chasing the unnatural: joe murray on graham stewart, brendan mcgeever, 21st century band, downer canada, graham dunning, tom white

November 4, 2016 at 1:26 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Graham Stewart & Brendan McGeever – Larsson Sessions (tape, Piped-in From Head Office Records, pifho007, edition of 41 or download)

21st Century Band – Dinner Free (tape, no label – or not, see editor’s note below)

Downer Canada – Hieronsong (microcassette, tape, Power Moves Library, PMLibrary 010, edition of 5, edition of 11 or download)

Graham Dunning & Tom White – You Are a New Creature (tape or download, Fractal Meat Cuts, initial edition of 10 with hand-printed lasagne sheet)


Graham Stewart & Brendan McGeever – Larsson Sessions

It’s the tradition for hacks like me to drop them Blade Runner references coz it’s such an N-AU universal [Editor’s note: as a life-long PKD fan and former PKD obsessive, I think Blade Runner is shite, not a patch on the existential masterpiece it is ‘inspired’ by].  Blah, blah, blah – Replicants and Vangelis yeah!  But for once I want to tweak the paradigm and re-imagine the rainy streets and heavy manners for a pastel-smeared over-the-rainbow, Studio Ghibli version.  In my imagining folk are retired with a big hug, the noodles come with a side order of foam bananas and the massive Greek gets turfed out the studio to allow Stewart and McGeever to tinkle on the slack plastic keys [Editor’s note: that would be better, f’sure].

What we gets here is a set of micro-songs and themes all played lightly on the Roland System 100 Model 101 and Korg Poly 800 exactly in the middle of 2004; predating Oneohtrix and his goons by 8 seasons at least (by my cheesy reckoning).

Soft and delightful.  The wobble floats upwards, the digital purring of a cat shifts into a light sprinkle of icing sugar dusting your cheeks.  A brave world is glimpsed through the cotton candy fug, orange and pink and red, the colour melts onto your tongue chasing the unnatural.  A most gentle voice, tones almost under the threshold of my hearing, instantly turning the instrumental studies into something approaching the Scottish Air!

Zoinks!  It’s rare I listen to anything so self-consciously pretty.  Sure, there is rough and fragile beauty a-plenty in ‘da scene’ but these deliberate constructions of a blunted, golden sunlight chimes perfectly with me on a cold autumn morning.  My word!  These warm pools of analogue colour splodge with a tranquillity rare in this day and age; the hopscotch skipping makes my toes jolly ranchers.

While critics goof on that arch Stranger Things parade… the coolest boys in school have been digging out the archive and pulling out the real thing.

Get lucky.


21st Century Band – Dinner Free

[Editor’s note: as this tape was chucked directly into the rabbit warren where Family Posset live I have never actually seen it.  The discogs listing gives that name and title and says it is without label.  However, almost every picture the internet associates with it suggests it could also be called ‘Masochism’ and be released by Vitrine with the catalogue number VT18 in an edition of 100.  As we are diligent journos here at RFM I demanded photos from Joe and received the above.  Unused J-cards being recycled?  In-joke?  ‘Art’?  Who knows, eh?  Those scamps!]

I’m guessing you sound-sorcerers ken THE VOICE OF THE MYSTERONS yeah?  All that booming echo that explodes outta nowhere yet still casts a circular shadow?  Ever imagined THE MYSTERONS washing up, fixing a bicycle tyre or rattling around just for the jaxx of it?

21st Century Band (or perhaps it’s Masochism, also mentioned on the tape sleeve) taps right into this Martian telekinetic vibe and sets up a broadcast of damp clanging and the glug-glug-glug of a jug-band decanting their tear-stained blues.

Events are fractured from their reality belt.  Without an eye we are left rather loose in our understanding and this, my dearest reader, is what makes Dinner Free so gloriously slack and comfy.

I can project any sordid thoughts onto this soft creamy expanse of recorded fuh.  So much so, when the one-note keyboard pads like the soft foot of a toddler I’m so deep, I’m so immersed it all sounds natural and right.  The plastic flute – natural and right.  The brief Hawaiian TV snappet – natural and right  (Side A – ‘New Sensations’).

Side B – ‘Kyoko on Yoko’, makes even less sense.  Someone is reading a Dennis Wheatley novel and acting out the opening ritual scene which would be scary if the Satanists weren’t so damn posh.  Who’s ever been spooked by a dandy Satanist?

But, I have to admit, the squeal of the wheel has a swing like Jaki Liebezeit – even the tugboat horn solo could be a cowbell.  Even the juddering machine soundz could be floor toms slapped with rubber teats.

