the crest of a dune: joe murray on will montgomery, in atoms, slowthaw

December 10, 2015 at 1:11 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Will Montgomery – The crystal at the lips (CD, organized music from thessaloniki, t29, edition of 200)

In Atoms – WREATHS (self-released download)

slowthaw – doll cuts (download, aetheric records)

t29

Will Montgomery – The crystal at the lips

Super-brain Will takes not one but two scores from toff-composer Manfred Werder and uses their cryptic instructions to place his hizzing field recordings about the noble Hansard Gallery, Southampton.

I’m a relative newcomer to all this kinda jazz and find the pale austerity a real turn-on.  So, for once, I resist the temptation to listen ‘blind’ and check out a bunch of links that lead me to Werder’s beautiful and inventive scores and a disturbing picture of the other Will Montgomery… a so called Chicago Bear. I’m hungry for context and even beat a path to the straightest RFM bedfellow yet [Editor’s note: you’re on a warning].

So, rigid with excitement, my pink little shrimps pick up the baffling wind and stray electrix easy enough.  I tune in deeper and the sea-birds start caw-cawing (it’s Southampton right) and small-city hubbub of traffic and noisy kids kind of build a bivouac between my hammer and anvil.

Some voice intones ‘honey’ or ‘honning’ or ‘awwney’ or something, adding to the general duck-egg blue fuss in the air between my speakers.  I catch myself squinting as I’m listening with a fierce intensity.  The high heel footsteps clip-clop and are as dubby and regular as a Pole jam from way back.  And then…it’s over.  You know I can’t get enough of this domestic psychedelic sound-world so press play again.

When I finally recover my frothing I check out track two, ‘Filtrate’, which is even better.  It’s an exercise in reduction, redaction and erasure.  Will takes a source field recording from the desk of one Mr Kostis Kilymis and proceeds to rub out all the ‘field’ frequencies.  This delicate slash with the tippex leaves the lucky listener with a transparent ghost of the original recordings.  Beautiful magnetic curves loop out of ether mirroring Sarah Hughes’ spare sleeve design.

I recline awkwardly and close my eyes to concentrate harder.  It’s all just feedback I guess but the tones are so wonderfully grimy and smeared… all soft grey pencil rather than garish fluorescent highlighter and tracing single lonely arcs.  One by one the tones rise and fall in splendid isolation.  And never, until the closing seconds, do they intersect, setting off a sepia-tinted soft blossom.

Crickey!

There’s a calming desolation to these recordings, like watching sand blow off the crest of a dune.

wreaths

In Atoms – WREATHS

A super-classy synth/drone affair in three parts.

  • Pretty dramatic, like Black Beauty, as horses appear out of the mist. There’s a close up of a sweating flank and long-lashed eye.  You can feel the yearning from the saddle.
  • The intro to Sweatloaf (complete with vinyl crackles) but instead of Sabbath riffs we get lovely denuded drum patterns.
  • Gentle floating? A bath of warm cumin seeds; at first a dry slithering over the body but then eczema-like patches form sticking to any protein dampness.

doll cuts

slowthaw – doll cuts

Blissed-out electro/drone summons the unveiling of a leisure centre in Asgard.  All the gods and demi-gods stand proud as the wave machine is turned on for the first time and marvel at the heated floors and lockers you open with a 20 pee piece.   After the frolics they stop for hot chocolate on their way out.

Scene: A horizon scanning meeting in the Department of Transport.  While the interim Accounts Director (the real Director is on sabbatical – yeah right!) outlines our 2016/2017 business plan I track the starlings over Victoria Coach Station.  Huge abstract shapes fold in on themselves.  Murmurations… that’s the word for their psychedelic ravelling my shattered brain reminds me.

Their black-fuzz smears the peachy sky.

It hypnotises me to such a degree I’m absentmindedly rolling my pen across the desk, ‘clack, clack, clack’ it goes.

Anything to add Mr Murray?

The interim Director points at me.

I stammer,

slowthaw.

It’s about all I can manage under the circumstances.

