screaming party above invisible city: the swift by midwich reissued

May 13, 2015 at 9:34 am | Posted in midwich, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Midwich – The Swift (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR11, edition of 40 or download)

swift coverswift tape

RFM is delighted to announce that The Swift by Midwich has been reissued by the essential Invisible City Records and is available as a beautifully packaged tape or convenient download.

The album was originally released as one 65 minute track on CD-r, presented in another beautifully designed cover in a tiny edition of 15, by highly-regarded American noise label Altar of Waste.  Here is the very flattering blurb written by AoW head-honcho Cory Strand:

Gorgeous and tidal cascade of gentle droning sounds that become something akin to a crushing roar from the between the cracks in the sky and the broken limbs of trees, Midwich’s epic construction “The Swift” is a piece that flirts with both natural ambience and HNW severity without fulling giving over to either.  Created from field recordings of swarms of swifts procured by the artist, the sounds here recall both the bleak pastoral harmony of the English landscape and the encroaching rumbles of black clouds swarming the sky.  Similar in tone to the work of Richard Skelton with a goodly dose of Daniel Menche’s and Clive Henry’s approaches to manipulated field recordings, “The Swift” is an amazing composition that demonstrates both the awesome power of the natural world around us and the possibilities inherent within electronic manipulation.  An incredibly creative work that blurs whatever genre lines you’d care to draw.

Altar Of Waste is very pleased to release this latest missive from one of the UK’s finest practitioners of underground drone.  Succumb to the swarm and feel the tense beating of thousands of wings buzzing around you.  Breathe in the awe.

My colleagues here at RFM dug it too.  Joe said:

The Swift is a single hour long piece in three distinct movements.

Movement one: It starts like the soundtrack to ‘Evolution…The Movie’ as grey gloop is replaced by lazy cellular dividing and static, internal egg-memories. Things settle on Mothra’s mating ritual – long drawn-out breaths gradually moving out of synch as feathery lungs push huge volumes of air through Sperm Whale baleen.

Movement two: A rhythmic ticking and the clatter of ghostly forklift trucks start to creep in.  The Swifts chirrup, skittering in the air warmed by the horny Mothra.  Listeners note: this section accompanies the flock of stately wind turbines near Chesterfield spectacularly.

Movement three: The final five minutes heave like the tides, slowly encroaching on an abandoned city; washing through the deserted streets, clearing the human junk for a stronger, fitter civilisation floating slowly through the brine.

No question this is Rob’s most immersive and ambitious piece of Midwichery yet.  You gotta have it!

..and Luke made it his album of the year:

Utterly sublime floating tones, get your cranky toddler off to sleep in minutes, limited to 15 copies only?!  Madness.

Teacher’s pet, eh?  The lad will go far.  Positive comment written by those outside the RFM ‘office’ can also be found but, you may be surprised to learn, there are limits even to my vanity.  You get the picture: it was well received and I am proud of it.

Despite the eye-watering cost of shipping copies from the USA, the edition sold out sharpish.  I might have been happy to leave it there but I had one or two enquiries about reissuing it and, after falling in love with North East noise label Invisible City Records, I just couldn’t resist reaching out to label boss Craig Johnson and planting a seed.  Given the catalogue already amassed it seemed like the perfect home for The Swift and, to my delight and relief, Craig agreed.  The track has been carefully halved to accommodate the change in format and the new artwork captures the atmosphere of the piece exactly.  It is a high quality item and, in my entirely trustworthy, un-conflicted, un-self-interested opinion, an essential purchase.


Finally, a word to those trusting souls who swapped hard cash for a copy of the original edition.  If you are among that elite please forgive me for diluting the experience with a reissue and remind me of the fact when the Aqua Dentata CD-r on fencing flatworm drops later in the year.  I’ll sort you out proper.  If you are mad enough to buy both editions then as well as the Aqua Dentata CD-r I’ll see if I can secure you a freebie of the next midwich project which, in stark contrast, is likely to run 18 minutes and contain 12 tracks.  Punk rock, eh?  More news as it breaks, but for now…


Invisible City Records

shade-defying, mid-morning sun: the shouts from the sea, just playing music

May 9, 2015 at 7:56 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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THE SHOUTS FROM THE SEA – s/t (tape, Power Moves Label, PML 010, edition of 53 or download)


The UK General Election result is a disaster.  On a personal level, as a clerk employed in the public sector and suffering from a long-term, disabling medical condition, that’s me fucked.  A few ‘challenging’ years ahead, no doubt.  For society as a whole, well, there are many commentators far more astute, articulate and stronger-stomached than me picking apart the implications and the internet is awash with their analyses.  Suffice to say I follow the Zanntone line when it comes to the Conservatives and their supporters.  Ugh.  Shall we throw open the windows, change the subject and hope to find some small solace in the work of our friends?  Please.

Noise is a joyous, life-affirming, heart-bursting business.  At least it can be – I know there is a reactionary old guard who insist that true underground noise has to be ‘transgressive’ and ‘confrontational’ but fortunately they are dying out (auto-asphyxiation accidents whilst wanking over Japanese bondage porn, mainly).  Anyway, those cantankerous curmudgeons are, as ever, missing the point.  In these troubled, jaded, cynical times what could be more revolutionary than heartfelt and sincere enthusiasm?  Radical, eh?

Speaking of which, if friendliness and public displays of appreciation were crimes then Phong Tran would be trussed up like Hannibal Lecter on a day visit to the fava bean farm.  Here the Washington DC based musician, digi-crate digger and twittervangelist for transcendental sound is joined by fellow traveller Patrick Cain and between them they tear it up over nine tracks of relentless noise improv.

The tagline of Power Moves Label, the host of this party, is ‘true bedroom recordings’ – a spirit that is gloriously represented by this release.  Problem tooth?  Can’t get an appointment at your dentist?  Stick this on, lean your jaw against the speaker and the aching peg will be shaken out of your head before you flip to side B.  In a tradition within lo-fi music stretching back to at least the 80s/90s tape underground there is no bass to these recordings – just a scouring, cleansing wash of electrostatic treble.  I don’t know if this approach was a result of shonky recording equipment, choice of instrumentation (crackle box, prepared guitar, electronics etc.) or an artistic decision to simply not give a fuck.  It doesn’t matter.  Once recovered from the initial shock of the spanking, the listener’s cheeks begin to glow red with a warmth that is, *ahem*, strangely ‘stirring’.

Don’t expect a uniform chalk-white cliff-face though.  Flinty protuberances catch the light and texture the skronk.  The nine tracks are easily differentiated on repeat listens and there are gaps between them in order for you to clear your throat and straighten your tie before P&P crank it up again.  At a couple of points the chaps even (almost) settle into what I believe is called a ‘groove’.  Overall the album is like harsh, shade-defying, mid-morning Summer sunlight, come to boil away your hangover and leave you invigorated enough to consider restarting the session at lunchtime.

The last couple of seconds are noteworthy enough to merit their own paragraph.  The racket cuts to an amused/bemused voice asking:

What are you guys doing?!?

…and Patrick or Phong replies:

Just playing music, heh, heh

…in the half-sheepish/half-defiant tone of an already stoned teenager who has been caught rolling a joint by his mum.  Aww… busted!  It is a beautifully self-deprecating celebration of bedroom recording and tickled me as hard as listening to Robert Ridley-Shackleton talk to himself as he struggles with his kit or, a favourite moment from back in the day, Rob Galpin audibly deciding to answer a ringing phone mid-track.

I chuckled as I repeatedly rewound this moment before flipping the tape.  What was that tingling sensation cutting through the fug of depression?  That sudden lightening of my spirit?  Could it be?  Yes, I think… Despite everything I just might be… Yes! It is!  I… am… having… FUN!


