stretch out the ermine: joe murray on dan melchior, arturas bumsteinas, bas van huizen, jake blanchardJune 29, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: arturas bumsteinas, bas van huizen, chocolate monk, dan melchior, intonema, jake blanchard, joe murray, moving furniture records, tor press, was ist das?
Dan Melchior – Seaslime (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.336)
Arturas Bumsteinas – Organ Safari Lituanica (CD, Intonema, int019, edition of 200)
Bas van Huizen – Waanzintraan (CD, Moving Furniture Records, MFR032, edition of 200)
Jake Blanchard – Shade (lathe-cut vinyl, Was Ist Das? / Tor Press, first edition of 30, second edition of 20 or download)
Dan Melchior – Seaslime
Total goose-work and tape-munch.
In parts, it’s throbbing synth and cut-ups that are, in the best possible way, all over the fucking shop. Grunt speech gets all wrapped and folded so the vowels come out backwards/sideways. There’s some nice radio interference and guitar (?) played with cheesy feet. Nuf said?
But the main thread seems to be ‘no thread’; logic takes a holiday and the unconscious mind takes over. Dan talks of…
the ebb, flow and convergence of sound/noise/information that the human receptor experiences when passing through the urban (specifically) grotto
OK… I’ll take that signpost and waltz merrily through this bohemian neighbourhood.
It’s dandy of course with ripe colours and complex shapes vying for my mallow eyes. But what I like most is the low-moaning-multiple-vocal-drone that peppers this steak and opens ‘Seaslime Part Two’. Thick slices of
are piled high. Conjure up a trio of backing singers on mogs trying to drown out Tin Turna or one of them turkeys. Got it? That’s wor Dan!
Not so much the dainty Faberge egg; more a Kinder Surprise stuffed with psychic confusions.
Arturas Bumsteinas – Organ Safari Lituanica
Three wonderfully rambling organ recordings that wander between full-blown religious ecstasy and porridge-fingered fumbles.
Previously it was Ligeti’s Volumina that set my personal benchmark for Organ-oddity. I’m no organ aficionado, see, so I have to rely on the helpful sleeve notes to read that these haunting recordings are captured, field recording style, in a variety of Lithuanian locations.
But this doesn’t seem to be an act of UNESCO-sanctioned preservation. It sounds more like, with the greatest respect, a group of goofs (like me… like you) getting their grotty mittens on the thick ivories and making up gaseous routines just for the jaxx of it.
It’s a truly glorious, immersive event. At times I feel Arturas’ hand gently twisting in a shadow of reverb but mostly it’s the overlaying of short lyrical pieces played on variety of organs to create a much longer whole.
So, from steam powered fairground calliope to massive church-lungs; from street corner grinder to experimental pipe deconstruction my cloth ears are picking up ‘in the moment’ experiments and cul-de-sacs. You’ll get a straight run at one idea (forearms on upper keyboard) single note squeals on the lower or a finger-jarring arpeggio; then deep boom and lyrical honk – the sustained drones with one hand and spidery exploration with the other. At points the tones are working against each other howling at the edge of the wind, coupled with tiny metallic bells.
Lovely though this breathy miasma is you’d be right in asking,
Wot… just blessed organ jaxx for over an hour? Count me out fella!
But what you’d be missing is the ‘lostness’ the feeling of being tossed into a sea of huff, powerless in the current. Not to get too hot in these shimmering pages but it’s a submissive act of listening that I’m riffing on right now.
And… as an extra bonus fondle there’s an exquisite hiss and click to these recordings. Frenzied organ-ing comes with the occasionally ‘clunk’ of a dropped prayer book or rubber plimsoll squeak; the cluttering mechanics of pulleys and foot pedals that make a brittle accompaniment.
