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: dante's ashtray, distraction records, faniel dord, jazzfinger, joe murray, quagga curious sounds, shareholder, stuart chalmers, yol
Faniel Dord – The Curse Of The Dripping Jaw (CD-r or download, Dante’s Ashtray)
Shareholder – Five Mile Throwdowns (self-released tape or download)
Stuart Chalmers / Yol – Junk Seance (CD-r & collage in decorated envelope, Quagga Curious Sounds, QCS_090, edition of 30)
Jazzfinger – Beachy Head / Moroccan Car Park (D. Harwood Remix) (7″ vinyl in screenprinted cover, Distraction Records, DIST23, edition of 100)
…and here’s another thing. Cock-punks talk about ‘meaning it’ but the NA-U are well used to full-immersion in their practice. No-one dials this shit in. You’re either totally committed or you may as well settle back to watch Oranges Are Not The Only New Black. Or something.
Here are four examples of total commitment. Are you sitting uncomfortably?
Faniel Dord – The Curse Of The Dripping Jaw
Faniel Dord kills the song, deletes the long-form drone and brings back the radio play with his utterly bonkers, psychedelic horror noir – THE CURSE OF THE DRIPPING JAW.
It’s a story as old as storytelling itself; the mortal narrator lifts the veil between the two worlds, receives an ancient and evil wisdom and is then cruelly punished for his trouble. The gods are such dicks yeah?
It’s totally base, crude and infantile, as Dord swoops through a cast of barely comprehensible characters each revealing a grim (and usually dripping) secret.
So far, so Spike Milligan, but what sets Dord firmly in the wonk-camp is his eccentric timing and ‘rude kid’ narrative. Voices speak over each other, interrupt, argue and go off onto muttered tangents. They lose their script and adopt different accents mid-sentence. These characters are not so much unreliable as actively confusing and devilishly impish.
And like all good radio plays the incidentals lend an extra layer of gosh. This being a Faniel-joint, fings get rambunctious and frenzied quickly; the foley work stands proud but with deranged intention, like planting a fresh turd in a gravy boat. The musical numbers have a twist of the Alan Bishop about them as the spaghetti-western-meets-his-Uncle-Jim vibe informs a couple of tunes or even the warbling of (deep breath) Wings!
If you’re looking for the perfect antidote to po-faced rumble and plinks dial ‘F’ for Faniel and get in touch with your inner-Rawlinson (NSFW).
Shareholder – Five Mile Throwdowns
BRONTOSAURUS-MONOLITH- QUIT -MUSIC FROM THE VERY EXCELLENT SHAREHOLDER LURCHES OUTTA MY ‘PHONES TODAY. TREACLE-THICK AND HOT-SWADDLED IN 50,000 TONNES OF FUZZ AND DISTORTION. Q:SOUNDSLIKE? A BLACK WREATH OF A VOICE OFFERS DARK CRITIQUE WITH A POET’S EYE. SUPER-HEAVY, WITH SERIOUS DAMAGE INTENDED, TWIN GUITARS MAY MOAN, MAY ROAR, MAY MAJESTICALLY IMPLODE – AT ODDS WITH THE WORLD AND AS QUICK AS PLUCKING A DUCK. THE TRAP SET LAYS BURIED DEEP, DEEP, DEEP THEN HOPS FULL-FRONTAL CRASHING AS FLINT ON STEEL (WITH ALL THE IMAGINED SPARKS). MEAT TENDERISER BLUSTER MIXED WITH THE DRUNKS WITH GUNS DEDICATION TO PURE THUDDING REPETITION. SAY IT ONCE, SAY IT AGAIN, KEEP ON SAYING IT. MOMENTS OF RESPITE ARE SLIM BUT OFFER SOME COLD COMFORT: HUGE CHUNKS OF IT IS MORNING ARE SPECTRAL AND SPIDER-LIKE, MORPHING INTO A GAMELAN CHIMING – A LEAKING BEAUTY. AN UNEXPECTED MADNESS DELIVERS AN ACCUSATION,
IT’S ALL BECAUSE OF YOU
MAKING STRANGE BEDFELLOWS WITH COLD HOURS, A GENUINE CREEPY FOOLER (GLAD I CAN’T UNDERSTAND A WORD). WHEN A ROUGE BASS NOTE NOSES IN, ALL PINK AND AQUIVER, I WONDER
CAN YOU BE BOTH MATTER-OF-FACT AND IMPASSIONED?
THE SURLY/CONFIDENT DREAMLIKE IS ANTHEMIC TO THE POINT OF FINDING OUT WHERE JIM KERR LIVES, RINGING THE BELL AND THEN KICKING HIM RIGHT IN THE NUTS. SHAREHOLDER – ALWAYS FILLING ARENAS.
Stuart Chalmers / Yol – Junk Seance
An almost indescribably excellent collaboration from the King of the Loops and the Master of Kinetic Poetry.
The frantic pace and electricity of opener ‘World on Fire’ shakes my varmints like Kid 606 did back in the day when it was acceptable to wear Hi-Tops. It’s a hyper-real explosion fizzing with extra-strength gristle taking Yol’s scorched-earth screams and Stuart’s Dictaphone frot into strange new territories.
A stunning symbiosis starts to take place. I’ve always been fascinated by the politics of collaborations; who gives and who takes, where the total becomes more than the sum of its parts, how compromise can open up new avenues of grot. And here you have two artists seriously leaning-in to each other; the methods start to bind in a ferric DNA with the hoarse throat and metallic tinkle meshing perfectly with the sophisticated Dictaphonics. Check out the liquid tape-scree (sodium burning bright) and desperate industrial voodoo cures [Editor’s note: typo for ‘curses’? Don’t care – I’m leaving it in.] of shattered lung on Rusty Rats.
Did you? Recovered yet?
And those moments just keep coming and coming; ‘Pop Eats Itself’ and ‘Secret EVP Door’ [Editor’s note: my favourite track, astounding] crackle and fizz like blistering paint. The sound bubbles up with malevolence, rippling and roaring with an evil turpentine stink. Small moments catch my magpie eyes… is that Leonard Cohen, a castanet, a dropped coin? Has Yol keeled over and fainted? Why can’t I feel my toes?
Closer ‘Best Shot’ is like a peak into a fantasy dimension. Puppet-master Stuart controls a rogue Yol and pits him against the real thing using the in-built slurring qualities of the Dictaphone to mimic and provoke. It’s a pointed statement, with added whirr… the muscular text smudged into granular sound poetry.
Jazzfinger – Beachy Head / Moroccan Car Park (D. Harwood Remix)
Jazzfinger drill deep into the earth on ‘Beachy Head’. Smudged groans overlap each other like large terracotta tiles. The high-tension pings pepper things up. A forever-murk of old tape gunk, air-to-air recording techniques and telepathic improvisation grease the wheels in ways only Jazzfinger can.
