acting sane: panic dispelled by técieu, prolonged version, troy schafer and foldhead

January 29, 2015 at 11:59 am | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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técieu – Miłość EP (3” CD-r, fyh!records, edition of 44 or download)

Prolonged Version – All watched over by machines with neurotic disorders (CD-r or download, thejunkyardprocession)

Troy Schafer – Untitled No. 1 (7″ single, Signal Dreams, edition of 300 or download)

foldhead – for William Burroughs (download, zanntone)

técieu - Miłość

Throughout January I have been enduring a near-constant state of panic with fluctuating levels of intensity. During the holiday period I made the grave error of relaxing and my depression, seeing a soft (and substantial) underbelly exposed, decided to have a right good poke. There are physical symptoms: queasiness, light head, short breath but the really exhausting aspect is the constant inner repetition of three phrases: ‘I hate myself’, ‘when will this end?’ and ‘how will I cope?’. Like lampreys, these parasitic notions suck onto any thought or action no matter how sleek or fast moving it may be. In summary: depression is insisting that nothing matters, panic is screaming that everything matters and my sane middle, increasingly squeezed, sighs:

Will the pair of you just FUCK OFF.

Ugh. I mention it for two reasons. Firstly, talking about it robs it of (some of) its power – it withdraws its feeding tube like a blood-engorged tick touched with the tip of a lit cigarette.  Secondly, this is part of a deliberate ‘no platform’ policy adopted to deny my illness the head-space it needs to operate.  Trading blows with these thoughts rarely works – the panic loves a pagga as it puts me in a state susceptible to self-loathing.  Instead, I’m learning that a sharper tactic is to crowd it out by accentuating the positive, by ‘counting my blessings’, by consciously attending to things that I know that I would enjoy when healthy.  I am, in a sense, acting sane in order to counter what stops me from really being sane.  Head spinning thought, eh?  These are the games I have to play sometimes.  It is very, very tiring.

The plus side, however, is that a consequence of trying to do things that I can be proud of and enjoy is that I occasionally actually do things that I can be proud of and enjoy.  Here is where I have to thank music and its attendant distractions – yet again – for being such a restorative tonic.  For example: the ‘hiring’ of RFM’s new writers was a joyful experience and, in its own humble way, politically positive.  The practical upshot was that I was then able to farm out half of the review pile to my extended crew.  This allowed me to listen to those recordings purely as a fan rather than as a, *ahem*, ‘writer’ and the experience has been so refreshing that I return to my own review ‘work’ invigorated.

In that spirit I now offer a bunch of short reviews of exceptional and entertaining work that was brought to my attention last year but has only been properly digested in the last month or so.  My apologies to the artists for unconscionable delays.  Better crack on, eh?

—ooOoo—

técieu – Miłość EP

técieu is the solo project of Polish lawyer, journalist, musician and gig promoter Tekla Mrozowicka.  Miłość, which means ‘Love’ in English, is a 3″ CD-r or download from Polish label fyh!records comprising three tracks and totalling something over 15 minutes.

Despite apparently being created with nothing but software these three tracks have the rasp and roar of North East noise/drone and carry a substantial emotional heft.  Indeed, grounding the fuzz and static in (what I perceive to be) synth line foundations lends a cinematic scope whilst short running times and attention to detail suggest admirable discipline.

This is nuance and restraint blown up to Imax scale.  This is the inner conflict suggested by the flicker of a telling glance.  This is the thousands of tons of rock and dirt implied by the thin stream of dust falling from a crack in the ceiling of the mine.  When the throttle finally opens on the short last track the catharsis found in the squall is entirely earned and is deeply satisfying.

I recommend this very highly and fyh!records fully deserve your support – Piotr runs the outfit with soul, enthusiasm and an attitude that is bang-on.

prolonged version

Prolonged Version – All watched over by machines with neurotic disorders

One of four CD-rs in hand-made packaging that were hand-delivered by Karl Whiting of thejunkyardprocession – Leeds based label, zine publisher and gig promoter. Who doesn’t love the personal touch, eh? The album comprises four tracks and lasts about an hour in total.

What you get is a series of grinding, mechanical rhythms and arcing, shorting electronics that work to obliterate conscious thought by submerging it in sump oil. Processes vibrate free of their moorings and pulse with unreadable alien purpose. Listening is a duck/rabbit experience, a flickering gestalt switch: ecstatic ego-dissolving delirium / drowning panic. I realise this review is short but I don’t feel the need to overembelish this one: I found it remarkable. The closest comparison I can make is to the unmusic of the piss superstition which is, of course, high praise.

troy schafer - untitled

Troy Schafer – Untitled No. 1

Two tracks, totalling 11 minutes, to be found on various colours of 7″ vinyl or as a download for those thinking of moving house soon and despairing at the number of physical objects underfoot.