Power Moves Label

internalising the experience: sophie cooper on recent releases from fort evil fruit

May 3, 2015 at 3:48 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Bridget Hayden & Claire Potter – Mother To No Swimming Laughing Child (tape, Fort Evil Fruit, FEF036, edition of 100)

The Restless Dead and Bird People …Meet the Dervishes of Khartoum in the Confluence-of-the-Nile (tape, Fort Evil Fruit, FEF034, edition of 75)

Extnddntwrk – By (tape, Fort Evil Fruit, FEF035, edition of 100 plus download only extra tracks, second edition of 100 in preparation)

Rastrejo – Fractura de Miramientos (tape, Fort Evil Fruit, FEF033, edition of 75)

potter and hayden

Bridget Hayden & Claire Potter – Mother To No Swimming Laughing Child

Mother To No Swimming Laughing Child is a new collaboration between author Claire Potter and musician Bridget Hayden that gives a voice to text from Potter’s 2014 publication Mental Furniture. On this tape, extracts from the text are read by Potter, combined with sounds from Hayden and the results are fascinating. This deeply considered union works to produce a very whole sound and together they inform the narrative rather than it being a straight forward ‘words read over the top of music’ approach. On ‘Still Woman Cold’ Potter reads the text in hushed tones and creaking floorboards are heard in the background giving the impression that she is hiding from whoever is making those sounds happen. It’s a difficult and unsettling listen but uniquely compelling.

Potter and Hayden address trauma and deflection during Mother To No Swimming Laughing Child. It’s hard to discuss trauma, both your own experiences and those of others. It’s difficult because in some cases people are so quick to hide what they are actually feeling rather than address things that are not OK, choosing to internalise the experience and protect others from hearing it, which is an easy way to hide from judgement. The track, ‘Brendan Brady’ is named after a tragic character from the soap opera Hollyoaks. Brady is a murderer, a drug dealer, an abusive partner, a typical bad guy who the writers of the show later revealed was the victim of incestual abuse. The album takes this, and other examples from the show, as source material through which to deliver the topic of trauma and projection of unknown events. In addition to the words, static, aggressive guitar and incidental sound are included maybe to mask the story and stuff it down the back of the sofa.

Given the topic, it’s not an easy listen. Someone described this tape as “distasteful” on Rate Your Music (my most hated music website) and although I disagree I can understand why they might have written that because bringing up subjects like abuse are considered distasteful by some. This is an uncomfortable subject but this tape doesn’t worry about that. I congratulate Potter and Hayden for broaching this issue and for creating one of the most intriguing and thought provoking recordings I’ve ever heard.


The Restless Dead and Bird People …Meet the Dervishes of Khartoum in the Confluence-of-the-Nile

The concept behind the creation of this release is really interesting. The story is that UK folk musician, C. Joynes, during one of his many travels round the world spent some time in Sudan where he recorded a weekly Sufi Dervish conference. These recordings provided the basis for this release which were dubbed over by two groups – Side A by a curious sounding improvising collective that operates as part of a commune in East Anglia called The Restless Dead and Side B by ever evolving Austrian free folk and drone collective Bird People. Bird People, for those who don’t know, are ‘fronted’ (I’m sure he wouldn’t like that word but for want of a better phrase…) by founder of Feathered Coyote Records, Ulrich Rois. Feathered Coyote and Fort Evil Fruit share a lot of common interests in the artists they work with (and the managers even look alike!) so the partnership makes sense.

Side A is probably the more successful in achieving a seamless collaboration between the Sufi recordings and the UK artist’s contributions. Listening carefully you can pick out additional out of tune guitars (I suspect homemade versions), drums, repeatedly bowed strings and percussive elements jamming along to the original recordings. The recording is respected and the ebb and flow of the piece is considered well within these jams resulting in a great, but not ragged, clatter.

Side B sees Bird People take the recordings and make something quite different with them, which I’m into. We hear gorgeous Indian instruments produce drones that accompany the Sufi singers but also come into their own throughout the 23 minute piece. At one point the drones perfectly match the volume of the original recording rising and falling then eventually leading to a point of silence before coming back to the vocalists, this time with even more drones and an audible banjo solo. This is brilliant and thoughtful music.


Extnddntwrk – By

Extnddntwrk, aka Andrew Fearn, is now best known as the guy who makes the music for Sleaford Mods but he has been making music since well before he joined Jason Williamson.  I’m really pleased that he has started to release his own solo music again including this new one on FEF.

This huge collection of songs spans about an hour and a half (if you include the bonus tracks from the digital download) and a lot of ground is covered in that time. My first thought on hearing it was that it would make an excellent soundtrack to a futuristic horror film and in the way that some great horror soundtracks, like Marc Wilkinson’s Blood on Satan’s Claw for example, have an overarching theme running throughout so does By. This is seen not least in the track titles, which all have the word ‘by’ contained in them, but also in the grim, downbeat, and sometimes outwardly scary atmosphere these pieces conjure. I want to be the first to be told when the film to accompany this tape comes out.

On By Fearn employs a range of acoustic instrumentation and high quality production to evoke dark imagery. His computer generated beats are of a subtle brilliance that provide a base for a variety of other components including piano, harp, bells and worked-in field recordings to name just a few. Some of the tracks such as ‘By Myself’ sound like they could have been generated by lo-fi software. This track has a weird and unsettling melody line that wouldn’t be out of place if found in an early version of the video game Doom (wow, the memory of that game just made me shiver!). In another moody track, ‘Death by’, Fearn plays subtle guitar lines that complement light keys. I can’t get over how delicate this release is and what a stark contrast is it to the music Fearn makes in his other band! This is very intense work and shows Fearn to be an accomplished musician and producer.


Rastrejo – Fractura de Miramientos

Rastrejo is a new artist to me but a quick look at Jose Guerreo’s back catalogue reveals he has been involved in several projects in Valencia, Spain for a long time. Rastrejo serves as his experimental dance project and this release is really toe tapping. It’s a short but sweet affair, totalling only 19 minutes.

Guerreo uses stark drum machine patterns and sings in a dramatic way on ‘Malgastando’ before launching into a wild, droney, synth solo that all works really well. The fully-fledged songs that involve singing are definitely this album’s strongest point and these are sandwiched between other musical ideas. I kind of wish the release was a bit longer because the last track ‘Mercader de Sencillos + Ballesta sin Fisuras’, which seems be influenced heavily by Talking Heads particularly in the vocal delivery, is a real banger and it feels like the album really takes off at this point. Oh well. I’ll be checking out other music by Rastrejo for sure.


Fort Evil Fruit

psychedelic domestic: joe murray on karl m v waugh, duncan harrison, lost wax

April 28, 2015 at 3:08 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Karl M V Waugh – unnamed murk (coagulated detritus may 2014 – january 2015) (download,

Karl M V Waugh – Varnish Crease EP (download,

Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God (tape or download, Reckno)

Lost Wax – The Poacher (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.304, edition of 60)

kmvw - murkkmvw - crease

Karl M V Waugh – unnamed murk (coagulated detritus may 2014 – january 2015) and Varnish Crease

A lazy, taking a line for a walk, kind of listen.  That’s no criticism readers.  I’m loving this particular ramble with Karl; round the town, out past the betting shop and onto the Downs, chatting and shooting the shit as we wander.

These unnamed murk pieces are poor orphans (coagulated detritus indeed) with no home to go to.  And for me that makes things all the more interesting.  Are you telling me these pieces don’t fit into your soundworld Karl?  Man…I gotta check out these oddballs – they are going to be the nuts.

The modus operandi remains classic K M V Waugh – an object or technique is picked up and fiddled with for a while and each possible combination of rubbing, striking, bowing and blowing rained down until all options are exhausted.

‘Bread Failure’ dances with some close mic rustle, jazz-gob, fake sine wave feedback loops and acoustic guitar fumble as crispy as an early 2000’s Usurper jam.  ‘Close Net’ starts with a slo-mo rave synth trapped in a bathysphere; the two Navy SEALS having it large while contact with the surface is registered in day-glo Morse and trippy emoticons.  Outside the Angler Fish get anxious with stress-harps.  Blimey, Jacques Cousteau couldn’t get this low.  ‘Nada Test’, the most lovely one of the lot, is an untutored, unconscious guitar/balalaika/mandolin (?) improvisation heavy on the Korean and Rembetika influences.  There’s pure innocence in this playing, a passionate exploration and experimentation that’s scrabbling but at all times searching for a melody to grasp out of the clear blue sky.  The last 2 minutes of this 21 minute piece add a slight distortion giving you a soft landing destination.