As ever, listening to a Jazzfinger jam, equal and conflicting forces tear at your brain; the urge to submit and go under, drown in the pregnant fullness or treat this with an archaeological bent and carefully sift through the multiple layers, up to the armpits in rubble and soft red dust.
As reviewer I had to flick between approaches to bring you back this missive and found myself spending hours, possibly days putting the needle on and off, on and off, never quite sure if it was night or day, making astral travel a distinct possibility.
The flipside,’Moroccan Car Park’, is an eccentric remix, bold in terms of scope that shimmers from barely-there gossamer tones to full-on horn blasts perfectly echoing the ‘whale talk’ vibe of side A.
With such rich material to work with D Harwood is wise to craft a self-standing structure, distinctly recognisable as Jazzfinger, yet strangely unfamiliar and distant. This wonderful blend swirls like pungent spice or choking incense, filling the room with deep memory.
Packaging detail: This seven-incher comes in a deluxe package… an eccentric fold out sleeve that nestles the precious wax like a lotus flower. The dark image is, essentially, blacker than black with a delicious tackiness [Editor’s note: presumably Joe means ‘to the touch’, not ‘cheesiness of design’] and sulphur whiff. Includes download code too for the ultimate customer service experience.
a quivering lake of iron: joe murray in the invisible city: stuart chalmers, yes blythe, black threadJuly 6, 2016 at 12:00 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: black thread, invisible city records, joe murray, stuart chalmers, yes blythe
Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks Vol. 5 (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR22, edition of 50 or download)
Yes Blythe – Arieto (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR21, edition of 50 or download)
Black Thread – Seeping Pitch (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR20, edition of 50 or download)
Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks Vol. 5
The King of the Loops is back with another instalment of his magical Imaginary Musicks collection. Whilst recent Chalmers releases have been brimming with that space-age bachelor-pad sparkle this tape delves into a fascinating pop direction, making me think about folk like Talk Talk and The Associates for the first time in a decade.
What I liked at the time about those mid-80’s chin-strokers was they brought clever (but rarely clever-clever) themes and textures into a mighty pop tune; combining pre-millennial angst and longing with something the milkman could whistle. No mean feat, eh?
And Mr S Chalmers is bringing this high-concept dance-ability back to my cheap-o stereo with little more than the contents of a reusable canvas shopping bag: 3 cassette tapes, pedals, synth and Tascam 4 track.
But don’t get the idea that this is in any way lightweight. Check out the goat-herder playing solo Dicta-mung on ‘Brute’; the beasts chew contentedly, deconstructing an orchestra around a close-miked baritone sax. Or that nagging, insistent lop-sided beat that’s half Wu Tang and half Lewis Taylor’s ‘Bittersweet’ named ‘Harbinger’. Side one closes with ‘Warped’ (yeah… that title just had to happen) as a clutch of classical guitar notes get dragged back and forward across the tape head whipping up a quivering lake of iron.
Weepy piano tones shimmer all over ‘Nightscape’, whipping out a Kenny G for a couple of mordant moments that almost suggests Stuart is a fretless bass solo away from an ECM recording contract!
We dig deeper still on ‘Gothic’ (a padded envelope of volatile lady-squeal to be held in ginger paws) and ‘Psychosis’ (radio waves dotted with gritty human endeavour – a history of the world in realtime) to end on the heavy-tape heavyweight ‘Vista’ a masterclass of pregnant pause and elegant New Age smear.
The stoner pace and 3D sound mushrooms make side two as heady as an illicit joss-stick burning down to its thread core in my teenage bedroom.
OK you crossword fans. Take the ‘U’ out of Stuart and you are left with a START! Action is calling. Put down that greasy pencil and dial up some Chalmers therapy.
Yes Blythe – Arieto
Listening to Yes Blythe; sight unseen, un-googled and without any background braindumps I’m inclined to place them in the Northern European tradition of Scandinavian analogue throb.
The pulsating synth/electronics are pensive antiques and wheeze with an ääkköset limp. It’s clean and pure as wood-panelled sauna-life followed by a snowy thrashing with birch branches.
But of course, I’m wrong, wrong, wrong. Hailing from damp Manchester Callum Higgins seems to be Yes Blythe in its foggy entirety and here he presents two side-long pieces that play with space and time.
‘Tonal’ (side one) is pretty skunked-out, man; like the heaving of a giant’s shoulders as he chokes down a massive bong hit. The vibrations extend out beyond the body and infect the detritus of the afternoon: the table a riot of glasses, cassettes leaping free from their cases, glossy magazines splayed on the sofa, half-read, paper legs akimbo.
Slight and delicate clicks keep a lazy time, stretching and contracting, across the occasional soft shudder from a groaning brass gong. Smoke forms a flexible membrane that hangs across the room at chest height, the sun picks out one thousand motes, an everyday miracle revealed.
‘Tønal’ (side two) takes two notes snipped from the ghost of a Rhodes piano and plays them back into a busy restaurant. Diners dine as cutlery clicks pepper the mix and conversation links the condiments. Oil and bread rattle, eyes meet and there is a pause… hearts interlock.
The night progresses and the twin notes slowly bounce off each other with no diners to observe. The sound plays for its own amusement as bodies twist in the sheets.
Minimal psychedelic? Oh Yes Blythe!
Black Thread – Seeping Pitch
Just a thought…
For many N-AUndergrounders the release you hold in your hand and wrap your ears round is often the result of months of work and years of practice. But despite the hours that go into that tape, CD-R or download it is rarely a final statement.
In fact one of the key signifiers of N-AU activity is the restless work-in-progress nature of what we do. Those tapes just keep on coming. And why? Because there is more to uncover, more to explore…the individual idea seam may be heavily mined but the practice is part of the work; the work becomes the practice.
Black Thread, another new name on me, is unusual in that it feels fully realised and complete; a perfect string of polished beads.
Xangellix strides into the back room of a Working Man’s Club (Spennymoor circa 1987).
He throws his cape to one side and sits regally at the club synth. Plump fingers pump the keys releasing grainy wafts of melancholic ‘huhhgghh’.
Drinkers drain pints and slow light breaks through the grimy window. Sound wraps like a shroud around the disassembled crowd.
It’s like layers of electronic silt being deposited on the sea bed
one drinker squawks guiltily as he nurses his half of Peculiar Brew.
Another lifts his cap and hisses through teethless gums,
Foddle! I’m picturing gases rolling and churning through a clay pipe. They fill each cavity with the sound of damp longing. It’s fair set off my shrapnel ache here,
and he points a withered finger at his thigh.
Whippets moan in their sleep. It sounds like they whisper
through their narrow jaws as Xangellix plays on.
Boards of Canada lurk outside with a Dicta lifting new sound-cobbles for their witchy releases. The cads!
