corn toes throb: rfm on diatribes, yearning kru, sophie cooper & julian bradley, sam andreae/david birchall/otto willberg and kay hill

April 27, 2017 at 5:30 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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Diatribes – Sistere (Mappa Editions)

Yearning Kru – Swumpengelf (Mantile Records)

Sophie Cooper & Julian Bradley – The Blow Volume 3 (Front & Follow)

Sam Andreae/David Birchall/Otto Willberg – Hair in the Chimney (Heavy Petting/Vernacular Recordings)

Kay Hill – ANARAK (Invisible City Records)

Kay Hill – Summit Tapes pt 2 (Strange Rules)

diatribes 

Diatribes – Sistere (Mappa Editions) Handsomely-boxed C40 tape and digital album

A new-to-me name, Diatribes, are a Swiss improvising duo – D’incise & Cyril Bondi – who offer us two damn-fine, side-long, ritualistic explorations.

‘Tabi-Tabi’, this woozily hypnotic twenty-minute rhythm workout starts like a boredoms drum-circle with a handful of percussion (bells, shaker, bamboo claves, half bag of rice and those damn shell contraptions) round a campfire and stays near enough in that vein for the duration.  Off-kilter electronic fingering appears around the edges and new shaken textures begin swooping in over the central heartbeat.

A lazier reviewer would play the Steve Reich card but this seems in no way minimal.  Sure there’s not much in terms of shifting sonic content but the arrangement and variety of dryness verses simple clattering brass is filling my soft head with little tinkles like I done an ASMR youtube marathon.

The pulse never changes…but just when I think “I’m about to leave my earthly body, swooped to heaven with winged heels…” a series of thin ringing tones guides my soul back into this slumped form on a silver wire.

I’m a cotton-mouth shaman!

The contrast of ‘Utsara – Utsara’ couldn’t be more pronounced.  Double-deep floor-tom beats in half-time with a sultry resonance.  It sounds human-played with deft smears and deep-red ringing.

Imagine your favourite gamelan record slowed down and ironed out to a single fragrant strike repeated over and over again while something lurks behind the mix hissing and spitting.

This is the music of waiting for bad things to happen and listening is an uneasy, spiritually distant experience – there is no euphoria in the repetition – just slowly creeping dread like the crops failed and goat milk has gone sour.  Why’s everyone looking at me?

I’m a cowering villager!

yearning kru

Yearning Kru – Swumpengelf (Mantile Records) tape and download

What the Dickens tape-mulch that sounds like a super-high-gloss production being ruined by an unexpected plutonium pulse and scrambled forever.

This tape is such a delight because of it’s extremely twisted DNA.  No sound is left unmolested for a moment – each digital bang or gritty slump is smothered in maximal oddness, then wrung out, then laid out on another freakish griddle.

I’ll try to make sense of it for you but I fear I’m too old…

  • Swooshing, the colour of Vogue Magazine – all fleshy beige (Canisters in the Marsh). A three-part structure is implied but never enforced: smeared samples, a clock ticks backwards drips behind, smashed glassy tinkles blink.
  • Unpleasant whalloping (Gulping Boulders) and dropped iron vases. Corn toes throb.
  • Beamed direct from Hell (Nightbrightener) as Dante attempts to sing his way out over a barrage of malfunctioning bass machines and melting RAM.
  • One recognisable mbira is a brief oasis (Tattoo (Petrol)) until my bratty breath is looped (The Address) like no human mouth could ever, ever, ever…it ends in desperate scratchin’.
  • This is no conventional medley (U Neva Glissend) but a hint of Sunday School organ gone random while the bad kids glitch and moan in the pews.

[Ed’s not: despite the computer-led approach, Cronx’ Yearning Kru leads directly to Hull’s Yol on my why-aye-player and the segue into gritty, real demolition sounds perfect – hey people – let’s make it happen!]

Fans of Guttersnipe and Autechre form a queue please…

front and follow

Sophie Cooper & Julian Bradley – The Blow Volume 3 (Front & Follow) tape and digital album

RFM’s very own Sophie Cooper and his Excellency the Julian Bradley have been creating soft bubbles of weirdness for many years ploughing fuxxed-electronics, vocal grease and guitar-moff in a variety of solo trips, swift duos and long-lived freakbands.  Pledging their troth to the way-out they formed The Slowest Lift (check press for details) but on this fayre tape they play under their own names.  No less sloe! No less lifting!!

OK…that’s the scene set.  What you’ve got here is two sides of ferric huss that runs the gamut from ‘thundering whale barnacles’ to ‘cardamom fueled intoxication.’  The controls are jammed into the red from the off with maximum distortion, reverb and delay of a type so strong it begins to punch through the fog that obscures the river bank that I’m squatting beside.

Details?

Tracks like ‘Wish Me to Forget You’ a gruff-electronic-folk-sonnet wonders what became of the hangman’s beautiful daughter.  ‘The Body’ considers the mysteries of the fallow field.  Full of shuddering wormy detail and slowly rejuvenating with essential nitrates!