A real tickler (‘Hidden Tracks’) rigs up the exact sound of an English back-bedroom; cracked pipes (laid out on a wooden chair) and Woolworths guitar with that distinctive watery treble. It fair takes me back to the smell of fanzine ink  – Grim Humour and the Kent massive!


Downer Canada – Hieronsong

Hyper-real tape pieces from the multi-limbed Kev Cahill that came out on a damn micro-cassette! It’s sold out now, in this rarest of formats, but there’s no excuse not to point a squeaky mouse at the download option.

We’re talking 30 minutes of delicious hiss and human breath here.

Part one sounds like a lo-fi take on Steve Reich classic ‘Come Out’ recorded on a cross channel ferry.  The

speaking, dreaming, lucid, vision

refrain loops incessantly, folding back on itself, building up layers of meaning then squeezing them flat like word toothpaste out from a tube.  The listening experience is strangely comforting, your mind wanting a rhythm to settle but edgily excited by each new juxtaposition thrown up the wonderful (dis)symmetry of loop-music.

Part two fuzzes deliciously for a third of its lifespan; there’s nothing much happening apart from the busy fizz of magnetic tape buffering across the simple mechanics of dual tape players and the sound of a real live room.  But as I’m getting settled into a Jazzfinger frame-of-mind multiple wooden flutes parp with jittery menace across the landscape. These ‘pipes of pan’ induce a real panic, a loss of control and feeling of unease that’s hard to shake.  Not sure if it’s the tone or the collapsing logic that is so unsettling here but I breathe out again only when a firm finger presses ‘stop’ and the ritual clicks off.

File under shipping-forecast-peyote-trip music.


Graham Dunning & Tom White – You Are a New Creature

A magpie-eyed borrower and reel-to-reel druid are joined by saucy neophytes on both ‘crisps’ and ‘rice spill’ for ‘Battle Overall Perspectives’, a lengthy vexation that takes up all of side one.

Rattle-hula and rimple-roll eh?

That’s right!  Simple crackle and rippage is run across slack mag-heads while CO2 is bubbled through warm milk (blub,blub,blub) making the edge of it smell suspiciously fruity.  There’s a pet lip protruding as the nimble fingers tackle crispy potato snacks and mash sticky rice with gummy mouths.

The sound-scape runs between ‘impossibly busy’ to ‘sparse and spooky’ like an inner city carpark over the course of its stale concrete day.  And it’s these movements; the transitions that make me roll over and cry ‘Uncle!’  Such plastic crackles are not uncommon in the N-AU (see Robert Ridley’s latest Tupperwave ) but the damn languor of the knuckle pops is glorious.  Glorious ya hear?

Interlaced: stray moments of crowd noise, a piano, more crisps and knotty knocks… then an ill wind blows.  We’ve moved to a very different terrain.  The ‘fi’ is shoved up high into your face and the dry and brittle becomes sleek and oil-filmed.  I’m seabird drowning in black gold.

If there’s not an ecological message I’m damn well chalking one up.  My slow-brain ruminates on nasty packaging and unnecessary filling, those string bags for oranges, tin pie dishes and the grot you have to wrench off a jar of Dolmio before you can douse your pasta in that crimson gloop.

The gummy mouths strike back in ‘Raking Leaves on Black Top’ (side B) with a filthy nosh of sloshing, rushing and warped crotchets.

A studio piece, this revels in heavy echo and thick textures creating a sly narcotic effect potent as Scientist’s Space Invaders dunked into a frothing burn, brook or beck.

And while I’m typing away, the increasingly unhinged ‘flup, flupp, puppp… whirrrrrrr, flup,pup, pup’ of mangled tape really starts to fidget at the edges of my vision.  I get audio hallucinations; I see a tunnel and my lips tremble.  A wheelbarrow of melons trundles by, scarlet ivy grows up my trouser leg.  This really is some Live at the Filmore East joint.  My gosh!

But this psychedelic vibe is well and truly bummed on closer ‘Reville Bugle Call’ by pitting those ‘Sounds of Death and Horror’ sound effects el-pees against the incidental Foley from an episode of Space 1999 with all their sexy catsuits and leotards.  I’m sat up straight and paying strict attention as the vortex of shrieks and damp piano sustains my crystal plumage.

Dunning & White.  Jokers maybe, explorers for sure – but watch out for the sharpened key hidden between the fingers.  I said watch it!


21st Century Band / Vitrine – Be resourceful.