The Meat Raffle sweats in the corner wrapped in bleeding cellophane. As the final powerful chords fade into the mould-scented mist Xangellix notices the red stain on the lino.
he offers as a commentary and strides out, an engagement at The Top Hat beckons.
employees of the month: joe murray on hardworking families, jon seagroatt and ian staples with bobbie watson, stuart chalmers, ramleh, robert ridley-shackletonDecember 19, 2015 at 10:23 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
Tags: bobbie watson, cardboard club, don't drone alone, format supremacy, future vinyl, hardworking families, ian staples, joe murray, jon seagroatt, must die records, ono, ramleh, robert ridley-shackleton, stuart chalmers
Hardworking Families – Worse than a Stranger (tape, don’t drone alone, edition of 50 or download)
jon seagroatt ian staples with bobbie watson – deathless (CD, Future Vinyl, CD1501 or download)
Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No.1 (CD-r, Must Die Records, edition of 50 or download)
Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No.2 (CD-r in fold-out sleeve, Ono, edition of 50 or download)
Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No. 3 (Preview) (self-released download)
Ramleh – Welcome/Pristine Womankind (7″ vinyl, Format Supremacy)
Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP (7″ vinyl, Cardboard Club, edition of 100)
Hardworking Families – Worse than a Stranger
My most favouritely-named artist in the No-Audience Underground offers us a tape woven like a friendship bracelet. This time the grubby threads are replaced with electric-pylon-hum and carbon-monoxide-alarm-shriek, backed with sparse bristling gristle. It moves like folded towels; the texture flexes and changes under stress.
‘Bryantwood Road, Washington Street’ swells with double intensity in places then turns back on itself, revelling in its own knock-kneed skinniness. Serious knob-twiddling releases the kind of low bass throb that gives your tin-pot dictator a wet dream as they disperse an angry mob. But the icing on this beefy cake is the see-saw panning of a single sickly tone that wraps itself, like a possessive lover, round your brain stem in three dimensions.
Side two introduces us to the ‘Pasternoster’ an augmented field recording made in some brutalist concrete nightmare – it’s pretty darn cavernous! Rubberised breadsticks get rattled in a quiver as assembled umpires discuss furniture polish (quietly). The sweet swish of Air Max on a dusty floor makes dry circles in my ear buds while some joker miked up the fire escape. And, to add a point of detail, these recordings are reconstructed without electronic condiments, they are never rushed or fudge-sticky.
The dull thud of capitalism is gradually tuned out… but not before Hardworking Families is decorated as employee of the month.
jon seagroatt ian staples with bobbie watson – deathless
We’ve got used to imaginary soundtracks for films; so what about a record of a book? Jon Seagroatt, Ian Staples and Bobbie Watson must have bloody loved Steven Sherill’s 2004 novel The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break because they’ve based their immaculate playing ’round its 313 leathery pages.
Jon and Ian play a particular flavour of experimental music that’s as charming as the soft ‘plonk’ of a well-lobbed shuttlecock. It’s sparse and serene with a gritty undercurrent of processed drones/electronics over a keening flute (and probably other woodwind family members).
In parts it’s as English as teabags and disappointing caravan holidays, but there’s something that keeps me thinking of the Rune Grammofon back catalogue with its clear sound and chilly cadence.
The croaky swell of hot breath pushed through copper pipes nestles well with the shimmering slide guitar and post-production twiddling. Bobbie’s minimal vocals (there’s only a couple of minutes worth on the whole disc) are kept back as a secret weapon and hauntingly warped like silvery raindrops. It’s a very classy listen.
But what’s going to make you uncles and aunties sit up and click on the links is the connections this band are mixed up in. Check this out: the dark-folk of Comus, spooky beards Current 93, power-improv legends Red Square and, strangest of all The Temple City Kazoo Orchestra? These folk were no-audience before many of us were born.
Sit up straight, turn off that god damn phone and listen to this in flickering candlelight.
Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No. 1, Loop Phantasy No. 2, Loop Phantasy No. 3 (Preview)
Ya’ll know I steer clear of the dreaded hyperbole. I’m not one of those ‘BEST BAND EVER’, ‘THIS SHIT CHANGED MY LIFE’, ‘I WAS BLIND AND NOW I CAN SEE’ kinda zine-writers (Ed – feel free to add sarcastic comment here) [Editor’s note: I’m saying nowt].
But this time I throw my regular Northern caution and cynicism out the window and claim these three recordings THE MOST IMPORTANT SALVAGED TAPE LOOP RECORDINGS EVER YEAH.
I hear you ask.
I answer with a calm, clear voice.
Like in the whole 100 year history of recorded music?
even including the oft- mentioned high- water mark of looping Tom Recchion’s Chaotica?
You add. I merely smile and press play on the device of your choice.
You must listen, you must listen to truly understand
I chant with glassy eyes.
Anyway… fuck yeah! That’s what I’m saying. If you want to know where looping is right now in 2015/2016: PLAY THESE RECORDS. If you are looking for an instructional map of what’s possible with simple tape loops, a couple of pedals and some hot ears: PLAY THESE RECORDS. If you want to open up that valve in your stomach that helps you release gaseous tension: PLAY THESE RECORDS.
From the Stone Age goof with lovely sounding rocks to James Brown’s well-drilled fonk to Larry Levan’s sweaty yoga-stretch to Prince Paul’s magpie fingers we all love a loop. The act of repetition does something to that brain/body connection. We smile, we twitch… we bust a fucking move. And with that repetition comes the delicious recognition of the eventual slip, the change, the move out of the established pattern that leaves us all grinning at our cleverness – we spotted it first! We picked up on that micro-change that slid away from the beat like a rubber Mungo Jerry.
You want examples? Hard data yeah? Take ‘Loop Phase 4’ on Loop Phantasy No. 1. A single xylophone reverberation and gated piano-hammer strike, plays with a gentle jarring. It starts to overlap. It returns on itself and sets up an internal rhythm and logic cell that mutates gently over four sweet minutes. A final few seconds of digital crunchiness brings us to a shuddering climax.
And while …No. 1 and …No. 2 are definitely more swoony and dreamy …No. 3 employs the kind of up-tight funk cut-up David Byrne dreams of in his SoHo loft space. What’s that? More evidence? OK… slurp this up: ‘Pop Plunder 20‘ is equal parts Van Jackson/Dicta-frottage and wonky thumb. Jeepers.
Students of tape culture – your set-text has arrived. Screw in those earbuds and get seriously twisted.
Ramleh – Welcome/Pristine Womankind
This is real treasure! A box of stash from 1994 has been recently opened up for the N-A U. Naughty noiseniks Ramleh are in full-on thug-rock mode here with a guitar, bass, drums and electronics line-up shattering the song format by being so astoundingly belligerent.
‘Welcome’ is a one-riff-then-lurch-into-electronic-breakdown sort of thing. The twin guitars are bone-crushingly heavy and swing dangerously like a bowling ball rocking about in a wet cardboard box. The cymbal crashes are worthy of a separate mention as they sizzle like Bonzo walloped them with his heavy oaks. The overall sound is pretty bloody angry… pissed wasps taped into an empty jam jar. It’s buzzing.