This mini-album, the wonderfully titled Varnish Crease, is an 18 minute smeared collage, a bold painting in Bovril hues.

Industrial grot (a malfunctioning PEZ dispenser perhaps?) and novelty dice dropped into a chunky whiskey tumbler form the base coat to KMVW’s meta-poetry. Like several porridge-slugged mouths reading their dreams simultaneously this has a head-fudge quality.  Ever been lost in a crowd?  This mimics that slight panic and claustrophobic feel exactly.

Wonk-hop snatches of sound are introduced like RZA’s all blunted on Funeral Dance Party; a South Coast One Wobbly Egg.  In fact this whole crease has a real Cidershed feel with that slight tint of threat added to the vulnerability.

Essential listening for any young dream-voyager.

duncan - delete

Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God

Pearls dipped in butter swirling round the palm of a brown giant.  The slick tones fill the smooth handful; fingers wiggle to spread the flutter.

This is a disarmingly charming and hypnotically beautiful opener from his holiness Duncan Harrison.

Gurble-gobs, slop and slobber the lazy consonants and sighs that very skitter with finger-manipulated tape skank.  It soon turns into pigs grunting quick enough (oink oink oink) and a sonic Richard Scarry cartoon of crash-bang-wallop.

A water butt slowly fills with rancid treacle as tiny black imps dance around the bloated barrel, slapping their bulbous bellies and blowing crimson smoke rings.  A watchful Duncan scoops up the imps and ingests them all a-wriggle, recording their hapless plummet down his gullet.

But please don’t take my sub-Stan Lee dribbling as evidence of sonic goofiness, cynically used to leap-frog to the desired ends (freedom, bliss, ecstasy etc).  Repeated listens to this humble tape reveal this to be a mature work, a self-assured work, a personally resonant work floating slowly into my consciousness.  There’s no reliance on underground clichés here.  The psychedelic-domestic of bus number recital, buffeting wind noise, slow chip-pan ‘pop’ and throaty Gatwick roar have filled my heart with honey and my head with sleepy nutmeg.

Side one ends with another real-life vignette, this time trad-jazz busker (think bowler hat and pinstripe waistcoat) overlaid flinty guitar pluckage (think sloppy Arran jumper and orthopaedic shoes) bringing two worlds together – the beach front and the bedsit – into a tangy-sharp fragment.

Side two opens with a wanking mumble, a half remembered dream of the time John Noakes applied Chopin’s poesie sonore methods in the Blue Peter garden (don’t bother to ‘YouTube’ it.  This nugget was never televised and then destroyed on direct instructions from Biddy Baxter.) as the tape edits flutter around his West Riding glottal stops.

Valhalla opens its gates to welcome another fallen hero.  For a time the drunken revelry quietens and the bard’s horn plays mournfully through the mist.  Shields become bronze gongs beaten with a soft as the captured skald drones on.

Back in the studio Duncan dons his silk gown and adopts the Crane stance blowing on flesh bassoon until a feeder tape of allotment gristle joins the sound mix like it was the most natural thing in the world.  Birds aimlessly chirrurp and flapper and cast iron tools are tinkled like collectible glass bells.  I can feel the late afternoon sun in this recording baking my neck and making me sleepy.  This. Is. Delicious.

A game-changing tape from D Harrison.  It looks innocent enough for sure; but this tape’s got a confident swagger that’s unmatched right about now.

lost wax - poacher

Lost Wax – The Poacher

Super-classy Musique Concrete from Ben Morris that takes full advantage of the far-flung places he’s laid his loveable mop-top over the last couple of years (China, Vietnam and even Derbyshire).

The Poacher is split into three parts, each third revealing a different side to Lost Wax, that unlock and fold out on hidden brass hinges.  Let’s look inside…

The first third, ‘The Sun is a Hammer’, takes clear recordings of tin parakeets, smoke-train rumble and happy-clapping ritual and slices them up nice with a razor like some heavy radiophonicia dripping secretly out of 1970s Bulgaria.

The pace is stately, like a nurse on a bike, as Ben adds layers of hiss and schloop weaving them into a tapestry fit for a medium-sized town hall.  But before we can even jiggle a heavy chain of office beautiful voices creak out of the floorboards.  They soar and float like rainbows.  Flutes trill.  I swoon.

Next we visit the watch menders convention for ‘Time Travel Corrodes the Mind’.  A hired drummer fiddles with his high-hat (fairly obsessively tiss-tiss-tiss) as the cummerbunded MC beckons in a phalanx of beach balls full of gaseous hippy crack.  The massed horologicalists look up from their chaotically ticking handfuls but relax as Ben, safely at the controls, squeezes out a rhythmic pulse for the cast-iron disco crowd.  Tapes of paranoid mumbling (source: CIA bugs, Cuban Missile Crisis?) bookend the track as several men bend aluminium picture frames in your left ear.

This tasty trio is completed by ‘Home, Exhuming a Shed.  Imagine F.M. Einheit getting ready for a date (checklist – red rose, lump hammer, rusty chain, trumpet, gas canister) dressing in his best dungarees with bear-grease controlling his wanton quiff.

Gnarled hands rip up steel casings and pummel a brass boiler with oranges.  The bright zest fills the air and this sudden change in atmosphere calms our man…his fingers caress the splintered keyboard moving from black to white.  Digit-shapes transfer from 3D geometry into calm sound-pools that sit gently rippling in the citrus breeze.



Chocolate Monk

invisible city records

April 21, 2015 at 2:43 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Death Register – Phonaesthesia (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR03, edition of 40 or download)

The Will of Nin Girima – Two Cycles of Incantation (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR04, edition of 30 or download)

Black Thread – Autumn Flowers (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR05, edition of 30 or download)

Culver – The Abductress (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR07, edition of 60)

Saturn Form Essence – Stratospheric Tower (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR08, edition of 40 or download)

Roadside Picnic – Watership Drowned (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR09, edition of 24 or download)

Philipp Bückle – Drawings (tape, Invisible City Records, ICR10, edition of 50 or download)

death register

I may have asked this question before but, fuck it, it’s worth asking again: if given a choice between listening to a release new to you or to one that you are familiar with and know is good which do you choose?  Apart from when I’m repeat listening prior to writing a review, for me it is the former nearly 100% of the time.

I’ll go further: by ‘new’ in this context I don’t just mean ‘previously unheard’ but also mean ‘recently produced’.  I’ve been a music fan for over three decades now, including many years patrolling the fringes and an overlong stint as a variation on the type of insufferable asshole I am soon to describe.  Sure, there remain gaps in my knowledge – some vast – but I’m past caring.  I’ve heard enough of the classic, the important, the ephemeral, the popular, the unduly overlooked etc., etc. to justify an opinion, an opinion backed by thousands of hours of ‘study’.  I still spend every moment allowable listening to music but, y’know – for now at least, I think I’m done with the past.

Box sets and reissues nauseate me (apart from the two I’m personally involved with at the moment, of course, which are rad) as does collector/completist culture.  With a couple of noble exceptions – I recommend the transcendental journey documented by Phong Tran via the @boxwalla twitter account, for example – every ‘have you heard <old recording X>?’ conversation or twitter thread just reminds me of a certain curly-haired obsessive that became the bane of Termite Club nights around the turn of the century.  This nut – I’m not naming him, slowly incant the Nurse With Wound list and he shall appear – would limpet onto an unfortunate attendee and engage in the most tedious yes-but-have-you-heardism only stopping at 3am when him yelling ‘yes, but what do you think of Lemmingmania?’ through their letterbox was the final straw and the police were called.  I exaggerate for comic effect of course, but not by much – ask Michael Clough about it.

Whilst I’m being fussy, newness in the two senses above isn’t enough on its own.  For example, I recently purchased one of them proper CDs they have now by an actual band on the recommendation of a friend whose tastes do not map onto mine but whose judgement is trustworthy.  The album is brand new and by a respected metal act with an unimpeachable DIY ethos but, with each episode of crushing riffage telegraphed bars in advance, I found myself struggling to get through it twice.  It’s newness was more than offset by it being structurally boring.