Side A is six minutes apparently culled from 36 hours of recording and I can only marvel at this superhuman feat of editorial rigour. In the circumstances you might expect a cartoonish strobing of splinter cuts but nope, instead you get drama, depth and invention with room for transitional flourishes and even the odd moment of near silence. Highlights include: scribbled violin interpreting a shredded Berhard Herrmann score, the groaning of a Lovecraftian Old One woken by volcanic activity raising its sunken city, dawn in a SF dystopia as directed by John Carpenter and a genuinely moving threnody for strings and junkyard scramble which builds to an ego-piercing, liquid silver climax.

Side B is a mournful performance by a lovelorn suitor on an unwieldy metal instrument he’s dragged into place under the balcony of his disinterested Juliet. As he bows, scrapes and rattles she is nowhere to be seen. For the final minute we cut to inside her apartment and find her attention darting between every screened device and radio in the place – all barking reports on an unprecedented electromagnetic storm engulfing more and more of the planet until…

I’ve listened to this a dozen times at least and feel there are still corners to poke into, densities to unravel. In some alternate universe this is the perfect pop single.

foldead - fwb

foldhead – for William Burroughs

Picture me as a 10 ten year old rummaging in a box on a market stall labelled ‘Science Fiction 20p’ and picking out a copy of The Naked Lunch that was nestled amongst the Asimovs and Bradburys.

What about this, Dad?

…I asked. My Dad – a librarian and well aware of its contents – chuckled and replied:

Better ask your Mum if you should read that one.

I didn’t, of course, and as soon as backs were turned I handed over my pocket money. Thus Burroughs, alongside albums like Soft Cell’s Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret – which my long-suffering Mum bought for me well before I knew what the word ‘erotic’ really meant – and the B(DSM)-sides of Adam and the Ants singles (‘Beat My Guest‘ etc.) introduced me to some ‘interesting’ aspects of the adult world. Explains a lot, eh?

Anyway, years later I finally heard Burroughs’s voice and everything fell into place – its dry crackle lighting a forest fire in my head. For many readers of radiofreemidwich it must be one of the most recognisable sounds of the Twentieth Century. Thus when I saw that Paul Walsh had used this unique source in a foldhead recording I was intrigued. The result is something of a shock, however, as it contains not a syllable of recognizable speech. Paul has instead dragged a snippet (I like to think it is one word – ‘sphincter’ maybe) through various patches and filters until what remains is a 23 (of course) minute long unnerving, dronetronic landscape of snow drifts shifted and reshaped by the wind. Perhaps this is what it feels like to overdose on mugwump jizz, metabolism slowing to an irreversible stop. On one listen I got so deep into this that I nearly walked under a car.  What more do I need to say?

—ooOoo—

thejunkyardprocession

Signal Dreams

fyh! records

zanntone

electric meditations: the taming power back catalogue

October 28, 2014 at 4:47 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Taming Power - Meditations for Radio front

Regular readers will know that I have recently championed the work of Norwegian artist Askild Haugland who records as Taming Power and releases music via his own Early Morning Records label, mainly on vinyl. I was put onto him by the effervescent and musically omniscient Neil Campbell and our opinions as to the genius of this largely unsung outsider can be read here, here and here.

I asked Askild what of his back catalogue was available and how an interested party might get hold of it. He replied to my email with the ordering information and list of releases below. As I read through it I found myself intrigued and a little hypnotized by the uncluttered, succinct style with which he describes his ideas, his music and the process of its creation. I defy anyone to read, say, the one line description of Fragments Of The Name Of God and not want to hear it. Fuck it, I thought, let’s make this a guest post and spread the word amongst the ‘elite’ readership that this blog attracts.

So, I’ve formatted the list, illustrated it with cover scans where I had them and linked the titles to posts containing my reviews where possible. I have neither sought nor received permission to do this but he seems an affable chap who enjoys making contact so I hope he won’t mind.

…and before you lot start getting ideas, this is a one-off. I will not be posting your back catalogue and ordering information. Aside from bits and pieces on Discogs etc. information about the availability of Taming Power releases is absent from the internet – a situation I consider a shame and wish to rectify.

Over to Askild…

—ooOoo—

I do not have a website, but enclose a list of the releases here.

The vinyl releases are still available. Prices are £5 for 7″, £8 for 10″, £10 for LP and £15 for the 2LP. Postage is extra and will depend on weight and size. Payment can be made via Paypal, but contact me first for a total with postage. Trade deals can also be OK.

Askild Haugland: earlymrecords@yahoo.no

Early Morning Records – Vinyl releases:

EMR 7″-001: Taming Power – Selected Works 1996-97.

2 pieces of musique concrète. Recordings of concrete sounds edited and manipulated through the use of reel-to-reel tape recorders. Each piece has a duration of approx. 10 minutes. 100 copies.