On the flip ‘Pristine Womanhood’ is even more exposed and unconstructed. It starts and ends with a menacing closing-time choir howling something threatening. In between this terrace chant the electronics shift up a gear to give Theremin-style whoops over duelling twin-guitars; less Judas Priest and more Deliverance decamped to damp, dirty Cumbria.
But how do you get a copy of this heavy, heavy slab? Although the Format Supremacy label is now pretty much defunct, sending a reasonable £4 in the UK (inc postage) or £7 for anywhere else in the world (inc postage) via Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org will secure a fresh copy of this oily sump-jam.
Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self Titled EP
The singular Mr Ridley-Shackleton takes his trademark scuff-jizz and lays it on some hot wax, man. I’m totally delighted to say that the gritty Dictaphone feel is in full effect with no attempt made to clean up this shit for the fussy pants vinyl crowd. Some people are forever cassette souls.
I’ve spoken before about the RR-S ‘pocket jazz’ sound and this is still evident in big fucking lumps. But in his duffle coat he’s sneaked in a Hall & Oates that play fragging keyboards and warm-whumping beats. The delivery, classic RR-S; part polite hip-hop MC/part loose-soul-maverick, makes me think of Guru Gwilly Edmondez and imagine what a dream duo these two would make.
It’s time to Kross up the Kriss, Kriss up the Kross
Oh baby! Hold me
leak out slowly like mercury from a fractured thermometer.
Over the five tracks the texture gradually moves from limp AM radio jam to stiff grogram shuffle. By the time we get to ‘No Grey Area’, this seven-inch-closer, minute hairs are a riffled burr on the bright tape. They bristle like magnets.
Your generous ears will no doubt latch onto the construction and form here. I know it’s going to sound like highfalutin crit-jizz but RR-S sculpts his music; building things, not so much in blocks but in the thin layers he uses in his postal art. This thin layer becomes a second skin, a grimy bandage on your wrist, spare ends flapping in the wind.
Where can you pick this hep-platter up? Try the unstoppable Cardboard Club blog for £4 of direct action.
– on Must Die Records
– on Ono
Tags: anla courtis, hairdryer excommunication, luke vollar, stuart chalmers, yogoh record
Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks 3/4 (CD-r, hairdryer excommunication, edition of 30 or download)
Anla Courtis – B-Rain Folklore (CD, Yogoh Record, YGH004)
Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks 3/4
First off big apologies to Stuart for the delay in getting this review done: house move, kids, work – aghh – but enough of my lame excuses. It’s not that I haven’t listened to it, on the contrary it’s been an exemplary soundtrack to work a number of times and by God it’s made the trees greener and the sky a darker, more cosmic hue, as if the heavens are about to part to reveal the belly of a gargantuan space craft.
Previous instalments of Stuart’s music have left me slack jawed and this is no different.
So what, like, instruments does he use?
…you ask innocently enough…
The freaking world, man!!
I respond. Like a fine gourmet chef, Stuart selects sound morsels (via mouse click, or from his collection of strange instruments and whatnot) and cooks up an exquisite gumbo. We have string pluck, ghost breath, buried voices of the dead, machinery learning its language, gamelan on silver bubbles, whale bone pipes, gongs from undersea temples and the recorded rituals of the aquatic humanoid beings who use them. What’s remarkable is how uncluttered the disc sounds considering the amount of ingredients thrown into the pot. Take ‘Moonlight through trees’ a meditation for piano and tape scree as eerie as it is gorgeous. In ‘Requiem’ we get to hear Deckard from Blade Runner listening to a banal English sports quiz while making his way across the skyline, the slooowed synth gloop highlighting the inherent sadness of existence once the earth is on its final orbit.
On the final track, ‘Memory’, there is a muted recording of what sounds like an intimate gathering with fireworks popping and lots of oohs and aahs . The muffled organ tones that accompany this make it almost unbearably affecting.
While I normally wince at the phrase ‘experimental music’ it strikes me that this may be the best description for Stuart’s work. There is a restless drive to cover new ground or to go deeper into sound, never dry or academic but lush, wide-eyed and full of joy, pathos and awe. Just incredible.
Anla Courtis – B-Rain Folklore
A new disc by ultra-prolific, pint-sized Argentine Anla Courtis [Editor’s note: recorded 2005-2008, mixed 2009, mastered 2013, released 2014, brought to our attention 2015. Blimey]. This guy has left a vast trail of work in his wake, his travels encompassing numerous solo and collaborative projects. Whether gonzo rock, conceptual wonk or many tentacled improv his only consistency is a restless urge for new sounds, approaches, instruments, people, places, ideas. The true experimental spirit is within him, as with Stuart Chalmers.
The notes accompanying B-rain Folklore list a dizzying array of instruments that were used to create it, many of which I’ve never heard of, which adds to the usual uncertainty as to what to expect from a Courtis record. Happily, this one sees Anla constructing organic tapestries of percussion, string horns and more that seem to rise from the forest floor, offering a herbaceous paw and beckoning you to follow them into the verdant realm. Kinda reminds me of the excellent Finnish group Pavinsade as it has the same earthy smell about it.
Towards the end ‘Isla de Qomo’ sees the deep thrum of an acoustic guitar pattern offset by vibrant smears of light trying to land on its mossy body. Further onto ‘Wuqueltehue’ and we’ve licked the belly of the bright orange frog and are watching the canopy of the forest swirling in concentric loops. The final track is a lovely guitar and violin lullaby played over the humming bustle of a field recording from Anla’s time in Japan. It is a fitting end to an album that seems to rest on your skin like a morning dew and wash all the grime away.
Yogoh Record [Editor’s note: Discogs listing because yogoh.com isn’t working at time of writing]
Tags: claus poulsen, david somló, gold soundz, henry collins, joe murray, lf records, panelak, pascal ansell, sindre bjerga, stuart chalmers
stuart chalmers/henry collins/sindre bjerga/claus poulsen – split (tape, gold soundz, gs#127, edition of 25)
David Somló – Movement (CD mounted on plate with hanger and booklet or download with pdf, self-released)
Panelak – The Om Tragichord (CD-r, LF Records, LF046)
Stuart Chalmers/Henry Collins/Sindre Bjerga/Claus Poulsen
Side one of this groovy wrapped-up tape hosts tape goons and sonic adventurers Stuart Chalmers and Henry Collins. This fine duo give excellent value for money by combining the riotous pop and snap of speed-of-thought tape manipulation with more considered glassy processing. The seven poke-in-the-eye interjections are short (all under 3 mins except the slightly longer ‘tskimdo’) and as fresh and wriggly as a landed rainbow trout.