Piped-in From Head Office Records

Power Moves Library

Fractal Meat Cuts

unlicensed hiss: joe murray on tapes from vitrine: church shuffle, ross manning, abh, tom white

October 10, 2016 at 7:32 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Church Shuffle – Aura Deterrent  (tape, Vitrine, VT25, edition of 100)

Ross Manning – Natural Causes (tape, Vitrine, VT27, edition of 100)

ABH – Drag (tape, Vitrine, VT30, edition of 100)

Tom White – Automated Evangelism (tape, Vitrine, VT028, edition of 100)


Church Shuffle – Aura Deterrent

Another set of classic tape-werks from those Vitrine wizards.

The sleeve tells me Aura Deterrent was recorded direct to a ‘Singalodeon Karaoke’ and while I’m not familiar with that exact device I feel I’ve lived the best parts of my life in the warm, comforting fug of this signature cheap tape hiss.

This modest and unassuming tape mixes broken beats (‘Liberty Choice Falafel’) with spoken word, field recordings and instrumentation to create basic structures.  But it’s the magic of the medium sprinkled over these foundations that gives everything a Mars-like tint; pinky red and drugged-up warm.

Before I think about napping ‘Phone Ring’ rattles like an extremely polite noise tape, excusing itself for volume but weaving complex patterns from left-over sonics – I’m shot though like milky coffee.

Take ‘Monty Order’, a comforting lentil dhal of a piece, that circularly flirts like a shadowy ring on a shadowy planet – abstract groan-happenings whipped up from carefully manipulated tape hoof with uncomplicated feedback acting as cruton.

The self-depreciation of ‘You could have bought a house’ (if what?  If you’d not started a tape label?) adds a splash of vinegar to the warm rumble, the clotted sounds all buffed up and polished by cheap electronics.

So while this is purring like a cat in one way, there’s a sharp claw extended… just in case.


Ross Manning – Natural Causes

Percussion workouts that run the gamut from scrap-metal-dinosaur-bar-brawl to tinkling-glass-rod-foreplay.

Ross Manning is an Australian and therefore adept at the ancient art of sound-mugging; whereby a collection of related tones creep up behind you, pin your arms to your side, and envelops.  No need to struggle as the argy-bargy slips a practiced hand into your inside pocket and removes exactly seven dollars.

The whiff of homemade instruments and DIY electronics is ripe and strong.  Such gloriously natural and human sounds can only slip out of the lonely ramshackle workshop.  Think Moondog’s chops played on Harry Bertoia’s vibrators.

The beard-rockers can goof on ‘Catalogue from a Young Man’ all construction site abstraction but a gentleman may entertain a lady when ‘Dub Date’ speeds up and up and up to a Nancarrow velocity.  Each percussive stroke sharp and precise; mapping the exact grey explosion from fat raindrops.

The sidelong; ‘Song for Eugene’ takes glorious time to deliver like a preacher.  The smeared window squeaks, a chorus of faulty windscreen wipers, are gently drowned in frosty lake; the crackle of ice all but muffles the gamelan tones slowly booming in the crisp air above.

But what’s that?  Baka Pygmies reach for the most sonorous logs and clap them, slap them across a wide stereo field.  The rhythms are exotic and eccentric, scoring circular patterns in the air growing more complex and waxy by the minute.  I try to follow the connections, marking each change in crystalline tone, percussive intensity with a simple chalk mark.  Until it all becomes too much, I’m knee deep in white dust and whacked out as Gorilla Glue bud.

Extras: (1) Cover art shows some rickety pencil drawings of the instruments within.  All spindly and ragged this insight helps an old codger like me visualise.  (2) Sold out at source so you’re going to have to dig for this victory. (3) The sound quality is beautifully sharp and deep.  Audio snobs take note!


ABH – Drag

[Editor’s note: band name on inlay card is ARTBREAKHOTEL but in label listings it is as above.  As you will.]

Reader, you have a choice.  You can imagine the man-made or the natural; a faulty malfunction or a raw natural process ‘coz both apply to my tin ears.

One-man wrecking crew, Nobuo Yamada, is joined by Newcastle’s New Blockaders in some form (psychic, physical, spiritual, actual) to rattle the edges of reality with a scrap merchant’s calloused hands. Something decidedly metallic is scraped against bone (or shell!) while a field recording of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake is blasted from the top of the historic Morden Tower.  I posit ‘Drag’ is either: a badly-oiled machine crashing through its gears or the heavily amplified sound of a lobster shedding its carapace?  You decide.