These three LPs are intended as a series documenting the work with Taming Power during the first ten years. The sound quality is sometimes rather rough, as the recordings were made with very modest means.

EMR 12″-002: Taming Power – Selected Works 1995-97.

First experiments with tape recorder feedback as only sound source – no other instruments or effects were used. Some of the tracks are recorded in real time, while others are collages. This record also contains a radio ready-made from 1995. 150 copies.

EMR 12″-003: Taming Power – Selected Works 1989-98.

Experiments with electric guitar and tape recorders. Recordings of el.guitar improvisations have been treated and manipulated through the use of tape recorder systems. In some cases this meant altering and reconstructing the original recording completely, in other cases it meant just adding some tape delay. 150 copies.

EMR 12″-004: Taming Power – Selected Works & Fragments 1987-97.

First recordings. It started in 1987 as an attempt to make improvised freeform psychedelic music – using mainly keyboard, but also acoustic guitar, harmonica and other musical objects. Simple tape recorder experiments were attempted, like playing recordings backwards or obstructing the tape during recording. 100 copies.

These three 10″ records are intended to form an electronic triptych – a series of works which use tape recorder technology to generate and manipulate sound.

EMR 10″-005: Taming Power – Selected Works 1992-98.

Contains short pieces based on tape recorder technology. Most of the tracks use only tape recorder feedback as sound source. Some of the tracks also use recordings of ordinary instruments, like el.guitar, keyboard, radio or circular saw. 200 copies.

taming power - selected works 1997 - cover

EMR 10″-006: Taming Power – Selected Works 1997.

2 long pieces which use only the tape recorder as sound source. Recordings of tape recorder feedback have been superimposed, transformed and partly re-recorded before reaching finished music. 200 copies.

Taming Power - Selected Works 2000 front

EMR 10″-007: Taming Power – Selected Works 2000: Excursions for tape recorders.

All 4 pieces on this release were recorded in real time and use only feedback generated on two connected reel-to-reel tape recorders – the machines working simultaneously as both recording devices and musical instruments. No other instruments, sound sources or pre-recorded sounds were used in these recordings. 200 copies.

Taming Power - 16 Movements for Electric Guitar front

EMR 12″-008: Taming Power – 16 Movements For Electric Guitar.

Composition in four sections with a total duration of one hour. No tape recorder experiments – only electric guitar to 4-track. 200 copies.

These three 10″ records are intended to form a triptych with works where el.guitar recordings are manipulated through the use of magnetic tape (tape recorders and/or cassette recorders).

EMR 10″-009: Taming Power – For Electric Guitar And Tape Recorders.

2 long pieces where pre-recorded el.guitar improvisations are being manipulated and edited while travelling around in a system of two connected tape recorders. 200 copies.

taming power - for electric guitar and tape recorders - cover

EMR 10″-010: Taming Power – For Electric Guitar And Cassette Recorders.

Electric guitar recorded and manipulated through the use of ordinary domestic cassette recorders – no reel-to-reels have been used this time. Side A contains one long piece based on series of flageolet chords recorded in stop motion technique, running through a full cycle until the sequence starts repeating itself. Side B contains 6 small pieces for el.guitar and cassette distortion/degeneration. 220 copies.

Taming Power - For Electric Guitar, Cassette Recorders and Tape Recorders front

EMR 10″-011: Taming Power – For Electric Guitar, Cassette Recorders And Tape Recorders.

Side A contains one long piece of accumulation and subtraction where a pre-recorded el.guitar track is edited and distorted through different tape systems. Side B uses an el.guitar composition as basis for three different treatments. 220 copies.

Taming Power - Meditations for Radio back

EMR 10″-012: Taming Power – Meditations For Radio.

2 collages based on recordings of radio noise and distorted  transmissions. Recorded from an old radio to ordinary cassettes and then edited from cassette to 4-track – reel-to-reels were not involved this time. The radio recordings were not manipulated, filtered or altered, no other instruments or effects were used – the sounds have been used as they were received by the radio. 220 copies.

EMR 7″-013: Taming Power – Fragments Of The Name Of God.

2 pieces for glockenspiel and tape recorders/cassette recorders, with an interlude of rain. 220 copies.

EMR 12″-014: Taming Power – Autumn Works 2002.

Contains a selection of el.guitar quartets recorded in 2002. The first piece 23-3-02III uses one reversed guitar line and some stop motion recording – the other pieces are just linear el.guitar playing through distortion/delay to 4-track recording. 220 copies.

EMR 10″-015: Taming Power – Three Pieces.

Contains three pieces realized 2004-05, partly based on older recordings. Made with keys, drilbu, singing bowls,voice, metallophone, el.guitar, field recording, tape recorder and cassette recorders. 111 copies.