Things work as a wonderful whole, individual elements constantly forming and deconstructing, but with an overall purpose and flavour. There’s a damp frittering to some of these sounds as they rush like a fleshy thumb over a plastic comb… frrriiiiiiipppppppp! The energetic glitching is fancy like boiling mud; all thick clay-like plops and flubbers. Stuart handles his Dictaphone with aplomb; FFW skipping some guitar improv, the Bailey-esque lurches in volume diving dramatically down a brown worm-hole. A drum loosely appears between the squark and squelch. This reminds me to mail David Sylvian with a pithy comment about his Manafon. The whirling capstans get almost too much to bear until a singular tone calms the magnetic beast. Friends of more relaxed pastimes will tune in to the especially jaxxed ending to this side – clockwork chimes and distorted reverberations making it all nice and irie. Praise Jah!
Side two starts off with a live Sindre joint ‘choking on splinters’ and is a right messed-up tape culture statement. Various soft rock/power ballad tunes are mangled with generous amounts of ironic sauce. The sound then gradually coalesces (like sonic grease pudding) for a road-menders drone section, soon to be replaced by wet slapping and vocal jaxx, stiff hessian ripping, number station melodies and dry-twig crackle.
And things start to get serious. The last few minutes of this set are dramatically violent with poor old tapes getting seriously duffed-up, warped, stretched and fondled so the base-sound becomes thickened and rubbery. Blimey – with no applause to contextualise the sound this naked aggression sounds directed to me personally. Eek!
Claus Poulsen ends the tape with a short Sindremix. With thousands of hours of prime material to choose from Claus must have had quite a job settling down to this. To my mind he’s chosen wisely, concentrating on Sindre’s drone works to come up with a curiously melancholic three minutes of tear-stained swoons and rusty croaks. Beautiful like bruised fruit.
David Somló – Movement
Hungarian guitarist David Somló’s incredible debut album. Strong in concept – it comes with a plate you can hang on the wall and strong in execution – David is a fucking KILLER guitarist, movement is a dusty 27 minute recording that’s positively crackling with tense, nervous energy.
Recorded in the open air things start off with the sloppy-slops of lazy footsteps on leaf litter then launches into an outrageous guitar solo. Very much experimental but encased in desperate, haunting harmonies this takes on board the clear spaciousness of Jon Collins, the rusty twang of Bill Orcutt and the pitted grime of Manuel Mota. Yeah I know comparisons are bullshit but painting an accurate picture of this flapping into my lugs is a tricky one. It’s all over the place. Styles are spun on a penny. My scrawled notes say,
soars and swoops like a swallow skimming over a pond/pensive like Tom Verlaine, edging towards an unknown something/smooth but brittle texture – Hapsburgian in its decay and posture/clouds of notes knot like bees or Loren Connors.
And this pattern is repeated:
· Excellent, beautiful, twisted and shaken guitar solo
· Sudden pause (a shift in the way David is sitting perhaps?) or the crackle of a bonfire, or the twitter of Hungarian birds
· Another excellent, beautiful, twisted and shaken guitar solo.
These solos erupt out of the shimmer of nature only to fall back once all the trills and runs have been had… and they seem so natural and right. Not precise and worked until all the blood is leached but as improvised as a stolen kiss, the late afternoon light bouncing off the tuning pegs as another slick idea is fingered out on the rosewood frets.
Finally – if you are thinking this sounds just a little too guitar hero remember the field recording feel, the cloudy ripple of background voices and feet crunching on gravel that make this feel even more homespun and relaxed. I urge you readers to toast the official guitarist of the Psychedelic Domestic! Hail Somló!
A ‘must have’ for all Hank Marvins.
Panelak – The Om Tragichord
ROAAOOOOORRRR! This is a blisteringly intense record from Pascal Ansell’s Panelak. Back in the old days they called this kind of rich, crunchy noise Computer Music. And while I have no doubt Pascal is using a computer at some point in the process of making his music it would be doing this a disservice to label something so vibrant; so effusive and physical with a non-human tag.
‘Hikikomori’ grinds like Tony Hawk or something; all gritty granular shredding until a daytime TV voice adds a sobering touch. ‘Sarcomere’ is a more thoughtful cousin, standing at the sidelines of the bowl watching the boys show off. She’s thinking up minimal melodies beamed into the ether that charm their way into your skull. Was that a brief snatch of strings there? I’m not sure as the relentless alien squawk has started to recalibrate my hairy ear ‘oles.
The tooth-loosening ‘Quisqualate’ shimmers as separate lines of electric drone, fizzing glitch, squashed cowbell and high-tension guitar string plait themselves together only to unwind slowly leaving you with no handhold or ledge.
It seems unusual to have a title track these days. Are they supposed to be a potted-meat representation of the whole? I dunno man. But, as it happens, ‘The Om Tragichord’ does sum up the approach and aesthetic let loose tonight. Imagine some late 70’s video game (Tennis, Tank Commander, Pong etc) re-routed through a daisy chain of spluttering effects pedals. A giant foot stomps down repeatedly and sets things off in an eccentric order, closing off and opening up signals in a juddering and aggressive manner. Then mirror plate this and listen backwards. You get the picture eh?
Closer ‘BactoGrail’ takes some of that sweet guitar and jams it through my speakers in varying degrees of fuckedness. A Hammond does it shimmy, voices chatter like a mystery radio gone feral. After a time of simple twittering the acoustic keeps things steady while an electric calliope blusters like a wound-up drunk preparing for a fight.
Like the old Queen says:
Thunderbolts and lightning, very, very frightening!
That’s for sure…plugging Panelak into your ears is like waiting for the dark cloud to hurl a killer stroke. Guaranteed to blow your mind – anytime!
Tags: benjamin hallatt, charles dexter ward, crater lake festival, culver, dale cornish, dictaphonics, drone, dylan nyoukis, electronica, evil moisture, improv, jerome smith, joe murray, kay hill, kieron piercy, lee stokoe, live music, luke vollar, marlo eggplant, matching head, mel o'dubhslaine, new music, no audience underground, noise, pete cann, phil todd, posset, psychedelia, rudolf eb.er, shameless self-congratulation, sof, sophie cooper, stephen cornford, stuart chalmers, tapes, vocal improvisation, yol
Whoo, boy – where to start with Crater Lake? Maybe with the simple and declarative: Crater Lake Festival is a day-long celebration of experimental music held annually in March at Wharf Chambers in Leeds and is organised by Pete Cann. Them’s the facts. However, over the four years of its existence it has grown into something over and above a display of the curator’s unimpeachable taste and ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ approach to time keeping: it has become a gathering of the clan. As well as being an unrivalled opportunity to see the risen cream of ‘noise’ (some in combos suggested by Pete himself) perform to a large and appreciative crowd, you also get the equally important social side. Names are put to smiling faces, hand are shaken, warez exchanged, plots hatched – all taking place in a general air of slightly delirious enthusiasm fuelled by the constant flow of decent, fairly-priced alcohol.