Despite the absence of Geordies, ‘Spin/Off’ is no less hectic and reminds me of the time I was battered with a rubber hose.

I dropped my keys into an enamel kidney dish and took the beating willingly. As the truncheon swished and rudely flexed I used my heat-vision to melt the copper wingnuts holding the Town Hall’s scaffolding together so the poles fell like giant pine needles noisily scattering on the cobbles beneath.

A temporary bliss of forgetting washes over me (hiss, shissshhh (internal tape noise)) but soon enough the deep clang of crab claws tap out an occult rhythm on my exposed throat.


Tom White – Automated Evangelism

London’s Tom White has researched and translated a singular vocabulary from the humble reel-to-reel tape machine.  These antiquated pieces of sound propaganda have been used by many mind-roofers but no one makes it gush quite like Tom!

The building-blocks of his tape language recall the rutting of sentient sponges; both deeply wet and intimate.  But it’s the brutal punctuation that makes a listener sit up straight and say


Abrupt slops bookend gooey, muddy, pops right from the get-go on ‘Evidence of Tampering’.  One sparse sound-matrix is overlaid over another, building up a sonic checkerboard that (and this is where you hear a master’s hand at work) never becomes cluttered or slips out of focus.  The landscape is precise and tight yet builds up an urgent sense of motion; for this music moves with an awkward beauty… all elbows and knees.

And this dancing abstraction eventually bows to the unlicensed hiss of surreptitious street recordings – a domestic detail held and turned over in Tom’s hot paw until it clicks together brilliantly, forming a broken tune fragment (yet cleverly framing a clutter of ‘pop and crackle’).

The third and final movement stutters like a shadow flickering over a chain-link fence.  Ghostly ‘phafs’ and ‘vumps’ ripple as the scales of a snake do; the constant expansion and contraction –  mesmerising as sneaky Kaa singing ‘Trust in Me’ ya hippies!

Shimmering crickets rub their legs in King Tubby’s yard on ‘Lapillo’ as rubber tiles are slapped against wooden boards.  The gentle pissing of water lubricates a shifting sound-platter serving a hot human hummus. Things become more rhythmic and I picture a hip-joint popping and locking in its socket: a juddering bone wrench worthy of any Old School Hip Hop crew until meek croaks and phlegm waves soak up the battered piano I left for dead on the shore.  This trip is a dreamer, a brocade curtain-raiser for sure.

SOLD OUT AT SOURCE!  So if you want hands-on tape manipulation at its very best you must dial 0800 T-W-H-I-T-E and ask for a (wink wink) thumb tweak on the ferric (wink).


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buttery panes: joe murray on neil campbell, steve gregoropoulos, no artist, mel bentley, 010001111000

January 25, 2016 at 1:54 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Neil Campbell, Steve Gregoropoulos – chapters from WAYWORDS AND MEANSIGNS: Finnegans Wake set to music, unabridged (forthcoming download)

No Artist – Masochism (tape, Vitrine, VT18)

Mel Bentley – Red Green Blue (tape, Vitrine, VT17)

010001111000 – lmof (tape, Vitrine, VT16)


Neil Campbell, Steve Gregoropoulos – chapters from WAYWORDS AND MEANSIGNS: Finnegans Wake set to music, unabridged

Have you ever listened to an audio book readers?

I mean like, really listened.  All the way though – from start to finish – taking a break from time to time to paint your nails or drink some tea?  Have you listened in your best chair, on the bus, in the bath, in bed?

I tried to listen to Dawkins’ The God Delusion while I was decorating a house once and it kind of got super tedious, like a very lengthy monologue from a bad radio play.  So much so I turned it off to listen to a real bad play on Radio 4 just to get the damn wallpaper off.

I’m no Luddite readers but I’ve found it hard to get my head round such modern fripperies like the Kindle and the Audio Book.  It’s not like I’m a snob or nothing, I just can’t like… get with them.  Know what I mean?

So it was with trepidation I accepted Rob Hayler’s Mission Impossible to take on two chapters from this mega-ambitious project to audio-ize the whole of Joyce’s Finnegans Wake… with words and music!

The tempter was seeing the name Neil (ASTRAL) Campbell among the contributors so I cleared some space in my diary, de-cored my headphones of earcheese and leapt right in.

The first thing about having a Campbell breathing into me lugs is… it feels super normal.  Like we’re having an (admittedly one-sided) conversation or something.  His reading is nicely paced, warmly English and with a fat daub of greasepaint that keeps me tuned into Joyce’s tumbling and rambunctious prose.  The Astral accompaniment creeps slowly beneath the soft-linked words (I’m picturing sausages of language), a slight electric fizzle, birds singing next to a well, a tin-Casio going ‘tish, tish, tish’ matching the quiet intensity of the language… for over an hour!