EMR 10″-016: Taming Power – Six Pieces.

Contains developments of some ideas from the ‘Three Pieces’ 10″. On ‘Six Pieces’ most of the tracks are shorter, and harmonica and dingsha have been added to the instruments. 110 copies.

EMR 10″-017: Taming Power – Twelve Pieces.

Half of the tracks are short pieces based only on el.guitar, zither or keyboards, while the other half are more or less in a similar style as the two previous releases. 525 copies.

taming power - twenty-one pieces - cover

EMR 2×12″-018: Taming Power – Twenty-one Pieces.

2LP containing a selection of tracks created during the years 1998-2009. There are some pieces recorded in stop-motion, some small pieces for el.guitar, pieces based on field recording or tape recorder treatments, some casio tunes and some layered pieces. All tracks are previously unissued. 329 copies.

The EP compilation series started in 2001. The records are released according to this concept: 4 artists are given approx. 4 minutes each, and can use these minutes for whatever purpose they want as long as the result has something to do with experimental music. Each artist is given 1/4 of the pressing to create covers for and to make a personal edition – which means that all releases in this series exist in 4 different editions which are distributed by the individual artists.

EMR COMP-7″ #1: Sonorités De La Vie De Bohème – a compilation of experimental music.

With contributions from byart, Taming Power, Obscure Tapestries, Empty-Ass Noise…WHAT?!. 300 copies – 4 editions of 75 copies each.

EMR COMP-7″ #2: The Golden Road (To Limited Edition) – a compilation of experimental music.

With contributions from Bruce Russell, Antonym, Sindre Bjerga/Anders Gjerde, Taming Power. 320 copies – 4 editions of 80 copies each.

Releases on other formats:

taming power - selected works 2001

EMR Promo-CD #2: Taming Power – Selected Works 2001.

CDR intended mainly as promo, but the music is so far only released here. 30 minutes duration – contains 10 pieces where recordings of tape recorder feedback are edited to 4-track. Unlimited edition.

(EMR Promo-CD #1 and #3 contain previously releasedmaterial by Taming Power and are deleted – they exist only in 2 and 3 copies respectively).

There also exist 40 cassette releases with recordings by Taming Power. They were released during the years 1997-2002 in limited editions of 7-20 copies each – mainly on 30-minutes Chrome Type II cassettes. There are still copies left of some of these releases, but only a few due to the small editions. Some of the cassettes have been re-released on vinyl.

—ooOoo—

scaffolding, harshly lit: more from taming power

September 23, 2014 at 10:02 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Taming Power – 16 Movements For Electric Guitar (12” vinyl, Early Morning Records, EMR 12”-008, edition of 200)

Taming Power – Selected Works 2000 (10” vinyl, Early Morning Records, EMR 10”-007, edition of 200)

Taming Power – For Electric Guitar, Cassette Recorders and Tape Recorders (10” vinyl, Early Morning Records, EMR 10”-011, edition of 220)

Taming Power – Meditations For Radio (10” vinyl, Early Morning Records, EMR 10”-012, edition of 220)

Taming Power - 16 Movements for Electric Guitar frontTaming Power - 16 Movements for Electric Guitar back

No need for a lengthy preamble today.  For those new to the work of Norwegian artist Askild Haugland, recording as Taming Power, may I suggest you read Neil Campbell’s account of discovering his unique vision.  You may also find my reviews of other items from the Taming Power back catalogue of interest.  Suffice to say celebratory bells were sounded here at Midwich Mansions when a parcel containing four more examples of his work arrived – the guy’s generosity is matched only by his talent.

(A quick word on the scans illustrating this article: typically Taming Power releases come in either plain black or white sleeves with small to medium-sized pictures affixed to the front and back, the latter also featuring the release details.  I have cropped down to the actual pictures here thus giving a false impression of what the sleeves look like but sparing you my grubby fingerprints which were surprisingly evident on the scans.)

OK, onwards…

Taming Power – 16 Movements For Electric Guitar

First then is this 12″ LP. We’ll have to take Askild’s word for it on the number ’16’ as there are no perceptible gaps between the individual movements collected in the four tracks, two per side, that comprise the album. The guitar sound is consistent throughout: crisp, almost unadorned, tightened slightly with citric fuzz. Notes are allowed to decay free of echo and moments of silence add a measured deliberateness to the tone, despite the music clearly being (in part at least) improvised. It’s as exposed as a snow covered hillside and as immediate as breath plumes in the cold but Askild is clearly wrapped up and prepared for the task.

I have to admit my knowledge of improv guitar is limited but, for what it is worth, this is unique in my experience: a garage/psych sound employed in a desert music structure but with almost no filtering to smooth the edges. The corners here are grey concrete photographed against a cloudless blue sky or, as in the apposite photograph on the back cover, scaffolding harshly lit by a single light source.