This blog is known for a phrase coined as shorthand description of the scene it documents but I am steering clear of that for now. I don’t want to co-opt something that is clearly greater than the sum of its parts and can’t be pigeonholed. I will say this though: when I noticed that Pete had hooked some relatively big fish for the bill, and saw the Arts Council logo had snuck onto the corner of his poster, I asked him how he’d managed to successfully tap ’em for funding. He replied, to my delight, that he’d used my write up of last year’s festival as the blurb for his application and they couldn’t wait to shower him with cash. Despite knowing that the Arts Council has recently taken an almighty bollocking for being Londoncentric and that any application from Winterfell was going to be seriously considered, it was still a very proud moment. There you go, people: this stuff matters. Hang on a second, I seem to have something in my eye…
<sniffs, turns to window, regains composure, harumphs manfully>
OK, a word about the below. Due to family commitments – a visit from my parents to celebrate the second birthday of my son Thomas – I could only attend for the three hours from 8pm to 11pm. To be honest, given the stinking cold I had, that is probably all I could manage anyway. So, having spent the afternoon chasing the kid around Home Farm at Temple Newsam (and marveling at turkeys that looked like monsters from Doctor Who, or an illustration by Ian Watson) I arrived flustered and discombobulated into an already pretty drunken milieu. Suspecting this would be the case I had already tasked the other four RFM staffers attending (alas, Chrissie had to be elsewhere recording an orchestra) with documenting the day so all I had to organize was a group photo.
In the piece that follows the author of the paragraph is indicated in bold like this – Luke: – and interjections about non-musical aspects of the day are (bracketed and in italics). Photographs of the workshop were taken by Sof (using the ‘nice’ camera) and the awesome pictures of the performers were taken by Agata Urbaniak and kindly donated to RFM for use in this piece. I am hugely grateful to her – and to marlo for having the presence of mind to ask – and recommend that you all visit her flickr site too.
Right then, let’s go!
(Joe: Too early! We – one half of the Newcastle delegation – arrive too early at Wharf Chambers. We spot an Evil Moisture prepare for his evil workshop through the crack in the door but take the old army maxim on board – eat when you can – and scoff a scrumptious Persian meal at the place round the corner. A brief sojourn to Leeds market is broken by a call from YOL. We can sound check so I make my way back to base camp. Pete’s relaxed event management skills pay dividends. Everyone knows/does their job. Things tick like Swiss time. The super-patient sound guy balances our 10 second sound check, we nod satisfied with the racket and slope off to meet ace faces Ben Hallatt & Dale Cornish cackling in the Wharf Chambers sun trap.)
Sof: I fought my way through Saturday afternoon Leeds crowds to make it to Wharf Chambers just in time for the Evil Moisture / Andy Bolus Ghost Hunting Detector workshop. We had been instructed to bring along a non-metallic cylindrical object, basic soldering skills and undead ancestors. I’m sure I had the first two with me at least.
We all gathered round a table in the middle of the bar on which we found various items I came to know as ‘cells’, wires and other dangerous looking bits. I’m generally quite scared of electronics (old residual fear of metal work at school no doubt) and so always sign up for activities like this to try and get over this issue. Andy’s approach to the workshop was really relaxed with his main instruction being a hand drawn diagram that he placed in front of 4 of us before letting us get on with it. He was available to answer questions and sort out our various mistakes – great teaching style. This helped to kerb my concerns, I mean, if he could be so chilled holding a wand that can melt metal then why shouldn’t I be too?
There were a lot of confused and frustrated faces around the table during the process but these all turned into massive grins when the detectors finally worked out. It took me nearly 2 hours to attach the cells to a battery and a long wire wrapped around a giant pencil but you know what, it bloody worked. I mean, I’m not sure if the loud squealing noises that were produced from this thing were communications from the other side but when I stuck it into an amp through a bit of reverb at home some use was envisaged. In retrospect I shouldn’t have drank a really strong black coffee during the process because the shaky hands did become a bit of an issue but I got there in the end!
(Joe: While the laboratory is an evil hive of evil activity the wonderful folk of the N-AU turn up, firstly in ones and twos, then huddles, then mobs. I meet Sophie for the first time and gasp in awe at the purple camera she’s sporting so rakishly. The N-AU are prompt, alert and full of relaxed bonhomie. Crater Lake has started!)
Joe: fractured electronics garbled and yarbled straight outta Mel’s mini-mouth – possibly reading out what she was doing (I’m lowering the volume on this tape, I’m adding more reverb on this channel) – via a Dutch translation aid and robot clarinet. The vocal musings were calmly paced, relaxed and with an electronic softening that tickled the tiled floor all nice. Phil Navigations joined in on cyber-Taiko drum to muss things proper towards the end. Ke-tung!
Luke: droll Yorkshire instructions fed through robot vocoder. About five minutes in it dawned on me that I could listen to this quite happily for hours. My mate thought I’d left because Phil turned up and it was in danger of going ‘all musical’ not so: my chalice had run dry.
Joe: (view from the floor) dunno about this, lots of knees and boots, getting awful hot awful quick, Yol clatters…HIT IT!
Boof/~~~scree/HAWKS////zingzingzing/~~II~~:~~BAU~~~~/CLANK. The end.
Cor. That felt good.
Luke: yowser this was fun like visceral high energy free gumph played with the contents of a skip, lots of gurning growling and testifying.
Marlo: the interesting element of this performance is that opposed to some electronic noise acts that seem distanced or detached from actual live performing, these two were very alive, very awake and fully present in a visceral and physical way. Yol, as usual, used his body as his instrument to full capacity. Apparent in his performance were both his sensitivity to environment and his physiological response to Mr. Posset’s intuitive electronic gestures. Both, not shy to show some presence, expressed a reciprocal appreciation of live art.
(Joe: Later… the food comes out full to bursting with Pascal’s grapes… I’m too keyed up to eat but notice it gets a thumbs up from Lee Culver who, no shit readers, is a proper gourmet/baking behemoth. Top Marks.)
Joe: top drawer Dictaphone thumb-nastics from Stuart. The whirr and ‘scree’ of fast forwarding tape was a joy to hear as it bounced from one hand to another; Stuart flinging his luscious black locks like a metalhead and shaking like a nervous cicada. Even my tin ear picked up the subtle tape preparations and timings as skronk melted effortlessly into ethnic-plink with industrial overtones. Of course no one knows what Stuart really looks like…he threw his Kim Thayil wig into the crowd and disappeared into the balmy Leeds afternoon.
Luke: about three beers in this was lush green elephant tea. I dig the candles, the wig, the ritual maaan. Led to an interesting conversation outside. Seems in the N-AU you got your tapes lovers and your tapes haters (known as ‘taters’)
I’d rather watch him play the sounds than play a tape of it
…one geezer remarked.
He was playing a zither thing!
I retorted in his defense. I myself am pro tapes: the wow, the flutter, the plastic encased mystery.