That said, innovation on its own isn’t enough either.  Safe to say that I’ve never heard anything quite like current darling act <name redacted because I can’t be arsed arguing with disciples wounded by my blasphemy>, for example, but my opinion as to the worth of that work is, shall we say, in the minority.  Whilst I cherish moments when a gleeful smile cracks my grumpy visog and I wonder out loud ‘what the fuck is this?’ I have nothing in principle against tropes, conventional sound-palettes, standard instrumentation and so on.

So what do I want?  I want something previously unheard by me and recently produced, ideally in an uncompromised DIY manner.  Surprises and innovation are always welcome but not necessary, genre conventions can be absolutely fine as long as they don’t lead to a formal dullness that drags me away from the experience.  In short, I want something that transports me to a different place.  It does happen – surprisingly frequently – and over the last few months the place I’ve been taken to has often been the Invisible City.

Following the sad demise of Tyneside’s Basic FM last year, Craig Johnson – host of RFM-on-the-radio-type show Unknown Surroundings – started Invisible City Records partly as a way of plugging that hole.  The guy has an irresistible, and wholly laudable, urge to plug the music that he/we love and chose to continue doing so using the now almost standard ‘business model’ of limited edition tapes for the remaining object fetishists and pay-what-you-like downloads for the sane.  Yes, yes, I know I got the hump with this approach a few months ago but hypocrisy is the least of my crimes and, hey, quality content conquers all.

ICR specialises in long(ish) form drone/noise with a penchant for fuzzed out entropic decay and dystopian synth soundtracks.  Releases are not without moments of wry humour and the odd jump scare but all have an attention to detail and seriousness of intent that makes for an immersive and transporting experience.  It is a tough label to use as background music for chores and many’s the time I have found myself sprawled out, staring at nothing, task forgotten as one of these visions unfolds.  The catalogue already features several RFM regulars: Culver, of course, people-eaters, Miguel Perez (alongside J.C. Meraz as The Will of Nin Girima) and releases reference literary house favourites like Lovecraft, Ballard and (to my delight) the Strugatsky brothers.  Tailor made for me, eh?  It is even based in Gateshead.  Perfect.

OK, given the exemplary quality control already exhibited by Craig I could just say: ‘go buy the lot’, give the link and await your expressions of gratitude.  But that would be a dereliction of duty.  Instead here’s a summary of the ICR story so far:

curwen - shunned house

ICR01 Joseph Curwen – Shunned House was due to be reviewed by ex-staffer Scott McKeating but unfortunately he fell into a non-Euclidean angle between walls whilst exploring an Antarctic archaeological site.  Alas.

caisson - high rise

ICR02 Caisson – High Rise inspired me to put together a review-as-photo-essay featuring pictures of celebrated concrete brutalism taken on the campus where I work.

death register

ICR03 Death Register – Phonaesthesia comprises three tracks of drawn out ragged synth lines propelled by loops of machine hum.  The final track, ‘R’, is seventeen minutes of augmented dream state which calls to mind Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Volume II and is more or less perfect.

The Will of Nin Girima - Two Cycles of Incantation - cover

ICR04 The Will of Nin Girima – Two Cycles of Incantation is a duo of Miguel Perez and J.C. Meraz and is quite possibly the finest recording that Miguel, my good friend and inspiration, has been involved with.  A series of six ‘dark ambient’ rituals, it has scope, ambition and imagination and its lengthy running time just flashes past.  Unlike most noise of this type it also contains passages that are genuinely unnerving too.  Terrific.

Black Thread - Autumn Flowers - cover

ICR05 Black Thread – Autumn Flowers is a short, beautiful album of loops eroded into noise.  Yes, I understand this process will be familiar to many readers but this is a fine instantiation, full of emotional content.  Like a time-lapse film of a cherished wind-up toy thrown into the ocean, destroyed by salt and the motion of the tide.

only thing left to fear tape

ICR06 people-eaters – The Only Thing Left To Fear got the treatment by me not long ago in a piece about the terrifying, nihilistic idea that there are no such things as monsters.  It can be found here.

culver - abductress

ICR07 Culver – The Abductress is another schooling from the master Lee Stokoe.  Following a pattern familiar from several recent releases, melancholy guitar is swamped by a gathering electrical storm of fuzz drone noise.  However, this descent is more distressed/distressing than usual.  This is less Ballard – ultimately accepting of the entropic drowned world, more Wyndham – a fight against the alien forces causing the rising waters.  ‘ruby ford’, the last of the three tracks is such an epic, all you can do is admire its teeth from a safe distance.


ICR08 Saturn Form Essence – Stratospheric Tower is a work of special power.  Via a series of sculptures crafted from brooding analogue electronics it conveys the gargantuan, unclouded patience of a planet-wide AI that just knows it has this fucking right.  If we could hear the ‘music of the spheres’ it would sound like this: implacably hostile, utterly indifferent to your existence.

roadside picnic

ICR09 Roadside Picnic – Watership Drowned provides a whole bunch of those ‘what the fuck is going on?’ moments.  Comprising two tracks totalling about an hour and a half, we have movements (too leisurely to be called ‘collage’ I think) incorporating, amongst other things: heavily filtered scrabbling, pastoral tropicalia and electronics that range from the soothing wail of a slowed down, pitched up alarm to the chirrup and whirr of robotic insects.  It would be a great soundtrack to an adaptation of that famous children’s story about rabbits.  You know the one where prehistoric rabbits find a monolith and fight each other, then find another one on the moon thousands of years later, then go on a space mission with a mad computer that deliberately gives the astro-rabbits myxomatosis.  Yeah, that one.

…and finally:


ICR10 Philipp Bückle – Drawings which was released today as I wrote this!  Haven’t heard it yet but you gotta admit the streak is hot.  Here’s your quote Craig: ‘This album is great!’ – Radio Free Midwich.  Fuck it, why not?

So that’s it.  Well, not quite.

Whilst not wanting to steal Craig’s thunder I think I might know what ICR11 will turn out to be.  Y’see early last year the American noise label Altar of Waste released ‘the swift’ by midwich in a criminally limited (and quite expensive due to shipping costs) edition of 15 with no digital version available.  It was well received, I was proud of it and I was very grateful to those trusting souls who swapped hard cash for a copy.  I might have been happy to leave it there but I had one or two enquiries about reissuing it and just couldn’t resist reaching out to Craig and planting a seed.  What a recommendation, eh?  This label is so good that I found a way to be on it.

More news as it breaks!

(…and if you are one of those kind purchasers of the original edition please forgive me.  Remind me of the fact when the Aqua Dentata CD-r on fencing flatworm drops later in the year – I’ll sort you out proper.)


Invisible City Records

all that is left: people-eaters, aetheric records and invisible city records

April 9, 2015 at 12:39 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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people-eaters – The Only Thing Left To Fear (A5 chapbook, 16pp, with 3” CD-r mixtape, aetheric records)

people-eaters – The Only Thing Left To Fear (tape, Invisible City Records, edition of 30 or download)

only thing left to fear tape

people-eaters - fear 2

It amuses me to imagine aetheric records and Invisible City Records sharing premises. I picture a cross between the drawing room in Poe’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ and the well-appointed lounge where William Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki gathers his friends to hear tales of ghost-hunting. The more decadent staff members drape themselves over the chaise longues and, deep in a fug of laudanum and absinthe, lose themselves in painfully thin volumes of German poetry. The more scientifically minded look on disapprovingly and return to their geographical analysis of Eastern European folklore, or a heated exchange as to the properties of ectoplasm.