After this austere beginning, each of the three remaining collections employs a slightly looser set of parameters. The tempo remains slow but more overlapping of notes is allowed, sustain lengthens, complexity increases. This step back from the initial austerity adds an almost unbearable poignancy but there is nothing sentimental about it, no gloss of tortured romance, just an unflinching acknowledgement of difficult circumstances. For comfort it offers respect: this music will not lie to you to make you feel better.

The lengthy period of silence between tracks indicates Askild’s seriousness of intent. I had to take a contemplative break between sides A and B too as the attention this music commands (and deserves) is intense and emotionally draining. This is praise of the highest order.

Taming Power - Selected Works 2000 frontTaming Power - Selected Works 2000 back

Taming Power – Selected Works 2000

Now onto the first of three 10″ EPs – format of champions – this one aptly subtitled ‘Excursions for Tape Recorders’. The record begins and ends with a splattering of ticks, squeaks, honks and whistles – like a VHS video of fax machines fucking each other on latex sheets. The line walked between hilarious and patience-testing will be familiar to fans of Nurse With Wound.

In-between these recognisable landmarks is some very strange territory indeed. Rhythmically shifting pitches spiral off, ejected by centrifugal forces, burrowing into the soil where they land. Later iterations stumble over these potholes, attempting to slap away entropy as the distortion increases. The best of it is the final section of Side A which is an extraordinary sub-aqua soundscape of alien sonar communication. Is this how the creatures in the black oceans under the ice of Europa speak to each other? You’d hope so.

Did any of that make any sense? Probably not. This record is the sound emitted by monitoring equipment stress testing my metaphor generator – it’s shaking my grasp of the figural with its brilliant oddness.

Taming Power - For Electric Guitar, Cassette Recorders and Tape Recorders frontTaming Power - For Electric Guitar, Cassette Recorders and Tape Recorders back

Taming Power – For Electric Guitar, Cassette Recorders and Tape Recorders

Second of the three 10″ EPs, two halves serving very different purposes.  Side A features a ringing, chiming guitar sound (which those of us of a certain age will inevitably and lazily describe as ‘gothy’) layered until crushed black – like photographic negatives of a tundra scene stacked until no light can pass through the pile.  The working method is reminiscent of several recent(ish) Culver releases and is very effective in instilling a churning, punishing roar with anguished emotional depth.  The noise does clear towards the end and we return to the starting point resolved and chastened.

Side B feels like a reward.  It begins with hope and light and, delightfully, becomes a magic carpet ride along a verdant green valley as boats chug along a wide, slow moving river below.  The final section takes place on a beautiful late Summer afternoon, birds are in flight chasing down their evening meal.  Children play.  A lyrical description of an extended, heavenly, peaceful moment.

Taming Power - Meditations for Radio frontTaming Power - Meditations for Radio back

Taming Power – Meditations For Radio

Finally, the last of the three 10″ EPs and possibly my favourite, though I did listen to this through the delirious fug of a heavy cold so I can’t vouch for the accuracy of what follows.  Let’s just say it is impressionistic.

Side A sees sand dunes buffeted and shifted by harsh, horizontal winds.  The storm reveals a sleeping giant, her breath – long, languid modulations – audible above the weather.  News of this discovery spreads across the world, light aircraft buzz overhead with cameras and directional microphones, chopped chatter bounces around the atmosphere as stepping electronics and machineries of voice throw the word around.  A sound from before the acid rain of digital broadcasting made the airwaves a barren lake.

Side B fills with indecipherable speech almost obscured by canine howls, swanee whistles, grasshopper chittering and blood-in-the-ears handstand roar.  Like a Foley artist’s attempt to soundtrack the teeming microscopic life within a drop of pond water – membranes twitch, cilia and flagella ripple and pulse, nothing is conscious of how beautiful it is.

Remarkable.

—ooOoo—

Email address for Askild Haugland of Taming Power / Early Morning Records:

earlymrecords@yahoo.no

Taming Power on Discogs

Early Morning Records (sort of)

outpourings of fried mind: scott mckeating on sunroof!

August 17, 2014 at 9:58 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Sunroof! – Rock Power (vinyl LP, Nashazphone, np-13, edition of 500)

sunroof! - rock power

(Editor’s note: emerging from his undersea lair for just long enough to hand me a brass tube containing the manuscript of the below, Scott McKeating – RFM’s mysterious third voice – returns to an old obsession.  Over to Scott…)

Having been lost in a wilderness of real life, I’d like to offer up a long overdue rumination on a recentish rerelease of Sunroof!’s Rock Power.  Originally a European tour CD-r from way back in 2003 via the Rural Electrification Program label, it is now available on the inconvenient as fuck format known as vinyl.  Egyptian label Nashazphone have provided the opportunity to support Sunroof! (in)directly rather than tussle with the ebay/discogs crowd.