Joe: Ben Hallatt set up an impressive reel-to-reel machine and facilitated the sound of a monkey opening a recalcitrant jar of peanut butter through the fragile, disintegrating brown tape. A play in two parts, this simian housekeeping was taken over by a more keening, knock-kneed hubble-style. All glorious drippings to clear out me waxy tabs.
Luke: my highlight of the day. Tape music with lots of pop and hiss but with, if not a tune, then a beguiling pattern. I struggled to verbalize how impressed I was to the man himself and was astounded that he had no merchandise to pass on (you haven’t heard the last of Kay Hill, readers).
Marlo: Ben Hallatt performed a nuanced, textured and atmospheric tape art set. Despite the surging, celebratory atmosphere of Crater Lake, he held a patient and meditative space. Starting from a minimal structure, he added an elaborate architecture that was sturdy and mindful. The performance was a sound journey that led the audience through this construction and left them in a different place.
Joe: Canary Yellow computer splutter. Spitting and frothing like a thousand tiny tummy kicks from the blue shrimps inside. Marie said to me,
It sounded like the 90’s.
What. All of it?
Sure, in Belgium.
I’m no flat pancake!
Marlo: I had previously seen Dale the week before in Nottingham. His mood was quite different this time. With alert attention, he proceeded to command his laptop to amuse, irritate, and tickle the audience. If I were to have a party, I would invite Dale. Always enjoyable, instead of baking him a birthday cake to compliment last week’s set, based on this performance I would make him profiteroles. Thus instead of a treat that is made for pure enjoyment, celebration, and taste, a pastry as work of art which takes many steps prior to presentation (and I like profiteroles a lot).
Joe: Soundtrack to Night of the Living Squelch that somehow managed to dissect Dylan & Kieron so one duo played breathing noises: hisses, coughs and sighs and the other ‘ghost’ duo played the sound of the first duo running their outputs through resinous pinecones. By gently slapping their foreheads bubbles of gas birthed from parted lips adding a metallic sheen. Please stop me if I’m getting too technical.
(Joe: Later…. booze is consumed, hands shook and booty exchanged. Among the hugs plans are hatched and reputations blackened! Later… we meet the boss. In what must look like a comical gesture to onlookers we both reach out one hand to shake and another to pass cdr/tapes/notes to each other.)
Joe: Erotic Jerome is the most focused man in the N-AU. Every twitch and tremor of his hands opened another subtle filter, let out a deceptive synth note or texturised the canvas with his painterly guitar thribbings. Guess what? Watching CDW reminded me of that Keef.
What do you think about when you’re playing?
Asked the handsome young Vee-jay.
I don’t think on stage. I feel,
came the raspy reply. Nuff Said.
Marlo: I had the immense pleasure of being acquainted with Jerome after his stellar set at Tusk Festival. This time, the layers and processing felt more dense. Every time I felt as though I had embraced a new element of his guitar mosaic, I was being introduced to yet another level of intensity that abandoned yet built upon the previous input. It was a rich and powerful piece.
Rob: I got my non-euclidean groove on and shimmied like a tentacle. It was cyclopean. Who would have thought such a nice guy could be an Old One in human form?
(Joe: Later…a fart in front of Elkka Reign Nyoukis makes her laugh so hard it drowns out the nearby trains. Later…it’s a Warhol of confusion. The heat and the noise and the crowd means conversations start, stop, merge and scatter. I’m bending ears all over. Later…The RFM photo op. I never realised our erstwhile photographer was the legendary Idwal himself! Our handsome group is propped up by my screamingly odd face.)
Rob: The evidence! Five sixths of RFM: me, Sof, Luke, Joe, Marlo – Chrissie sadly couldn’t make it as she was recording an orchestra. Cheers to Uncle Mark for taking the picture.
Marlo: As they said in Videodrome (1983),
Long live the New Flesh!
I say this because I felt like Cornford was battling with the mind melting controlling of vertical and horizontal holds, in a telekinetic struggle with amplitude and frequency, he went head-to-head with his multiple television screens. He was absorbed. I was absorbed. I think the visuals that seemed to translate his audio concoctions were pretty. I would love to see more of his work.
Rob: I felt like the little girl in Poltergeist (1982) but I wasn’t communing with the dead, rather a race of electric creatures attempting to re-programme my bonce with strobing logic. They may have succeeded. I await the trigger word from Mr. Cornford.
(Rob: Sof, Sof! Where are you? I think Sof and Jake’s last train beckoned around this point)
Joe: Rich sarcophagus music. Prostrated like a monk with a Casio, Culver played the sound of the tides spiced with deep orange paprika. Ebb and flow washes over you easily for sure but remember Culver’s dark gravity pins you to the planet like a moth in a cabinet.
Luke: whilst Charles Dexter Ward embraced the crowd with his pink love drone in a highly pleasing manner, Culver extended the black tentacles of Cthulu and left us powerless facing the ghastly pit of torment. I am inebriated at this point and only roused from my Culver trance by my pal clinking glasses, it’s a fine moment: we are ridiculously close to the high priest himself. There can be only one.
Marlo: Culver is remarkable in that he uses similar gear and techniques to others whilst adding something completely signature and unique. I would say that Culver is one of the best drone artists in the UK. His monastic and constant involvement with his gear makes for a compelling performance. Despite the darkness that he chooses to invoke with sound, there is a clear joy interspersed amongst the high frequencies.
Rob: I make a mental note of all in the crowd who talk during Lee’s set. There will be a reckoning. A RECKONING!
(Luke: sad to say I had to miss Evil Moisture and Rudolf Eb.Er but I was successful in navigating my way home. Cheers Pete, see you next year!)
Joe: A Very Wonderful Fucking Sloppy Mess (AVWFSM). Long, long loops of disgruntled squirm get run through the Bolus-zone to come out triple-strength odd. With nothing to hold on to the free fall becomes increasing delicious.
Marlo: When watching Andy Bolus, one wishes that they had superpowers like photographic memory or the ability to time travel. The issue is that normal human capacities do not allow for full visual comprehension of the devices across his two tables and to simultaneously be absorbed by the sounds. There is just so much going on! From the crazy inventor’s lab of his set up to the enveloping waves of sound, my body was compelled to move. Pushed up close to the stage with several other victims of unintentional movement, I held onto a monitor to make sure I didn’t collapse from my undulations. These movements are, by far, my favourite response to good noise. His detailed dynamics had a light touch. Well paced yet not predictable in his shifts, Andy seemed to be using his whole body, even his feet to make the monster chewing sounds. But there were purposeful and understated details placed delicately through sound blasts and running engines. Not sonic saturated and definitely not shy, Evil Moisture’s intuitive performance was well worth the wait.
(Rob: at this point I bow out myself and trot off for the second-to-last bus home very happy with how the day has gone. I’m in such a good mood that when I discover the New Blockaders tape Joe gave me earlier is leaking oil onto the other merch in my bag all I do is chuckle. Ahh, occupational hazard.)