—ooOoo—

organized music from thessaloniki

In Atoms

aetheric records

framing devices: packaged by michael clough, crow versus crow and every contact leaves a trace

March 21, 2014 at 9:44 pm | Posted in musings, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Michael Clough – Untitled (CD-r, self-released, edition of 5)

Michael Clough – SKRBL (16 page, A6 booklet, self-published, edition of 10, all unique)

Michael Clough – miniMA (Tumblr account and A7 booklet, self-published) 

Caught In The Wake Forever and Crow Versus Crow – Excommunicado (3” CD-r and booklet, Crow Versus Crow, initial edition of 50, second run of 25) 

Dominic Lash / Will Montgomery – Real As Any Place You’ve Been / Thames Water Live (CD-r, Every Contact Leaves a Trace, edition of 100 or download)

Henry Collins – Music of Sound (CD-r, Every Contact Leaves a Trace, edition of 100 or download)

Ignacio Agrimbau – Anatomy of the Self Vol. 2 – Decay, Corrosion and Dust (CD-r, Every Contact Leaves a Trace, edition of 100 or download)

Seth Cooke – Four No-Input Field Recordings (CD-r, Every Contact Leaves a Trace, edition of 100 or download)

clough - untitled cd-rminiMA inner pagesskrbl coverskrbl inner pagesexcommunicado booklet coverexcommunicado booklet inner pagesevery contact leaves a trace outersevery contact leaves a trace picsevery contact leaves a trace inners

Listen hard, dear readers, can you hear it?  A faint, beguiling, rhythmic patter.  It is the sound of the no-audience underground, in particular those that have submitted material for review, drumming their fingers on the collective kitchen table waiting as patiently as possible for comment on their endeavours.  I jest of course, I can’t imagine anyone really giving a monkey’s about delays and deadlines around here, but occasionally I do feel bad about the length of time it takes me to get around to everything.  In my defence I have been totally bewilderated by the demands of returning to work following a long period of illness.  Also, whilst unable to write much, I have instead made the fifty tapes of the oTo back catalogue available as a (massively successful, I’m happy to say) distraction.  Never mind that CD-r you sent me in January – look over there! – rare Phil Todd stuff!!

Anyway, the muse has poked her head around the door to see how I’m doing and is now helping me uncork the whimsy spout.  Inspired by Joe’s account of a tape that comes packaged in a gnome I have been thinking a bit about the stuff we wrap stuff in and am bundling together some exquisitely presented releases that have recently come my way.

Firstly three objects by the incomparable Michael Clough.  I know the guy is amused and flattered when I start bandying terms around like ‘aesthetic’ but, having been delighted by his work for fifteen years, I can think of few artists more consistent.  His achievements are all the more remarkable for being produced in tiny editions, or hidden on Soundcloud, created in moments snatched from family life.  His erudite and self-deprecating humour disguises a homespun but hardcore conceptual rigour and a Savile Row tailor’s eye for quality of finish.

Take SKRBL for example – sixteen pages of exactly that, photocopied, layered, recopied, stapled into a neat card cover.  The presentation gives these scribbles the air of architectural drawings by a madman, the blueprints of an impossible, nine-dimensional suspension bridge.  The enlargements provoke a ludicrous desire to attend to detail that just isn’t there.  Or is it?  How serious is this nonsense?

miniMA, a very neat A7 booklet with card cover containing 8 photographic plates, is the first physical manifestation of the Miniature Museum of Art, curated by M. Clough.  Presented as a tiny exhibition catalogue with knowing puns and allusions for artist names and picture titles, this is, of course, all his own work.  His Tumblr account contains many more fascinating examples of ‘found art’ framed by his discerning eye and documented with his camera phone.  I’d be happy transferring dozens of these pieces to RFM but they are best viewed in situ and the effect of scrolling through them is cumulative.  Makes me want to get recording purely so I can nab his best for album covers.