Those that can recall the distant past of RFM will perhaps remember my devotee status at the altar of all things Bower and Sunroof! has always been one of his more eclectic variations. Sometimes studio solo, other times bolstered by ‘members’ like Neil Campbell (more of whom later) or Jazzfinger’s Has Gaylani and Ben Jones, this has often been the project that the man turns to when he’s of a mind to use a (relatively) brighter palette.

These seven untitled live tracks, in collaboration with Vibracathedral Orchestra’s Mick Flower and using loopage supplied pre-tour by Neil Campbell, feature far less emphasis on the blackened, crushing, coruscating whiteout of senses familiar from his other work but they still surprise – perhaps even subverting the usual template for a Sunroof! record.

It begins with a basic rock riff, something from a lo-fi garage jam, but there’s Bower filigree around it. Feedback like Martian vines snake in, around and through the (again: relatively) comprehensible sound of electric guitar.  Imagine an elastic fingered Crazy Horse with Young’s solos played through a live socket dowsed in blade-sharp bleach, piss and vinegar. With Flower on guitar, Bower is (we presume) assaulting his own set of strings, along with masking taped keys and various pedals, tempering them into a feedback assault. The programmed patterns and more familiar electronic drones throughout have been identified by Neil Campbell as featuring some of his own loopy contributions.

‘2’ leaps back into more familiar Sunroof! territory, concentrating on the flutter-by bleeps and squelching E-rushes that open out in other weirder, wider melodic arteries. Train rhythms cast from the outpourings of fried mind synths provide grounding for the track, whilst around it wrangled knots of guitar are lassoed and channelled into rivulets of burbling notes and soft battery splutters. While Rock Power has plenty of evolving/revolving tripped sounds and fried guitar moments, it can still throw an oddball. There’s the glam break beat riff of ‘5’ giving the record the feel of gnarly stasis stomper, locked in a dusty record groove. Or the shiny VU chime of guitars on ‘6’ that are cut into ribbons by the high frequency furious scratch of metal filaments.

So, this is a Sunroof! record that features sounds that are as close to ‘rock music’ as any used by Bower before.  Don’t fret though: under the muscled, cyclical riffs the album’s guts are still churning noise and intestinal loops.

—ooOoo—

Nashazphone

(Editor’s final note: what’s that popping noise?  My beautiful Turkish manservant appears to be opening a bottle of champagne!  What’s the occasion?  Radio Free Midwich’s 400th post?!  Well, I never!  Chin, chin!)

a beautiful solution to a difficult problem: records by taming power

July 9, 2014 at 8:52 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Taming Power – Selected Works 1997 (10″ vinyl, Early Morning Records, EMR 10″ – 006, edition of 202)

Taming Power – For Electric Guitar and Cassette Recorders (10″ vinyl, Early Morning Records, EMR 10″ – 010, edition of 220)

Taming Power – Twenty-One Pieces (2 x vinyl LP, Early Morning Records, EMR 2 x 12″ – 018, edition of 329)

taming power - twenty-one pieces - covertaming power - selected works 1997 - covertaming power - for electric guitar and tape recorders - cover

Almost all of my musical appreciation is done via headphones attached to a mp3 player. It may not be what you envisaged – the seasoned critic passing judgement on your delicate masterwork whilst washing up, or queuing in the sorting office, or dozing on the bus to work – but it’s what circumstances dictate. Thus you can imagine when vinyl turns up at Midwich Mansions it is greeted with a mixture of reverence and trepidation:

Ooo, how lovely! Hmmm… I wonder when am I going to hear this? <weary sigh> Is there a download code? <peers into sleeve> No. <grits teeth, wipes tear from corner of eye>

Following our one year old’s attempts to become the Fisher-Price Philip Jeck, the turntable currently resides within a cupboard sealed with child-locks. The irony is that the more traditional the format, the more permanent the object, the more fleeting my experience of it is likely to be. I basically have to make an appointment to listen to a record.

The upside of this situation is that when I do get the chance I pay real heavy attention. Knowing that I may not get the four or five listens I usually insist on before writing anything up I engage with an almost hallucinatory concentration and scribble notes longhand as it spins. Not everything bears up to this level of scrutiny but these releases could have been recorded with this close listening technique in mind. Today’s offerings are two 10″s and a double LP sent to me by Taming Power, that is Askild Haugland, the mysterious Norwegian artist that Neil Campbell put me on to recently. Neil’s entertaining account of his history with Taming Power can be read here.

taming power - selected works 1997 - back cover

First of the 10″ records is Selected Works 1997 which comprises two side long pieces composed in December of that year using a Tandberg Model 2041 tape recorder as the sole sound source. This is the most intense and demanding of the batch. Passages have the brute, analog feel of first wave industrial or early power electronics (though without the inane shrieking, thankfully) and wouldn’t be out of place on a Throbbing Gristle bootleg.