Super-slow and re-imagined ‘Greenhead’ is as catchy as Under Mi Sleng Teng and fair forms a crust with them steel-pan clonks that count it out…5,4,3,2,1.

The three-part movements of ‘Nowhere from the Water to Go’ starts with (1) misty-eyed spirals of multiple guitars picked in the spirit of Portugal’s Manuel Mota – rugged plucking looped over thumbs like cat’s cradle – until (2) all sin is washed clean with thick, bassy waves of caustic tone spitting like a red-hot poker plunged into rough cider.  The coda (3) haunts in its brevity – a pickled pepper of all that’s gone before.

Up-to-the-minute tape-scroll and scratch-jaxx infects the short neighbours ‘My Muscles’ and ‘The Mirror’.  The former a black-dark fustering of synth-tones, dragged copse and dislocated voice the later a bona performance of séance gymnastics.  Lo!

The spookiest of the bunch, ‘Congratulations,’ showcases floating twin vocals becoming an almost-ghost.  No doubt a terrible tale is being told over a tune as loose as a Bardo Pond jam from way back.

Seriously delightful, yet quivering with restraint.  Sort of like sweeping an experienced hand over the powerful flanks of a gelding.

birchall etc

Sam Andreae/David Birchall/Otto Willberg – Hair in the Chimney (Heavy Petting/Vernacular Recordings) CD

Ecstatic three-way improv shunting with many fingers.

That idea of complex gets a bad rap eh?  In a world where simplification and convenience are sleepwalking us into some sort of human stasis we often shove anything difficult or involved on to tomorrows ‘to-do’ list.

Those real-gone physics-beards have got the right idea though.  They claim even the thorniest, knottiest equation can be beautiful.  A problem so complex so wide and deep and long that most of us mere mortals can’t even understand the damn question gets wrapped up and buffed into a solution all brief and balanced  – achieving beauty.

So along with the Prof Yaffles: Sam Andreae/David Birchall/Otto Willburg invite us to smudge their chalky equation with our fresh ears.

Hair in the Chimney is an ultra-complex, lovingly-layered and nuanced peak into a virtually infinite system of sax, guitar and double bass techniques.

Don’t get your Zappa out! These techniques are a million miles from prog’s privileged meanderings (and for that matter refreshingly free of improv cliché) and almost telepathic as any squeak, belch or ‘boing’ travels from sax to guitar to bass in a second.

There’s three lengthy pieces here, long enough to get dug in and explore an ever changing landscape of some new improv patois.  The textures move from brittle and broken to bulbous and ripe over the course on each imagination.

And though you might expect that with two string-bringers there’s an overreliance on pluck.  Not so! The guitar and bass are as happy to hum and wobble as the sax is evidently delighted to quietly pop from time to time.

Of course it’s not all about speed and mimicry. The sympathetic support of each instrument and player is super-palpable as each voice is selfless enough to bring out the best in each other.  Be that a slow dripping, almost Sonic Youth-style, electric gamelan or a razor-sharp ladder of tones, each essential to the overall sculpture.

Floats as easy as lubricated conversation.

kay hill

Kay Hill – ANARAK (Invisible City Records) C20 tape and digital download

A welcome return from Ben Hallatt.  A fine player who first ruffled my feathers a coupla years back at the glorious Crater Lake festival –  then proceeded to gently massage my shoulders, taking great care to conceal a syringe of potent sedative that could be plunged into my neck when least expected via a slew of marvelous releases.

Here under the Kay Hill moniker he continues with what I previously described as eerie-urban-horror with muted synth and tape work.

On the mysteriously illusive ‘ANARAK’ (no info save from the artist and title) Ben offers two sides of insistent minimalism that flick with cold urgency like Morse code distress signals. The stately and austere construction of these pieces nudges Ben further away from the noise-dingus camp into a zone of bespectacled academia and ultra-minimal electronics with the implied threat of early Wolf Eyes/American Tapes/Hanson releases.

I guess the rotating orbs we hear are reels of analogue tape floating with thudding rhythms that are offset by smears of static gristle and clunk. Ben constructs his tracks like a plate spinning exercise of noises, his timing and flair for adding and subtracting sounds at the right time is impeccable. (Luke Vollar)

kay hill summit tapes

Kay Hill – Summit Tapes pt 2 (Strange Rules) C20 and digital download

‘Summit Tapes pt 2’ continues the engrossing drama with high lonesome tones smooshed with low key grunk and fleck.

The forlorn, barely-there conclusion of the first side sounds, for all the world, like the slow journey through an underground cave-river to an unknown conclusion.  A dim light illuminating the craggy rock and the knowledge that you may well be facing the end alone.

The subtle and eerie unraveling of the second side has a slow and steady whistle rising like Doctor Octopus’ steely tentacles within a claustrophobic vortex . I keep going back to horror as a comparison but it does seem appropriate with Kay Hill as he has a gift for building tension and dread that, like the best horror films, focuses on the drawn-out suspense and fear – not the grisly climax.