The third of these objects is a CD-r packaged in a card, handmade, fold-out sleeve held together by the type of paper sash patented by Andy Robinson for his much-missed label Striate Cortex.  No identifying information is included, no text of any kind, just photographs of light refracted through, I’m not sure, maybe some kind of corrugated plastic then cut into a waveform shape of the sort you might see via some sound-editing software.  It is a genius piece of design – an almost completely abstracted city scape portrayed as nothing but pulse and it fits the music perfectly.  The CD-r contains one untitled track lasting 33 minutes built entirely from layers of electronic throb.  It is as sinuous, mindless and viscerally sensual as an interspecies orgy on a cold, tiled floor following a mass breakout at the reptile house.  Indeed, in reviews I often use the term ‘meditative’ in the appreciative but not wholly accurate sense of ‘thought provoking’.  This piece is ‘meditative’ in the Buddhist sense of aiding in the dissolution of ego.  It is, to put it bluntly, fucking obliterating – marvellously so.

This stuff can be had direct from Clough himself.  Email him at mriclough@aol.com for availability and prices.

Next we have Excommunicado by Caught In The Wake Forever (an alias of Fraser McGowan) and Crow Versus Crow.  The package feels simple, coherent and appropriate but a list of its elements is overwhelming.  I’ll let Andy Crow explain:

‘Excommunicado’ comprises a 10.5 x 10.5 cm 16 page mini art book, containing black and white inkjet prints of Crow Versus Crow’s minimal ink and pencil drawings printed on matte white paper within a 170gsm recycled card cover; four instrumental tracks from Caught In The Wake Forever, on a white-faced 3″ CDr housed within an 8.5 x 8.5 cm 100 gsm recycled paper envelope; an insert sheet containing recording and production information; a 35 mm photographic negative; and a dried rose petal, all housed within a 12.5 x 12.5 cm 100 gsm recycled paper envelope, sealed with a full colour ‘Excommunicado’ sticker.

OK, perhaps that level of description is bordering on the fetishistic but you get the idea: this is a package.  In a letter to me Andy was coy about the informing idea behind the project as he wanted me to come to it fresh.  Unfortunately, however, he clearly forgot that I was on his mailing list and had received a plug for the first edition of this release in which he told the world that it deals with…

…loss.  Or, more specifically, it deals with the process of coming to terms with loss. I’m sure most people reading this will have got to a point in your life, post-trauma, where you’re confronted with the question, ‘What now?’. Sadness, bitterness, alienation, isolation, loss, nostalgia, hope, glimmers of happiness… all of these come together in a non-linear mess, as you attempt to ‘pull yourself together’, ‘get yourself back on track’ etc etc.

…which is a tough idea to jettison once you know it is there.  I like to think I would have guessed anyhow.  The project as a whole seems defined by absence: the blown pigment outlining a hand shape on a cave wall.  Fraser’s music is a delicately balanced mix of electronics – dragging a cumbersome weight from the past behind it, unsettled in its present, grasping for the future.  It’s like not quite remembering something.  Andy’s drawings are perfectly complementary.  Again, here is art reaching for something no longer there.  The booklet ‘reads’ like the marginalia surrounding an entirely redacted text.

The initial run of 50 copies for this release sold out in a day.  A second edition of 25 is planned.  Please visit the Crow Versus Crow blog for updates and/or to sign up for the newsletter.

Finally then, I am delighted to offer a warm RFM welcome to new label Every Contact Leaves a Trace.  My admiration for the luxuriantly bearded polymath Seth Cooke is well documented to the point of being borderline creepy.  Suffice to say the news that he was starting his own label was gladdening and that these objects were hotly anticipated.

I’d like to get the less positive stuff out of the way first: I’m afraid the split album shared by Dominic Lash and Will Montgomery was not for me, despite some very satisfying passages of subterranean electro-gurgle in ‘Thames Water Live’ by the latter.  Moving swiftly on…

Music of Sound by Henry Collins is an edit of family favourite film The Sound of Music removing all dialogue and music from the soundtrack.  We are left with half an hour (that much!) of footsteps, weather, birdsong, doors slamming, whistles and the like – a celebration of the work of the foley artist.  The worry with this kind of high concept stuff is that the cleverness will come at the expense of engagement, or to put it another way: that the technical accomplishment can be admired without being much, y’know, enjoyed.  However, no need to fret here because Henry has created a surprisingly powerful and emotionally resonant piece.  Subtracting the ‘content’ has also drained away the Technicolor of the original and we are left with a tense black-and-white atmosphere in which the dread of the approaching Nazis is fore-grounded.  If you’d told me it was a version of say, The Third Man, I’d have no trouble believing you.  Also, the insert picturing the alpine meadow from the film’s iconic poster image sans Julie Andrews is genius.