Gritty Geiger counter fuzz shifts and pours under the pulse of an alarm, grotesquely distorted by a hugely powerful electro-magnetic field. The air around us crackles and has the disinfectant smell of ozone. The countdown to the self-destruction of the ship has begun and the crew are running down corridors choked with powder from fire extinguishers. Proper noise, this. It’s a tough listen but throughout I marvelled at what Askild managed to extract from his single instrument.

taming power - for electric guitar and tape recorders - back cover

Next is For Electric Guitar and Cassette Recorders, the second 10″ record. Side A is a single track: guitars chime like a peal of church bells, like the cracking of a frozen lake, with a trebly shimmer adding a discordant tension. This is no wedding celebration, no welcome Spring thaw – it is a warning, an alarm: something that should stay sleeping is waking up. The lack of urgency – the chimes are deliberate, measured – only thickens the air of dread inevitability. Or have I been reading too much Lovecraft? Remove all this ‘harbinger of doom’ stuff, likely to be the product of my frayed imagination, and you are left with a hypnotic stretch of guitar improv. Compelling but too jarring to be meditative, it returns you to the world amped up and shining.

Side B contains six short tracks: all sparkling silicate fuzz drone, occasionally clearing to reveal sculptural patterns carved into the rock faces below. I find work of this type – tethered crescendos lifting, pulling, forever reaching skyward – to be almost unbearably poignant and beautiful. These snapshots capture moments of pain and glory with an impressionistic immediacy. They are like answers to the question…

…but it was all worth it, yeah?

I nod tearfully: yes, yes it was. A terrific release.

taming power - twenty-one pieces - back cover

Finally then, the main event: Twenty-One Pieces. I listened to this double album in a sofa-bound trance and have seven notebook pages filled with a track by track account. Don’t worry I’m not going to transcribe the lot, here are some highlights fished from the gibberish:

A clock-tick, back/forth riff, simple, melancholy in its elegance – a beautiful solution to a difficult problem … emotional restraint breaking once – a tear, a sob – then back to working through the consequences … the Norwegian equivalent of desert music? Music for the frozen shore? … like low flying aircraft, like foul weather unmuffled by the cabin walls … a music box opened for the first time in years, the grimy ballerina juddering through her perpetual pirouette … a ringing wind scours the valley floor, a chorus of hungry ghosts whistle anguish through pinhole mouths … an oily liquid splashed onto the street, creeping downhill, drying out … the pulse pushes against a membrane thin enough to show its shape but tough enough not to split … overwound clockwork machinery is suddenly freed by a stripped gear … a charming plucked fanfare to welcome home a battalion of victorious tin soldiers to their balsa wood castle … a magic carpet ride over lush farmland and into the Himalayan foothills … like wandering through vine choked ruins in a Ballardian post-humanity future – epic, psychedelic – the beauty and sadness captured by the thought ‘all things must pass’ … the sound of the silver spaceships flying that Neil heard in his burnt out basement … cyclopean blocks sliding over one another … a contrasting optimistic, patient delicacy … what a very, very impressive record.

A word on the presentation. Askild’s chosen format – text-free cover picture, handwritten notes on the back – has the feel of outsider art. Take a closer look at, say, the track listing for side C of this album:

taming power - twenty-one pieces - side c

These lists of dates read more like the answer to a high-end logic puzzle or the packing manifest for a mysterious cargo crate than standard liner notes. I laughed to see ‘tape recorder’, ‘cassette recorder’ and ‘cassette recorders’ listed as three separate instruments on the meticulous equipment list. The obsessive documentation fascinates me, indicating the strength of Askild’s compulsion to create and the importance of that creation to him.

Askild’s work has the rare quality of seeming completely thought through and controlled whilst remaining visceral, immediate and intense. It is a neat trick. Despite being as meticulous as his liner notes, it is not overly polished and its edges and textures rough up quite an emotional response. This music is heartfelt and true. I found myself mulling over some fairly existential matters whilst listening. At one point I wrote:

How well do we know ourselves? Are our decisions as much ‘acts of God’ as a lightning strike?

Profound, eh? That’s where it takes you. As good as anything I’ve heard in a fair while and very highly recommended.