The pull-back-and-reveal (or ‘then I got off the bus’ moment – cheers Pete) in this scene occurs as the camera follows one of these chaps out of the main door and into… an anonymous, strip-lit corridor in a modern, faceless office building. What gives!? Well, despite my whimsical first paragraph I’d suggest both labels are solidly grounded in the present day and fully understand the ritual and psychological significance of the trappings they have chosen. Alistair of aetheric knows full well that his beloved photographs of spirit activity at Victorian séances are preposterous hoaxes, Craig of Invisible City knows full well that H.P. Lovecraft was a writer of fiction not a documentarian. Both can agree, with a shared wistful sigh, that there is simply no such thing as ‘cat people’ from the ‘old country’…

That said, the certainty that there are no tentacles under the bed is cold comfort. If these things don’t exist then the stories we tell about them are really attempts to explain unpalatable truths about ourselves and our place in an indifferent universe. In the absence of spirits and monsters all that is left is us, an infinity of nothing and the implications thereof. That is the only thing left to fear.

Which brings us through the woods to the album that ties the two labels together: The Only Thing Left to Fear by people-eaters. Released in two versions, on aetheric this comes as an A5 chapbook containing five poems, five automatic drawings and a 16 minute ‘mixtape’ on 3″ CD-r and on Invisible City it exists as a limited edition tape or download. You don’t get the chapbook with the latter but, beefed up with remixes, the amount of music included is more than doubled. Both editions are still available at the time of writing.

The poetry, written by Alistair using the pseudonym ‘slowthaw’, is grisly and bleak – part Baudelaire fever-dream, part Burroughs cut-up, all disgusted with the corporeal. It’s an uncomfortable read.  Some of you will appreciate that.  Regarding the artwork, I’m always tempted to ‘reverse engineer’ automatic drawing, to trace the lines with a fingernail or the tip of a pen and see what, if any, feelings fall out as a result. This time, appropriately enough, I got panicked – as if a spirit was trying to communicate something and getting increasingly frantic as it realised this ‘Ouija board’ had no letters on it, nor did the fleshy mechanism it had appropriated even believe in its existence.

Before accounting for the music, I should mention that all the creative aspects of this project are apparently inspired by the following quote:

Spirit sounds are usually of a peculiar character; they have an intensity and a character of their own, and, notwithstanding their great variety, can hardly be mistaken, so that they are not easily confused with common noises, such as the creaking of wood, the crackling of fire, or the ticking of a clock; spirit raps are clear and sharp, sometimes soft and light… (from The Medium’s Book by Allan Kardec published in 1861)

…as its influence is easier heard than seen. The quote is classic spiritualism – apparently saying something concrete and testable but, on examination, containing enough wiggle room to accommodate a salsa class. people-eaters play it straight, though (well, after an opening that samples a mindfulness meditation tape and thus returned me to early 90s ‘chill out’ ambient nonsense) and present a series of creaks, crackles and ticks drawn out with biomechanical rhythms for our appraisal. Anchor chains are cut and bows scrape against each other in a moonlit bay. Brass cogged difference engines strip oxidised gears. Parasitic organisms are hatched and scrabble at the walls of their red prison, the host animal oblivious.

Ghosts? We are asked. Monsters? Each time we have to look down and shake our heads: no, just us – just you, me and the fuckers on the other side of that bolted door.

Nothing else.


aetheric records

Invisible City Records

choir of pelicans: joe murray on kieron piercy & dylan nyoukis, f.ampism & fritz welch

April 5, 2015 at 9:40 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Kieron Piercy & Dylan Nyoukis – An Unripe Preoccupation with Nonagenarian Moroseness (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.305, edition of 50)

F.Ampism – Pattern Interrupt (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.286)

F.Ampism – The Ancient Wing (tape, IKUISUUS, ikasus-046)

f.ampism & f.welch – shouting a hymn down the cosmogonic dream hole (CD-r, humansacrifice, HS009)


Kieron Piercy & Dylan Nyoukis – An Unripe Preoccupation with Nonagenarian Moroseness

Mr Kieron and Mr Dylan present a 27 minute odyssey – a minute for every year of Kurt Cobain’s life on this coppery beast.

Just in case you’ve stumbled on RFM from Cuba or something here’s the back story.  KP hails from inland Megalopolis Leeds and plays tapes and devices in the hypnotic-power trio Spoils & Relics. DN plays similar tapes and devices but this time from the damp coast of Brighton with memory-scrub duo Blood Stereo.  Together these gently glowing men methodically flip the switches in my head marked ‘fump’, ‘whirr’ and, most importantly ‘squelch’.  Right on!

Kurt’s early years are depicted as a gentle hissing – a rising of the sap through hollow young legs no doubt!  Cheeky.  But by Junior High the AM Radio starts to fill his blonde little head with snatches of ‘The Mac’ stripped of everything apart from Stevie Nick’s breathy acrobatics (she sighs like a pro), each expulsion of C02 piped through an intricate system of fur-lined loops.

Our man comes of age.  And while much ink is spilled over his punk rock credentials (the Flipper jean jacket patches, the Scratch Acid mixtapes) little time is spent studying his Linguaphone experiments, playing Greek Progressive Rock through that new Walkman contraption, gurning along while dropping potatoes into a ceramic bowl.  But of course Piercey & Nyoukis nail this moment perfectly.  History is rewritten – check your facts Charles R Cross!

The move from Fecal Matter to Nirvana is a small one, but still important to note.  With eyes firmly fixed on the prize of rock explosion, a series of stretched-out faux frog calls batter my poor eardrums… but all rippled and slushed.  Some said the decision to open that infamous Reading Festival set with a choir of Pelicans was a career-limiting move (and some still blame the drummer) but those brazen sea-birds honk with a mournful timbre – a cosmic disaffection rather than a cry for raw herring that says more about The Stooges and the taxonomy of ‘alternative rock’ than any limp chord or riff.

The birth of a child and a marriage takes a psychic toll as serious as Geffen contracts so it’s no wonder the mood turns darker with a comfortable helplessness – skittering pops and shuffles leaking out of my tiny earbuds mirroring the sound of grazed knees.

Now it’s near the end; the final moments amplify the torment of ‘the Rome incident’ and track the disembodied voices of the medical staff and the cardio vascular crack of the ribs.  It’s not comfortable listening, but then again what is?  You want comfortable?  Drop some Mantovani.  You want real?  Plug into this delightful moroseness and let those silent tears well up and spill from your fat eyelids.

pattern interruptancient wingcosmogonic

F.Ampism – Pattern Interrupt, The Ancient Wing, f.ampism & f.welch – shouting a hymn down the cosmogonic dream hole

All hail F.Ampism, king of the Quiet Village and noisy jungle!

Pattern Interrupt creates a sweaty negative zone where swollen lacewings fripp by at ear level and recycled bicycle bells become a spooked gamelan.

If you peak from under your oversized pith helmet you can watch the noble tribes holding a soft revolt, a velvet coup by waving their iPhones at the gawking tourists, SIM cards full of classic Ubuweb downloads.  The cultural incongruence is too much for some holiday makers and they run screaming through the sinister Swiss Cheese plants.  Those that remain hawk it up for pregnant yuks.

But it’s not all Hugh Tracey tropical offerings. The frosty steppes get a look in too.  Picture a landing site for a burned-out cosmonaut; thousands of miles of desolation stretch out in all directions with only the unthinking wind for company and a boner in your spacesuit.

Mark my words.  There’s a yearning quality to these recordings.  A longing for a retrofitted future where Margaret Mead pursued foul-electronics rather than Anthropology and Blind Lemon Jefferson composed for the frost Calliope.  This alternate future/past is best played out on ‘The Infinite Inward’ a wormhole through NYC docks (circa 1946) via Moondog’s fully open third eye.

No-Audience Exorcists take note: ‘Did you mean Wasabi’ features some of the most evil wonk-muttering, like the wolves that live in the wall of our haunted house. ‘X’ marks the spot me hearties!

The Ancient Wing tape has found a home on the awesome Ikiuisuus label* and folds the incidental music from Ulysses 31 into World in Action Technicolor.  The separate tracks, peppered with ‘bloops’ and ‘bleeps’, work as a perfect whole and sound like a beautiful analogue lava-lamp slowly melting in a head shop.