There’s a story about Cecil Taylor (or Sunny Murray or Ornette Coleman) where some guy asks him to sit in on the bass during a smoky after-hours jam. The dude says,
I don’t play bass, man
which is exactly the right approach when dealing with a jazz-colossus. Yeah…compared to you I don’t ‘play’ anything. But this was not just a cautious piece of self-depreciation. The guy couldn’t play a note and bent Cecil/Sunny/Ornette’s form and chops up like a crushed stubbie. Like Cecil/Sunny/Ornette said, this cat tested him in ways none of the ways a schooled player would [Editor’s note: yeah, this story sounds familiar – anyone got a citation?].
Listening to this ghostly honk is testing my improv-worn ears in the same way!
Bas Van Huizen – Waanzintraan
My good gosh! I’ve not heard a racket like this for years. Never a clubber I took my rave-powders seated in a comfortable armchair, headphones on, twisting my DNA to Autechre and the like.
It seems like so long ago but Bas Van Huizen transported me back to that armchair (long since unstuffed and burned for firewood!) as quick as a wink.
Not saying this apes any of those hollow-cheeked rascals with their granular glitch. But this has that similar heady rush, like a powerful jet of silicon/seawater mix, spraying over the dancefloor in a weighty arc and into the ruined back street behind the club. It’s littered with rusty junk and piles of broken brick and that’s just fine by me.
These excursions are uneven in length adding further angularity. You’ve just got your head round something like ‘Jichtjager’ (explosive contact-mics swimming in restaurant grease. I’m busting sick moves (in my head) as each concussive bolt whacks my ear drum) or ‘Stoppermot’ (smeared orchestra pit confined to petri dish, each bacterial horn and violin grows mutated limbs to blow and bow in erratic timings) when another jam comes along and buffers your fluffer.
Take ‘Veldverachter’ for example… the sonic equivalent of ripping off a manky plaster, bath-moulded to your ankle. Ouch!
The longer pieces (our title track for instance) are no place for napping though as ideas are burned through at dizzying speed. Channelling my inner-Goolden I’m getting, iron ravens sarcastic caw-caw, the static fizz of turned milk and clouds alive with electric shrimp. But the extra time gives Bas a chance to stretch out the ermine and get fucking regal man. Opening credits of Blade Runner regal.
To put it another way this is the rice-shaped sliver of the Venn diagram where intense pressure meets slick humidity.
So get boiled brothers & sisters.
Jake Blanchard – Shade
Watch out lightweights, there’s super-heavy intention on these five tunes.
Multi-talented Jake’s colourful designs have graced poster, book, beer bottle and even a skateboard or two. But today the easel is packed down and beret thrown to one side as a musical outing is on the agenda.
Things start with the lengthy reed-breath-piece ‘Submerged’, all Conrad-esque drone shimmering like celestial orbs, gravity surfing in warp space.
‘Unmarked’ mimics Rodger Daltry’s speed-mod stutter with some chopped ‘thug guitar’ and gritty slide all taking off into the hard desert sky. But despite the groaning blues this is truly music to build magnificent pyramids to.
Wobble-out a Saz vibe as ‘Pollination’ meshes several Middle Eastern cultures and runs them through a Copycat (or something) to create a wet-lipped smacking and the kind of unhinged fretboard gymnastics Richard Bishop would highlight in orange marker pen as Rem-fucking-betika.