Marlo: One of the best things about seeing noise and improvisational music played live is the feeling that what one witnessed is unique and unrepeatable. Experience a performance by a sound artist like Ruldolph Eb.Er, for example, and you know immediately that what you saw and heard will never occur again the same way. In this case, it might be the fact that several Crater Lakers had lost their marbles on booze and kept hollering throughout the set. That was a bit unfortunate but his professionalism didn’t allow one moment of lack of concentration. I use the word ‘dynamic’ a lot when I talk about noise and sound art, often using it to describe movement. However, in this case, Rudolf’s use of tension and silence is signature to his style. Silences punctuated the set and left the audience irritable and anticipating each aural stimulation. Personally, I was enthralled by the spectacle – I felt prone to his ‘psychoaccoustic’ gestures and was dizzy with confusion. My favorite part of his set was when he placed some nodes covered with a black, inky sound conductive substance on his face and head whilst appearing startled and trembling. I like to think he was slightly losing his mind with the audience but by the end he was fully composed and I felt freaking grateful I had stayed cognizant enough to appreciate all the different acts contained within the piece.
Joe: It had been a very long day. Whist I don’t approve of public drunkenness I am charmed by the tipsy. All my notes say is:
good oaky noise but possible Harkonnen spy.
I think it’s about this point that my brain packed up…
…which is an appropriately wonky note on which to end. Alas, that is that for another year. Many thanks to all involved – performers, venue and attendees – with special back-slapping to Pete Cann for making it happen. It was a terrific day. See y’all next time.
Agata Urbaniak: performers
Sophie Cooper: workshop
Mark Wharton: Team RFM
Tags: birkhouse recordings, blood diamond music, blue spectrum tapes, chrissie caulfield, collage, liam mcconaghy, musique concrète, new music, no audience underground, noise, stuart chalmers, tapes, tlön
Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks Vol.2 (CD-r or download, Blood Diamond Music, BDM 005)
Tlön – Truth in the 13th (tape and download extras, Birkhouse Recordings, BIRK.007)
I’m not even going to try and guess what instruments, objects and bent circuits Stuart Chalmers has used in his second volume of Imaginary Musicks. The range of sounds involved is quite remarkable and his grasp of the techniques of bending existing sounds to his will is better heard than analysed. If I describe sounds in this review it’s not necessarily what was used to make the noise, just what it sounds like to me [Editor’s note: no worries, that’s the RFM way].
That said, I think I’m on fairly safe ground (looks down expecting quicksand) in stating that this is substantially a Musique Concrète album, though that doesn’t really begin to describe the breadth of experiences it contains. There are sumptuous drones, beats made from household objects, tape noises and the occasional sax solo. If there is a track on here that you don’t particularly like, then simply skipping to the next one will bring something different for you to try. That’s not to say there is no consistency, there is; perhaps think of it as an aural version of the 1990s TV programme The Crystal Maze: buzzing with wild contraptions, bizarre puzzles and an enigmatic host – Chalmers himself.
Personally, the album had my full attention from the opening track ‘Breaking Chains’. After some gentle scratching and scraping it explodes into a glorious Ben Frost-like festival of noise that assaults the ears, with heavy drums, tortured saxophone squeals, delay feedback and all manner of shrieking and buzzing. If ever an album started with a…
WAKE UP AT THE BACK!
…call, this is it. ‘Breaking Chains’ lasts just three and a half minutes but I wanted it to go on longer. This is typical. Chalmers never outstays his welcome with anything on this album, the tracks are about the length of many popular songs but with far more originality. Like Richard O’Brien at his most frenetic, he opens a door, gives you a three or four minute puzzle and then whisks you onto something new.
There is a love here, that I share, of industrial and mechanical noises [Editor’s note: see Chrissie’s own excellent Mechanisms, as she’s too modest to mention it herself]. Chalmers drops you into a room of ghostly clocks in ‘War on Nature’, there are car horns and squeaky gates in ‘To Be Lost is To Be Found’ and ‘Abandoned Cities’, then you are required to grapple with motors in ‘Wax & Wane’. There are probably all sorts of other things that I’m sure I’ve missed either because they’ve been heavily processed or secreted beneath layers of other interesting sounds but that just adds to the puzzles that repeated listens will, possibly, reveal. Chalmers leaves you few clues – sometimes the titles seem as though they are descriptive, other times they merely add to the confusion.
‘Wax & Wane’ is another favourite of mine, partly because it’s another noisy one, but also because of the way the dense textures here are so careful constructed. The motor sounds provide a basis for cheesy organ and distorted guitars (see disclaimer above) as they fade into swirling synths and gurgling. It’s like you’re locked inside the body of the engine, trying to find a way out.
Each piece on this album is a single idea in its own right and that is both it’s beauty and, possibly, its weakness. There are wonderful tracks, but also several that feel as though they should be developed rather than stopping and moving onto the next idea. That would make it a different experience, of course, and the simplicity of those pieces definitely has appeal – always best to be left wanting more.
I enjoyed this album but I have to say that Chalmer’s other release, a collaboration project with Liam McConaghy [Editor’s note: of the excellent Microdeform] called Tlön was even more to my taste. Truth in the 13th is much more synth-based and is comprised of slightly longer pieces which gives the music more chance to breathe and go through a little more development.
Again, the opener is a blinder. ‘Crepuscular’ begins with dark beats and haunting synths. Listening to this you definitely feel like you’re walking through an overgrown and dangerous forest at night – Crystal Maze’s entrance to the Aztec Zone with the lights switched off and alligators added to the pond. You get buzzed by giant insects early on, and later there are growls from larger animals that become quite terrifying in the manner of Ben Frost’s By The Throat.
Unlike Imaginary Musicks, the titles of the tracks on this album seem to be much more descriptive of what you’re going to get – or maybe I’m just very suggestible. ‘In Accordance With Divine Laws’ sounds to me like some sort of spooky, scratchy church service, complete with indistinct singing – though over what sounds like heavily distorted guitars. ‘Ancient Ruins’ takes you from the undergrowth into the full Aztec Zone in bright light where you can explore the buildings left after centuries of neglect.
As with the solo Chalmers album, this one is packed full of manipulated recorded samples and things that sound like vinyl scratches and radio noises – and here we also have even more powerful guitars and yet more synths added to the mix to give a generally thicker, often quite oppressive, sound. It’s highly risky to second guess the roles of the artists in a collaboration, these relationships are always more complex than you think, but for my money the influence of McConaghy adds something to Chalmers’ quirky puzzles that lifts them to a different level.
For me, the least appealing track on Truth in the 13th is the title track. The simple snare rhythm quickly gets boring and distracts from the otherwise good things happening around it. The two remixes of the track that are included, quite sensibly, play this down.
So, if you fancy a trip round the Aztec Zone, Mechanical Zone, the Futuristic Zone and others, I can recommend these releases to you. Personally, I’d still like to be whisked round them by a young Ed Tudor-Pole, but that’s probably just me.