And, overall the mood is funky; damn funky.  I don’t get the opportunity to use the ‘F-word’ much on these here pages, but as any funkateer knows, it’s all about an appreciation  of space, of slipping your timing and mining the absence.  What you leave out determines what the listener has to put in whether it’s on the god-damn one or not.  You gotta work for your funk and F.Ampism makes my pulse rate flitter.

But, apart from getting me a hot foot this collection is giving my memory centre a good old going over.  The partial, ever mutating tunes and rippling, bubbling synths that lick like a sauce kick off a series of half-remembered sensory dreams: the toilet smell of Whitby, this hiss of an opening vacuum flask, the feel of vinyl car seats in July.  I feel like a dormant part of my brain is flickering into life, the lights are starting to glow.  An aid to meditation and psychic recovery!

On the quite beautifully packaged Shouting a Hymn Down the Cosmogonic Dream Hole our very own F.Ampism is joined by my favourite transplanted Texan – Fritz Welch.  The theme is jazz-tinged industry with a busy, busy earful of tinkering taps, bells, squawks and diddles moving across eight untitled micro-moments.  I’m delighted to hear Fritz is back behind the drum kit again with super-sharp scattering as dry as twigs vibrating the piggy membranes.  F.Ampism is majoring on Dictaphones and I have to say, one Dicta fan to another, this playing is nothing short of astonishing: witty, quick of thumb and lyrical.

Although the energy level is cracked up to Jolt Cola levels that doesn’t mean any detail is lost in the delightful kerfuffle.  ‘Recorded in Brighton & Glasgow’ proudly proclaims the label and I’m guessing this is no clinical studio jam but a warm-up, pre-audience knock-about that captures all the spontaneity of a show without the beer-fug and crowd noise.

The first couple of tracks hit that pretty classic drum/Dicta duo bullseye, and after a while voices, and longer snatches of tape get fed into the audio-mincer.  My bristly ear picks up some of Fritz’s Crumbs on the Dumpster tales of youthful indulgence amid the clatter and flummox.  But nothing stands still.  The subtle sound of coughs and whistles slide into the brain-pan and add an intimacy sadly lacking in your Incus-wannabe releases.  Wibbley-wobbly mbira tones get plucked and tea cups jitter on bone china saucers; it’s all grist to the collective sound-mill but never feels slapped on with a trowel.  That old balancing act  – being free in spirit but precise in intent is easily soft-shoed across Niagara.  The double-headed Fritz-ism wants you to listen and ENJOY listening.

So Enjoy.  Do it!


*Hey cheap skates! Ikiuisuus not only brought us F.Ampism on this very day but you have to check out these free downloads from a whole bunch of beards and forest folk on their colourful website.  The label that keeps on giving eh?


Chocolate Monk



invisible dance for violin: chrissie caulfield on troy schafer

March 31, 2015 at 12:10 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Troy Schafer – Action for Solo Violin (tape, Dusty Grass Imprint, edition of 100 or download)

troy schafer - action

I’m a sucker for a solo violin piece.  It’s not the purity of the single instrument, oh no. I have no time for purity in music, for me hybridity is the way, but I love the idea of taking a single instrument and stretching it as far as it will go, or combining it with something unexpected. Like dance. Or, in this case, an invisible dance!

For that is what Troy Schafer has done here. It’s a dance for a violinist, but you don’t see the movement – just four tantalising photos giving a mere hint of what is going on in the course of this album. The reviews quoted on the download site lament that there is no video available of the performance but I think this is actually a feature and not a bug (as we say in software). By leaving the movements up to your imagination, Shafer is making you imagine what might be happening rather than giving it to you on a plate. If I’d seen the performance live I’m sure I would have been transfixed, but at home I’d rather listen to a recording and make my own pictures than watch them on a screen, at least where music is concerned.

Where the release does fall down, in my opinion, is that it seems to have been recorded with a single microphone so there is no stereo image to help you with your internal visualisations. A spaced pair would have added hugely to the interest in the sound here and given us a few clues, at least, as to what might be going on. Another thing I feel I would have quite liked him to do would be to detune the strings occasionally to give us more variety in the notes that come through.

And what is going on? Well audibly it’s mostly a lot of clicks, pops and scrapes, there’s quite a lot of scratching of the bow on the strings, plucking them behind the bridge. These are done with much variety, intensity and variety of intensity – he goes from barely audible scratches to sounding like he’s in a small aircraft about to take off. What you won’t find are any ‘normal’ notes. The few times the bow is drawn across a string it’s with such pressure or at such an angle that any semblance of a note is almost a figment of your imagination.

And imagination is key to this recording, I think. Both in Schafer’s idea to make it in the first place, and in your own mind as you listen. As I experience this piece I can imagine all sorts of contortions that the performer gets up to, with both violin and bow, and every time I listen to it those movements change depending on my mood. Of course all music sounds different each time you listen depending on mood, but here you have the four visual starting points to get you going with the dance each time too, and I do strongly recommend looking at the photos before beginning a session with this album.

Surprisingly (well, it surprised me) there really is enough going on to keep you hooked for the full 40 minutes. Just. The interest comes from the subtlety of differences between the effects and the juxtaposition of them. As soon as you begin to wonder whether a particular gesture is going to go on forever, Schafer moves on to something else – sometimes literally as you hear his feet shuffling on the floor. It’s a hard listen at times, there are no long sounds here at all, it’s sparse and percussive for all of it’s duration. I got this as a download rather than the cassette but I think you still need the time between movements to rest your ears and, metaphorically or physically, turn the tape over. In my case I load the album one file at a time into my player software rather than using a playlist.

This album might be mainly a work for violin-nerds, I think I know how all the sounds here were produced and can visualise what is happening at least at the micro level of the performance – e.g. what the bow is doing on the strings – but maybe some ignorance or less detailed knowledge of the instrument and its extended techniques might actually help [Editor’s note: if you want ignorance of technique then I’m your man!]. Perhaps not knowing what on earth is going on adds even more to the mystery dance.  Have a listen and let me know!


Dusty Grass Imprint

Troy Schafer on Bandcamp

the radiofreemidwich random tape grab-bag experiment, or: joe murray empties his bulging sack

March 30, 2015 at 12:06 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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joe's bulging sack

[Editor’s note: Joe Murray, our resident beat prophet, has convinced his skeptical editor to temporarily abandon the usual formatting for reasons that will soon be apparent.  Thus there are no release details up front, pictures will follow reviews and links will be found where they lay.]

Like all my RFM comrades I have a teetering bunch of tapes to review.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.  It’s a privilege and an honour to hear so many dispatches from the No-Audience Underground.

But sometimes I feel I’m doing you a disservice my friends.  It’s the same old, same old format: slot tape in, listen thrice, make notes, look at any other internet gubbins, write up final copy, post to Rob and await his judgement a’ tremble.

But today I want to spice things up baby.   I’m going 50 shades on this shit.

So, in  order to make things (hopefully) more entertaining and experimental in spirit for you, my dear reader, I chucked all my review tapes into a drawstring bag and will pull them out, randomly, sight-unseen ready to slap into the cheap-o hi-fi.  No prior knowledge, no prejudice etc.