This Greek 3rd Man theme continues on spy-thriller ‘Ill Advised’, kooky-keys rattle among plates of fresh octopus and we get brought back, full circle for ‘Stoney Nova’, a drone piece as soul-mirror. Ghostly reflections make a flat glassy image repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat, re peat, repea t, re pe at, repe at, re peat, r epeat, rep eat, repea t, rep eat, r ep eat, r e p ea t, re p ea t, r e p e a t, r e p e a t and r e p e
Tags: bram devens, chloe wallace, drone, glen steenkiste, hellvete, ignatz, jake blanchard, karl mv waugh, new music, no audience underground, noise, plurals, sophie cooper, tapes, the zero map, tor press, visual art
The Zero Map – Cerebrum Paté (CD-r, Tor Press, TORCD04, edition of 60, lino print cover)
Plurals – Debasement (CD-r, Tor Press, TORCD03, edition of 100 with three lino prints)
Ignatz / Sophie Cooper – Split (tape, Tor Press, TORCAS005, edition of 75)
Hellvete / Jake Blanchard – Split (tape, Tor Press, TORCAS006, edition of 75)
Blimey, you lot have woken from your winter hibernation pretty sharpish, eh? After throwing off the bear skins and shaking out the grass matting the first thought in the groggy collective mind of the no-audience underground seems to have been ‘must… send… parcel… to… Rob…’ or ‘nnnghhhh – download code for RFM!!’ Thus a review pile that had been diligently reduced to single figures during a hyperactive December has, by the end of January, been re-swollen to over forty items. I ain’t complaining, comrades – far from it. A skim through the new stuff reveals a level of quality and invention that is noggin-baking. My only concern is how to do it all justice. What a glorious bind to be in, eh readers? What a privilege to be a creative partner in this collective endeavour! Anyway, enuff swooning – I better get to work: a few posts to put 2013 to rest, the spring greens of 2014 to follow shortly after.
Today we’ll be looking at four releases on Tor Press, the Todmorden-based record label, zine publisher and gig promoter, run by illustrator Jake Blanchard. The first of these is Cerebrum Paté (cover above) a thirty-two minute, two track CD-r by The Zero Map, the Brighton based duo of Chloe Wallace and Karl M V Waugh.
I consider this band to be underrated – meaning that Uncle Mark of Idwal Fisher doesn’t like ’em as much as I’d like ‘im to like ’em – but not, of course, here at RFM HQ where they are firm favourites. On several enjoyable occasions I have pretzelled myself attempting to classify the meditative anarchy of their vibe. On the surface there is nothing gonzo or discordant apparent. An augmented drone, or electronic collage, carries you along like a pooh stick on a slow moving stream, flowing over and around some interesting obstacles. However, the closer you look the more peculiar it gets. One of those obstructions might be, say, the arm of a shop window mannequin sticking up out of the current, or perhaps some unknown hand has rearranged the pebbles of the stream bed into a mosaic depicting the face of Philip K. Dick, or maybe some biological agent in the water has turned the orchids in that tree stump blue (aside: Upstream Colour – best film of 2013) and so on…
Suffice to say that the first track, ‘Neutrino Detector’, begins with some nicely intestinal bass and that the second track, ‘A Python’, ends with a visceral crescendo that makes me want to drink blood from the skulls of my vanquished enemies. In-between times you’ll find plenty of whatthefuckery to flavour your reverie. Recommended.
Next is Debasement, a CD-r by the three (or four?) member ‘scattered collective’ Plurals. The disc is accompanied by three beautiful lino prints, one each by Ben Jones, Tom J Newell and Jake Blanchard, each an interpretation of one of the three tracks that make up the album. I consider this band to one of the frontrunners in this sport. Their sound has, for me, a subtle narrative quality that is compelling, exciting and rewarding of repeat listens. It draws stories out of me. Like this one:
The first track, ‘Modal Nodes’ is a glorious drone piece, a model of adulterated perfection. Picture a conical, many-limbed alien creature, nestled comfortably in an indentation on a sandy beach. Scattered around it are a number of terracotta coloured objects, each of which is picked up and, with a whip of a tentacle, set spinning. Some of these tops contain whistles, others beads and carved stones, all of which hum or rattle as they rotate. Luxuriating in the buzz it has created the creature uses half its mouths to join in with ululations and the other half to grin with.
‘Ape Skull Photography’ begins with more insistence – the urgent throb of a distress signal triggered by the captain of an exploration vessel sent to map this new world. The cause of his alarm is the frightening speed at which his crew have ‘gone native’ since arriving. The majority can be found scooping out their own hollows and joining in with the alien groove, only to be dragged away by the few left unaffected. This gathering siren sound begins to blot out the sound of the siren. Cut to the bridge of a rescue ship sent to investigate. The crew shift in their seats, uneasily listening.