After a while my mind starts to blur the boundaries between the steady cascade of words and the stream of endless sound until it all becomes a glorious oneness.  I pick out the odd phrase or choice word but as a whole I’m goofing on the lo-fi rhythm of speech being another thread in this dense and colourful tapestry.  At the end of the session my ears are going ‘shoop – shoop’ as Mr Campbell’s molars gash the endless!

Next up is a new name in my noggin, Steve Gregoropoulos who delivers a more theatrical performance from another chapter of oyster-fresh Joycean speech.   Opening this hi-tech file (with a satisfying ping) brings forth a proper old flea-pit orchestra full of rank piano, goosey honks and creening bows and my oh my are they not whipping up a storm of lappit voices?

Is this like…Vaudeville?

I ask the ever vigilant Dook. She’s not sure (we never watched The Muppets) but things feel so real I fear a rash from the grotty flip-back seats and rub the armrest shiny with my corndog.

The prose of old man Joyce is a psychic conundrum laying ever-so-lightly over the Gregoropoulos burlesque.  Again I’m finding the words stretch like sticky pizza dough, forming interesting new shapes between thick-fingered hands.

The further we venture the deeper we roll into Shimmy Disc territory.  Guitars start to replace the flea-pit until an unhinged Dogbowl-style solo finally flips a switch in my head so Steve’s voice becomes John S. Hall’s reciting a teenage dream diary.

Another hour has passed and I realise I’ve been enjoying myself enormously, soaking up his black gravy.  Gosh… I must be really getting into this audio-lark.

Checking the Waywords and Meansigns website I can see this is soon to be released in its entirety, the whole damn book and with the mighty Mike Watt adding his spiel to boot.

Three Quarks for Muster Mark!

vitrine 3vitrine 2

No Artist – Masochism

010001111000 – lmof

Mel Bentley – Red Green Blue

While most gonks steer their ship far from the indistinct, the blurred, the unfinished and should-a-been, Vitrine stoke their hot engines and set a course at ‘ramming speed’ for the fog-shrouded islands of WTF!

They cannily know where the nuggets lie and have made a virtue of the smeared and miss-heard with a funky mission statement comprised of off-stage and occult sound.

These three tapes floated around my furnished rooms for about a month with the faintest whiff of camphor before I could dive in.  But once I lit the incense a noxious cloud stole all the light from within the brocade drapes.  Read on…

No Artist (AKA  A long-time listening bell // a casket for one)

It’s them psychology experiments, the ones they tried to ban.  A Manchurian candidate plays the hollow rasp of whirring tech, tape rushing through spools, the concentric fizzle of cheap condenser microphones – the very air feeding back into the plastic-coated mesh jammed with a decade of pocket crumbs.

A recording of a recording?  A Xerox gradually being erased?  The splendid hiss and fuss that made the oxygen in the room go [~~~*~~~~~~**~~~~].  Ung!

010001111000  (AKA  The medical model // smudged with opium prints)

More dung honey for your money.  A ripe and pregnant landscape yet delicate as rice paper.  When be-bop was reborn it traded complexity for layering as fine as filo pastry; and that’s part of the story here.  A circular fag end becomes the orange sun when viewed through these buttery panes – burning with a treacherous light and cruel heat.

No need to lean on ASMR for scalp tingles!  Simply jam this tape on and insert a thumb in your ass.

Mel Bentley (AKA  Moist vowels // the bravest of all approaches)

My first thoughts are of Phillips Records – circa 1963 when my Granddad worked in their Croydon factory.  The bold cover design strikes the memory gong, delivering that Red/Blue/Green magic making my pale eyes work.  Wrong-footed I swoon at the serene loveliness of a natural voice, well-paced and commanding.  The pen proves its might (once again) as ink scratches summon new worlds and prickly sensation.

Mel talks to us.  She gives Lana Del Rey a pasting and cuts-up office clippings like Burroughs until they “acquire patina and decay”.  She reels calm, without enunciated drama, from a coffee bar so real you can hear this steamy ‘hishhh’ of the barista.  Grunt-heads can get off on the augmented pieces that turn this from poetry to no-fi experimental sound gonk but I’m far too young to get hung up on bloody labels.  I’m fucking melting here man with the sweet word-power…

your dog dies in an onion ring

Oh yeah!


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