Mystery Tape One.  The first thing I notice is an ambient hiss, growing and forming, covering all the other electronic ‘chunk-ka-kuh’ like Spanish moss.  Things get less rhythmic and more drawn out (elongated gong strikes / trapdoor creak) creating a soundtrack feel with some floating voices chattering.  There’s a synth or something humming giving this a very European feel… a dark Froese perhaps?  Now there’s electricity in the air as the test tubes fizz and pop; a scientist twitches and mugs singing snatches of opera in a cracked voice.  Somehow the radio picks up their brain waves: forgotten memories of the seaside and music hall?  An Anthony Caro sculpture comes to life with deep space moans.  Blimey.  Who’s this?  I pop out the tape and check it.   Bless my soul.  It’s the ever lovely Claus Poulsen with Collected Dreams on Skrat Records.

claus poulsen - collected dreams

Mystery Tape Two.  OK…so far so good.   I fumble in my bag and pluck out the next offering.  It drops neatly into the wide-mouth slot and kicks off some dark rubbery knockings, slurm residue and spurks-thumb.  Oh yeah man…this is tremendous stuff!  There’s a treacle-like bubbling and whomping, like some living salt-water lake throbbing dangerously, searching out new tributaries with its briny fingers.  This is pure sound abstraction that builds layers of thick, dark sound-paint until a giant glove smears the oily pickle.   The noxious mixture spreads thin, lightening the hue and spreading the sticky mixture over frame, wall, floor and ceiling until we are all covered with the stuff – a burnt Rothko orange.  Side two opens up with a fling of ducks all ecstatically hawking and honking.  These sounds are passed though some electronic doo-hickery that seems to split and repeat certain quacking frequencies so sections of the greasy reverberations get plucked for presentation with a sheen and glimmer.  The water fowl retreat to roost as we dip our ears below the slick surface of water to luxuriate in music for rowing boat hulls; wooden creak and swollen pop.  Gosh, this tape is really hitting the spot.  Who do I have to thank?  I should have known…it’s ‘The Ambassador’ Tom White with his Reconstruction on Alien Passengers.

tom white - reconstruction

Mystery Tape Three.  This tape starts off with some nice tape gunk that moves unhurriedly between half-tunes played on fuzzed-out organ.  A female voice with the smoky cadence of William Burroughs tells a tale about some sci-fi travel (or something) while Working Men’s Club beats (tiss-be-be-bon-tiss…) flit in and out of the organ tunes.  And then found sound and field recordings get thrown into the mix.  Not in a haphazard manner, no sir, this is finely tuned and tweaked like the exact halfway point between a Radiophonic performance scored by the late great Broadcast and waking up from a particularly vivid dream.  I have to be honest with you readers… I’m stumped here; I have no idea what or who or when this is.  It’s certainly more lyrical than the usual shimmy but the narrative and structure are all over the shop giving this a delightfully Victorian psychedelic edge.  I can’t wait any longer; I crack under the pressure of not knowing and check the cover.  Ahhhhh….it’s that beautiful and wonderfully eccentric duo Winter Family who are playing here with their How Does Time tape on Psychic Mule Records.  It is indeed a play, a play designed to be listened to on a very particular train journey between Besançon in France and  La Chaux-de-Fonds in Switzerland for very particular watch makers.  The ultimate commuter listen.

winter family - how does time

Mystery Tape Four.  Your typical Northern pub chatter sets the scene with clattering bottles and knowing laughter.  An on-stage introduction welcomes you and says, ‘This is for d boon’ before a proper guitar riff chugga-chuggas.   OK…that’s a reference to the wonderful Minutemen  – I get that; are we jamming econo?  Is this gonna be some tour spiel dude? But, at the same time I’m expecting some tape collage work to start up, a wonk-move or gurgled gob etc.  Some music concrete shit and all that doings.  But no…this is pure UK hardcore, recorded very, very  live, possibly from some archive with guitar/bass/drums and an angry attitude.  Think Heresy or something but with a bit more of ‘baseball bat to the face and neck’ feel.  The songs come in short, sharp blasts.  Three or four in a row – chunka – chunka – cheer – crowd babble – chunka- chunka.  It’s invigorating stuff and seems to get looser and more chaotic as the tape goes on (always a bonus for me).  I’m totally lost here.  No idea who it is or even how it crept into my review pile. Shall we look readers?  OK…it all comes flooding back.  This is Battery Humans on Fuckin’ Amateurs with their For D Boon tape.  It is recorded live and recently: 6th September 2014 to be precise and features one Guy Warnes AKA Waz Hoola, the unsung hero of the northern drone scene, on drums.  The usual F#A! standards of presentation apply with anarchy inserts, random gaffer tape sculpture and art fliched from Viz Comic.  Side B is another live recording but this time from Scurge in 1991.  You want rage?   You got it.

battery humans

Mystery Tape Five.  I press ‘play’ and an undulating, chemically insistent, flute trills with the sort of chaotic abandon that pins Old God MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI into a restful slumber.  A thousand chaffed lips puff noxious gas through human thighbone pipes while the jester dances merrily on (like he’s posing for a Marillion album or something).  Gosh…this is pretty intense.  The next track saunters by sounding like that crap ‘pre-computer’ computer game Simon hooking up to Terminator’s Skynet and crashing civilisation as we know it into a frosty digital sludge. Blimey…there’s a hard stop as I turn the tape over but as soon as I click things into life the holy racket starts again.  This time I’m getting something like a rouge Funkadelic jam; real cosmic slop rejected by Mr Clinton for being too out-there as layers of keyboard fuzz and squealing huff pile up and up and up.  A brief moment of calm (the keys ape Vangelis in blade runner tights) lets me breathe again before I’m pushed out a 30 storey window (metaphorically, dude – don’t panic, man) and, as I tumble, I catch snippets of Mexican TV, Concrete Noise, psychic experiments and terrible quiz shows as I hurtle past the apartments spinning dangerously out of control.  An uneven gravity pocket spares me a sticky end and I land, gracefully and precisely, into a pair of oxblood Doctor Martins – the world’s kindest bootboy.  Crows cackle around me, applauding with electric beaks.  I check the details, no wiser of this tapes provenance but washed clean by its synesthetic high, to find out it’s my old Papal Bull buddy Jon Marshall and noise-nudist Pascal Ansell cavorting under the No Thumbs banner.  This beauty’s called Slug Birth and is available from the brand-spanking-new Tutore Burlato label.  If TB is a new name on your radar the quality hallmark of its founder, one Ezio Piermattei, should seal the deal.

no thumbs - slug birth

Mystery Tape Six.  A hawking ceilidh – all X-ray gingham and a skilful cheek-slapping solo.  Reet…now there’s some ‘brum-t-t-tuh’ ursonating richly, fupping my sonics.  Gosh…this is a tasty oyster to be gulped down whole.  A general Scottishness takes hold with gristle and blum; stiff wire wool scraping and beautifully played Dictaphone garble.  I almost trip over my big feet in my rush to turn it over as I’m aching for side two.  And that’s where my experiment has to end.  No system is perfect.  It’s darn near impossible to ignore the fact a voice immediately states…

I’m Ali Robertson

…in Ali Robertson’s voice, soon to be joined by a variety of other familiar burrs. This side is one long ‘game’ of read personal biographies all overlapping (stop-starting) set to strict rules that our cuddly despot is keen to enforce.  Waves of casual voice and chatter settle into strange rhythms – probably some mathematical fractal shit, interlocking as neat as a Rubik’s satisfying ‘click’.  So yeah…durrrr…it’s Ali Robertson and his handily titled Ali Robertson & Friends tape on the always brilliant Giant Tank label.

ali and friends

So my excellent friends, I hope that worked for you?  Me?  I’m refreshed and re-born!  My ears are prickling with cleansing static and expectation.

But tell me: how are you doing?


the machine slowly unfolds: joe murray on star turbine, poulsen & klapper, rogaland hot club, forest of eyes

March 26, 2015 at 8:36 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Martin Klapper & Claus Poulsen, Rogaland Hot Club – Og Senere Pa Eftermiddagen / Rogaland Styrende Organer (tape, Gold Soundz, GS#125, edition of 25)

Star Turbine – Alterations (CD-r, SKRAT Records, skr-017)

Forest of Eyes – Leaf Litter (CD-r or download, self-released)

RFM Poulsen_Klapper 2

Martin Klapper & Claus Poulsen, Rogaland Hot Club – Og Senere Pa Eftermiddagen / Rogaland Styrende Organer

I picked this beauty up from the Goldsoundz gaucho himself Sindre Bjerga during his recent half-term jaunt to the UK with Claus Poulsen.  I’m always up for a trade but was doubly delighted to see the name Martin Klapper splashed across the carefully folded collage cover.  For me Martin’s sounds were an important entry point into an underground alternate reality where toys take a seat in the orchestra and accident holds an unreliable baton to conduct.

I asked Claus with my eyes ashine:

How did you hook up with the Klapper man?


Martin?  He lives round the corner from me,

…came the nonchalant reply from Claus.

