ball’s impressive vocals sing miniatures describing the smallest observations – a neighbour taking time to smoke a cigarette out of the window, how the smell of weed casually wafts through the air of a street he has walked down a hundred times before, the high rises that have appeared next to the river… It’s emotive music and on listening I was transported back to London imagining myself on a night bus crossing the Thames back to the South. Ball’s vocal delivery is just gorgeous, there’s a similarly to Scott Walker about them, and lines from each song are layered together in lush harmonies.

There’s a literalism about this album that really sucked me in. The songs are like perfect postcards picturing small details of everyday life seen through an appreciative eye. There’s a brilliant inclusion of a field recording taken at Deptford Flea Market and, rather than it being ambiguous, anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting will recognise it as the exact sound of that place. Two market stallholders blasting out some kind of music with beats (forgive me, not my area of expertise!) – it’s just what you’re likely to walk pass on a Sunday before stopping for a rummage through a box of broken Hoover parts and swing music LP box sets (true story). The title, Collected Local Songs, is perfectly apt and the sincerity felt on listening to these songs is quite special.

Amanda Feery and Michael Tanner – To Run the Easting Down

Due to a problem at the plant (the curse of Record Store Day – a side note: this clever marketing idea has screwed up so many of my friends’ album releases. I love the idea of supporting independent record shops but folks should just go nip into the shop and buy an album on payday, that’ll help independent music far more) I’m not sure if this album has a release date yet but I do know that it’s coming out on a label called Awkward Formats as soon as it’s possible.

Three long tracks composed over three years, Feery and Tanner stitched a lot of this release together using transatlantic delivery methods (boats?) but you really can’t tell. The production on this release is so slick – at times you are tricked into thinking Feery’s beautiful voice must have been split into several pieces or that the duo hired in voice doubles. The layered vocals on the first piece, ‘Squarepushers’, come across as a wonderful choral effect with enough reverb to make the listener feel as though they have come to church to hear this. Which church would that be? The Church of Drone, of course! Following on from the choral vocals are massive, dark, murky drones offset with light bell sounds and an emotional solo violin. I felt weirdly sentimental on hearing this first piece but not sure what for.

A similar feel carries on throughout the other two pieces, a combination of light and dark contrasts between drones and additional instruments. There’s a lovely piano part played on the second track with buckets of reverb added creating a serene aural landscape, a muted pallet of sounds. Lie back and relax, let your thoughts go where they want to go, listen to this album if you need to escape into the drone zone for a while.

—ooOoo—

Steven Ball

Awkward Formats

Excerpts from To Run the Easting Down

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