—ooOoo—

Email address for Askild Haugland of Taming Power / Early Morning Records:

earlymrecords@yahoo.no

Taming Power on Discogs

Early Morning Records (sort of)

 

spirals and waves: product from kiks/gfr

July 17, 2013 at 10:38 am | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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W>A>S>P>S / nacht und nebel – Split (7” single, NUNWSP001, edition of 250)

SCKE// – (ornaments) (7” single, KIKS/GFR, MEIR/KIKSGFR, edition of 300)

Daphine and Lyndsey – Seascape number one (CD-r and foldout pamphlet, KIKS/GFR, KIKSGFR004, edition of 50)

scke - ornamentswasps - nacht und nebel - splitdaphine and lyndsey front

Older readers will recall the trend in noise, especially harsh noise, for ‘challenging’ packaging.  Many is the time that I had to resort to a craft knife or pair of scissors to free up the entombed release.  On one notable occasion a damp cloth and one of those handheld vacuum things were needed to get something into a playable state, on another a soldering iron was required to get the bloody thing open.  I never had much time for this nonsense myself but can’t help be entertained by the objects created by artists like Con-Dom packaged in slate, or, amazingly, in a genuine lectern.  And we all know the story of the Noisembryo Merzcar, don’t we?

It still happens, to a lesser extent, and opening a jiffy bag at Midwich Mansions can reveal something that needs to be unstitched and disentangled from its accompanying detritus.  But this is increasingly rare – the bar has been lowered by the times we live in.  In the download era, an age of instant and infinite access, the slightest whiff of inconvenience is enough to make the ‘average’ punter think twice.  Never mind baking your magnum opus into a clay brick then wrapping it in barbed wire, most people today will sigh and contemplate giving up if you just stick it on vinyl.

Yes, the format itself has become the challenge. As opposed to downloadable or rippable (or even taped) media which can accompany me at various points during the day I have to make an appointment to listen to vinyl and, to be brutally frank, I can rarely be bothered.  7″ singles are especially galling.  I’ll admit that the object itself – its size, its shiny blackness – is a button-pusher but by the time my beautiful Turkish manservant has helped me into to my wing-backed listening chair the bloody thing is finished and requires flipping over.  I am too old for such furious activity.  Luckily for the releases above, a generous gift from Benjamin of KIKS/GFR, my faithful valet dodged the cane I was attempting to thrash him with, slipped me my evening laudanum and took charge of the turntable himself.  Thus I was left to compose my opinions in a more contemplative mood.

The W>A>S>P>S side of the split 7″, self-described as ‘flat-plate noise’, is angrily uneventful.  It is like walking into your living room to find a giant, bulbous and oily-looking frog sat on the coffee table scowling at you.  Motionless and unshiftable – its eyes follow you around the room.  Sometimes I think trying to formulate a critical reaction to slabs of noise like this is missing the point.  It doesn’t exist, it does exist, then it doesn’t again a few minutes later.  That’s it.  Not necessarily a bad thing.  In contrast the nacht und nebel side manages to pack an impressive amount of drama and momentum into three tiny noise vignettes.  A compressed history of the rise, rule and fall of an empire of insect warriors told in deceptively simple but information-rich sketches.  I’ve written about Henry’s work below – I’ll be looking out for more.

The SCKE// single, (ornaments), reissues two tracks of crunchy, glitchy electronica from 2004 the like of which I haven’t paid much attention to since, well, 2004 I suppose.  I’m not sure how well they have dated, or otherwise, because I’m not up on that scene but repeated listens (on my walkman, having taped it) reveal a satisfying charm.  An aspect of note is that a ‘KIKS’ sticker had been placed over the centre label of the record thus obscuring the hole.  This meant that in order to play it I needed to puncture it or carefully remove the offending section with a craft knife (I did the latter).  A minor, 21st Century inconvenience to remind us old folk how lucky we are not to need soldering irons to hear our noise these days?  Or is this just a rebrand of the remainder of the original edition?  I dunno.  Anyway: the content is perfectly fine and the heft of the heavyweight vinyl is most pleasing.

Finally we have Seascape number one by Daphine and Lyndsey on the rippable format of CD-r.  The irreducible physicality of this release is the packaging: a hybrid object of the genus sometimes referred to as ‘artist book’.  The disc, printed with sea shells, is housed within in its own plastic sleeve which is in turn wrapped with a folded A3 pamphlet featuring some lovely beach photography and the release details.  This is all held together with a chunky elastic band and kept neat by a plastic bag with KIKS logo sticker.

The content comprises four tracks, the first three of which are short field recordings of Lincolnshire ‘seascapes’, the forth being a two-minute treated remix.  These are not high def, check-the-mic-spec, fidelity fetishist documents, rather they are trustworthy recollections of the day in question (4th July 2012, apparently) detailed enough to give the impression of sitting next to the rock on which the recording device was balanced.  Just right.  Having grown up on the coast then spent my adult life in landlocked Leeds I am a sucker for this stuff and could listen to it all day long.  It blew a welcome offshore breeze through my head as I walked home along the traffic-strewn, sun-baked streets.

KIKS/GFR

W>A>S>P>S

nacht und nebel

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