Good golly!  I almost ran home to jam this silvery prize right there and then but resisted like a good human and took my time.

The seven short tracks from Klapper/Poulsen are total knockabout junk-core of the highest order. No moment is left un-squirmed.  The pace is busy like a chicken-pox itch with layers of ‘huzzzzz’, ‘hok-ko-kok’ and ‘charrrr’ expertly mixed so it’s almost tumbling into chaos but pulls itself back from the brink every time.

The attendant floppings are not in any way naive or frivolous.  Using toys, doo-dahs and soft furnishings in your music is no easy option.  You’ve got to search the possibilities as lovingly as any extended technique merchant.

The stop-start, juddering of micro-musical moments ticks my Tom & Jerry box in thick black marker.  It’s delightful to surrender to the ‘quacks’ and belches letting my brain process this particular Technicolor moment, and another, and another, and another until the grey stuff is left panting and fagged out.

I will never tire of this approach.  It’s the very sound of spontaneous invention for heaven’s sake!  It gives me the same warm glow as discovering that the sonorous snoring behind me is actually the start of a vintage Usurper or Drenching jam randomly selected for my rusty earbuds.  Turn on, Tune in, Flop out.

Rogaland Hot Club are another name I’ve wanted to catch up with for a long while now.  A Norwegian super-group (Sindre Bjerga, Anders Gjerde and Pål Asle Pettersen) made up of only Ginger Bakers this 21 minute collage of live/non-live jams all smeared together is a master class in group improvisation.  Most of us agree that music is a social activity and, as a result, the interactions between individuals in groups are one rich area of both business and pleasure.

The Hot Club play on the skronk, the sound of overloaded equipment peaking redly and knead it into unselfish group moaning and caterwauls; a King Midas of agonies hawked out by specially trained sea lions, so close you can almost smell their fishy rewards.

At the 9 mins 30 mark exactly the scene changes to a surviving audience recording of Suicide’s only Scandinavian date.  Those tricky voltage differences pitched all their Casio beats too low for a US crowd but it was perfect for the winter walkers who break out the hjemmebrent to dance like their sensible shoes are covered in foul-smelling glue.   A paddle-puddle-battle takes the place of an interval until the show gets closed by the cops, hauling in their own sound system playing Barrington Levy at ear splitting volume – backwards – as they take turns to ‘singjay’ the pages and pages of overtime claims in a newly discovered Atlantian dialect, incomprehensible to us land dwellers.

One lone voice remains, spoiling the ballots in a confused tone.

Gosh…this is one heady rush.  Available in tiny quantities; there’s only 25 copies in the whole wide world.  Move swiftly my dear reader, move with sureness and speed or let this opportunity pass you by forever.

RFM Star Turbine

Star Turbine – Alterations

This upstanding duo of Sindre Bjerga and Claus Poulsen have come a long way in the last few years. Their collective name Star Turbine is well chosen as their first set of recordings were very much the sound of the ion drive, the Dylithium raga and ‘Set the controls for the heart of the sun’ omni-chord workouts.  But all things change, even in the field of deep space research, and in 2015 we hear a very different sound-world pumping from Claus and Sindre’s sci-fi drone pipes.

The two live pieces that make up this ‘tour only’ disc are real heavy journeys into the unknown.  The lengthier ‘Leiden’ starts in the foothills of some imagined country and hikes carefully up a frozen mountain.  Electrick brooks, bubbling happily down below, become ferocious and dangerously sly underfoot the further you climb.  The pretty, crisp frost gets deeper and sloppier until each boot crunch sends up explosive plumes of fine white dust, peppering the air with paranoia and panic spores.  The trees, naturally, become spare and sparse.  The odd rough limb points skywards, blackened against the snow pointing an accusing finger to some jealous deity in the clear night sky.

And then… it’s all calm.  The occasional goat bell chimes mournfully and echoes across the valley.  Your shortwave radio picks up astronaut interference; they could be reciting poetry or sending a panic-flaming SOS, but you’re too worn out from the day’s exertions to really care.  The ‘clicks’ and ‘burrs’ of speech just manage to fight through the static, lulling you to sleep to dream of Spanish guitars played with lobster claws and melting butter.

‘Dawn Voyage’ seems to pick up the journey mid-dream with that familiar ‘same but different’ trick my subconscious loves to play on me.

Skip loads of the river bed silt are brushed and combed by some gently purring machine.  For hours it labours, occasionally letting out a gasp of steam or erotic sigh of pleasure.  By morning the silt has all gone, processed away and the machine slowly unfolds, like a lotus flower, to reveal a small statue of Niels Bohr shimmering like some solid state disco ball.  Steve Lacy asks to borrow my headphones then complains loudly they are not the Beats he expected.  I wake up with a question on my lips…

forest of eyes - leaf litter

Forest of Eyes – Leaf Litter

If you check out the link to this beguiling new record from Forest of Eyes you’ll notice Mark Wardlaw’s mission statement for his FoE project:

Rescuing folktronica from the blahs

After a good old listen to this collection of songs and environments, at home and on the move, I can conclude that ‘yes’ Mark has accomplished this mission.  Folktronica consider yourself rescued!

But Leaf Litter does so much more than that.  Forest of Eyes has re-engaged the underground ‘folk’ debate to such a new level he demands a fresh chapter in Electric Eden.

Sure enough you have the sound of wide skies, painful loneliness and horizontal grey sleet recorded direct to mobile phone.  Yup…you’ve got medieval instrumentation: your dulcimers, your fiddles your concertinas and of course your good old bowed psaltery.

But this very ordinary looking disc takes the sonic disturbance of folk (the jarring frequencies in voice and subject matter, the stubby finger in the ear) and overlays them with a carefully attuned appreciation of the everyday noise of life.  It does this in two distinct ways.  Firstly there are the songy-songs tinkered with gently, ribbed for your pleasure.

But a new world is opened with the longer pieces.  They tip their hat to the traditional song form of course but quickly kick its shins with a steel-toed clog.  But it’s not leg pain that keeps you awake at night; it’s the mead-based Mickey that you can’t quite forget.  The deft shift of brain waves that calls you back for more over the freezing hills.

So first the songs: the scene is set with an apocalyptic instrumental ‘Regeneration Scheme Cancelled’ – a choir of thin keening tones played on a tortured dulcimer and pipe contraction (the atomically powerful bombard perhaps) making medievalists weep with its delicious modern primitive style.

You want a murder ballad?  Well all you Nick Cave types take note to check out ‘Edward’, a cyclical tale that sets a new low for misery with its plaintive verse over a deep breathing drone.  Both beautiful and disturbing.

And the father’s lament ‘Weary Cutters’ is sung a capella with a forlornness that’s magnified by its cliff hanging ending.  There’s no happy ever after feeling… it just tails off into an agonising emptiness.

So what’s left?  These are the meaty chunks…

Riot batons crash against police shields in a direct act of provocation to open ‘Strike Breaking Bastards’ a stunning, but very grimy, very cellular song-within-a-song that seamlessly incorporates the traditional Blackleg Miner with the sort of clank you’d expect on a Prick Decay record and the aforementioned politically-tinged faux field recording.  This is brave work!

A brief noise interlude that begins ‘Poachers Killing Police’ clears the head with a sharp and creaking concertina and explosive machine-breaking, then words courtesy of North Yorkshire Police add a social commentary that’s far more powerful and thought-provoking than any Dog-on-a-string nonsense. (Baton down the hatches Ed – that’s bound to upset the punk primadonnas [Editor’s note: not fussed]).

I’m pretty sure this is turning out to be a god-damn IMPORTANT record before I even sip on the final, black psychedelic slush of ‘Mouldering Vine’.  This is an hypnotic and nauseously overlapping tune that’s as truly twisted as a Sun City Gurls ram-jam spliced with Richard Youngs’ innocent weirdness (Lake era).  The killer fade-out, like a pale sun disappearing over a damp horizon, is the perfect melancholic masterstroke.


Gold Soundz

Skrat Records (yes, the disc was ‘tour only’ but no harm in asking…)

Forest of Eyes

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