So it’s fitting that there is no grisly climax to be found on either of these Hill tapes; and as the muted keys whir and crunch, half remembered voices play out ‘side b’ like a waterlogged fifth-generation tangerine cassette.

I am again extremely impressed. (Luke Vollar)

 

Mappa Editions

Mantile Records

Front & Follow

Heavy Petting / Vernacular Recordings

Invisible City Records

Strange Rules

-ooOoo-

your face and the concrete: luke vollar on benjamin hallatt

June 25, 2015 at 3:43 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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S C K E – Disclosure (tape, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 50)

Kay Hill – TESSELLATION A/B (tape, Strange Rules, RULE-087, edition of 36 or download via ANTI)

Kay Hill – IN-GRAIN (2 x tape or download, ANTI, ANTI004)

Kay Hill – Cold Title (CD-r or download, ANTI, ANTI003)

in-grain tape b

Some background: I first came across Ben Hallatt at the wonderful Crater Lake festival.  Completely oblivious to the man, I wandered into his set, ale in hand, to be immediately engulfed in a living breathing sound. There was Ben stood on stage looking at his reel to reel machine. It felt like there must’ve been some fancy pants sound system set up, as the sounds seemed to throb out of every corner of the room. From the machine came a depth of obsolete sepia loveliness like so many layers of rust that was, to my ears at least, beautiful. I found myself a corner and sat with a sloppy grin on my face for the remainder of the performance. It was a fantastic day but Ben’s set really stood out for me and I didn’t hesitate to seek out what I could online. My delight was completed when Ben hit up a RFM comrade for my details so as to send me some more goods [Editor’s note: see, it pays to write for RFM – albeit not in money, of course].

scke disclosure

S C K E – Disclosure

Whilst the label, hairdryer excommunication, advises…

…this is certainly one to be enjoyed alone in a dimly lit room, possibly with a scotch based cocktail for company…

…I have opted for a wheat beer.  Analogue synth action on this tape – only the kind of ‘action’ you’d expect from a snail on valium. Eerie whirring and rising hiss make for spooked late night listening, the kinda tape to jam in your car whilst driving around the city at night, occasionally stopping to stare with malevolent intent, only half your mug illluminated. There is an obsessive attention to detail that can chill the bones of yer. Much as Hungarian film maker Bella Tarr can bring mundane details into woozy focus with oblique, deadly slow panning so does Ben with sound, like some kind of understated urban horror. The blinking indicator on a ruined car on it’s side, illuminated with orange light, the wind screen wipers thudding with the steady drizzle. This isn’t waterfalls and oceans, man: this is your face and the concrete.

tessellation

Kay Hill – TESSELLATION A/B

We’re onto the Kay Hill moniker next and I’m happy to report that the accident wasn’t fatal. While severely battered and bruised, with time and expert care a full recovery is guaranteed. Dunno how long I’ve been out for but the staff in this place seem to literally glide by with cool efficiency, their smiles and willingness to help unfaltering and unending. It’s not like any hospital I’ve ever been in. The calm and the pristine comfort of the place makes me want to stay here forever. As I lie here a cylindrical object is placed next to me and attached to my arm. The chambers within the cylinder rise, fall and turn, radiating a blue glow that seems to throb in time with my pulse. I feel… epic.

in-grain tape a

Kay Hill – IN-GRAIN

Peering into the granular gruel of Tape B of the two tape set IN-GRAIN (that’s right I put B on first, is that a problem?) I see the last flicker of a cobwebbed analogue television, a loop of rusted audio degraded beyond repair.  Further evidence of singing junk on the flip as cardboard boxes are fed through the serrated teeth of a reel to reel machine. Ben nudges up the malevolent intent with sinister bumps and hissing in the background, like a silky New Blockaders. The noises merge into a grey/green river of sludge.

This bloody minded minimalism is maintained on Tape A, the hum of the machine pushed to the forefront whilst scudding tape noise sounds from the bottom of a well. A more varied palette on the flip. The bumps and coarse granulated morass made lighter with singing feedback cutting through the murky waters like a torch.

cold title

Kay Hill – Cold Title

The final piece of the puzzle – another set of tracks that maintain a fascinating and hypnotic aura with the rudimentary equipment used. Like peering through a grimy window trying to figure out the shapes inside, the first track rouses a curiosity and then a cold sweat as it becomes apparent that those shapes are human. Further on and we’re atop a grey scrub of featureless land whilst an industrial Mecca several miles away hums relentlessly.  Exposed vegetation produces subdued cracks and pops as it is played by the wind. Longer tracks are broken up with very short fizzles of gloop as if briefly nudged into life before dying back abruptly.

This is music of quiet intent, and understated brilliance. Less is most definitely more. And more. And more

—ooOoo—

S K C E on hairdryer excommunication

Kay Hill / ANTI

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