‘Glowing Generic Diety’ is the final sublimation. Primed by the smeared-out distress signal the rescuers didn’t stand a chance and succumbed immediately. The captain can now be found on a nearby riverside, covered in red muck, fashioning his own spinning pots from the clay. Dozens are drying on the bank behind him. The rest of the crew are entwined in tentacles, consciousness liquefied in a grotesquely beautiful parody of nirvana.
Heh, heh – how’s that? Tremendous stuff.
..and finally the two split tapes. Sadly, they are already sold out and do not appear to have a digital afterlife. However, I am compelled to mention ’em at least because they are marvellous.
Ignatz, a guitarist from Belgium called Bram Devens, contributes five tracks of outsider blues with an archaeological crust to the recording that suggests Daniel Johnston transported back to the Mississippi Delta of the 1920s. His playing is raw and immediate but contains passages of disarming subtlety. His voice is fragile but his delivery has plenty of personality and push. I have been charmed by these haunting, humorous pieces and invigorated by the lifeforce they exhibit. One track, ‘Liquorice’, is named for my favourite confectionery too!
Sophie Cooper’s songs here concern absence and displacement and are half submerged in fuzz, echo and lapping ripples of liquid noise. The atmosphere is maintained beautifully, the medium conveying the message. ‘Dreamlike’ is an adjective easy to reach for when faced with anything at all diaphanous but, despite an explicit rejection of the notion by Sophie: track four is titled ‘I Never Associate Dreams With Anything’, I think the description fits. The tidal to and fro between here and distant, me and you, inside and outside has the sort of discombobulating internal logic you might struggle with on waking at 3am. I recently had the pleasure of seeing her perform live. Her voice and guitar were accompanied by a filtered flow of taped audio detritus which gave the impression her songs were emerging from a kind of shared, consensual hallucination. Also, by filling the gaps between songs and thus not providing the usual silence for applause her set was placed firmly in the context of the noise performances that preceded it. Very smart and very engaging.
The tape shared by Jake Blanchard himself and Hellvete, a guy called Glen Steenkiste, is a meeting of mighty, magical dronezillas. However, instead of tearing chunks out of each other whilst stamping on the unsuspecting burghers of Todmorden, Jake invites Glen to a campfire party at a beauty spot up on the Pennine tops. After roasting a few cattle the monsters take turns casting spells to entertain each other. This isn’t lazy, elbow-on-the-keyboard drone but a glowing, crackling, rolling presence built from ‘real’, sometimes handmade, instruments. It is beautifully layered and textured and animated by a sparkling and complex soul. Vibracathedral Orchestra comes to mind, of course, as does Jazzfinger, but replace the incense with the sinus clearing tang of pine resin. It ain’t all epic, though. The Hellvete side ends with a charming, tiny, banjo-plucking coda called ‘Op Linkeroever’ (Dutch for ‘On the Left Bank’). This return to a human scale serves the same take-a-deep-breath purpose as, say, ‘Cripple Creek Ferry’ at the end of Neil Young’s death-of-the-hippy-dream masterpiece After the Goldrush. If I hadn’t taken so long to get around to this release it would have surely figured in the 2013 Zellaby Awards, so sincere apologies for that.
To conclude: Tor Press is boss. The attitude exhibited by this outfit is impeccable. Every aspect of the operation exudes an understated but unmistakeable class. The content and choice of acts, whilst not always to my exact taste, show an adventurous but coherent vision for the label. Attention to detail is rigorous and quality control strictly enforced whilst retaining a loose, friendly and collaborative vibe. The packaging is exceptional – covers and inserts are hand-printed where feasible and beautifully designed with an eye for the aesthetically satisfying. Jake is, and I do not bandy this term about lightly, an artist.
Should you know anyone unconvinced as to the achievements possible here in the no-audience underground, any fool who uses the term ‘hobbyism’ as an insult, or insists on clutching tatty security blankets like The Wire to their bosom, then point them at labels like this and tell them to shut the fuck up. Tough love, yeah, but they’ll thank you for it eventually.