You might, given the amusing title, expect Seth’s own Four No-Input Field Recordings to be very, very quiet indeed.  Instead what we have is twenty minutes of electrostatic roar uplit with digi-squiggles.  I imagine Seth shrunk, with his boom mic and recording equipment, Fantastic Voyage style, and squirted into his kit in order to become the Chris Watson of the sub-atomic.  Listen as herds of crackling electrons stampede along the canyon floor of his mixer’s circuitry.  Marvel at the call-and-response of a quantum-level dawn chorus before us clumsy humans start collapsing the wave function all over the place with our observations.  Very sharp and very entertaining.

Lastly, we have the ominously titled Anatomy of the Self Vol. 2 – Decay, Corrosion and Dust by Ignacio Agrimbau.  It has taken me a while to appreciate just how good this one is.  The first couple of listens left me skating on the meniscus feeling weightless and foiled by the music’s surface tension.  As with After the Rain, the terrific but musicologically intimidating band of which he is one third, I am largely ignorant of the instrumentation used or the traditions and influences from whence it sprung.  This is, apparently, broken music constructed with broken instruments but without Seth telling me this I’d be none the wiser.  Imagine Ignacio as an expert marine biologist explaining his novel theories about the life of a coral reef over video taken during  a scuba dive.  I’m the guy at the back not really taking it in because I’m distracted by the strobing colours and alien patterns.

So, with that in mind, here’s an attempt at a description.  A breathy, muted sound palette suggests the struggles of a pupa within its chrysalis – fluid life reforming into something new.  This is underscored with a near constant percussive urgency that occasionally topples over into a Dada, clattering slapstick – like hieroglyphs sprung to life and leaping from the tomb walls in order to hit each other over the head with grave goods.  Highly compelling stuff which rewards close attention.

The packaging for these four releases is as diverting as the contents.  Before getting to the CD-r the listener needs to remove a bulldog clip, put the embossed card outer sleeve to one side, unfold a paper inner sleeve and note the details handily contained on a separate insert.  Following their appearance on a blog hosted by The Wire magazine (pics above stolen from that source – I don’t like the publication but credit where it’s due: nice work) Seth offered the following explanation on the Bang the Bore Forum:

The idea is that the listener has to reassemble each release every time it’s played. There are lots of possible configurations, each outer cover is a square tile that can be positioned in any direction, or reversed. Each is embossed with a found object rather than embossing plate.

Which brings me neatly to the final point I’d like to make.  Seth also said this:

You can figure most of the ideas behind the packaging out for yourselves, but Ignacio’s might take a little explaining. Iggy’s Anatomy of the Self Volume II is about breakdown – of instruments, of working methods, of relationships, of family, of organisations, of society. He wanted an image of a broken machine, and I initially got hold of some cogs to emboss, but it felt far too mechanistic for the sound of the record. So I got the chance to collect up some 3d printer misprints… the hexagonal hive-style pattern is the exposed inner structure, made that way to save plastic. As it went through the embossing press the piece started deteriorating in fibrous strands or splintering altogether, and some of the relief was so deep that it ruptured the greyboard. So in essence, you’re looking at the product of one broken machine creating another broken machine, a product that’s breaking as it’s repeatedly run through another machine two hundred times, a process that’s also rupturing the medium itself.

…and Andy Crow said this:

‘Excommunicado’ is a collaborative project from Caught In The Wake Forever and Crow Versus Crow that brings together work in the respective medium of both artists revolving around each artist’s interpretation of a single conceptual theme. The works within were produced as a continuous dialogue over a number of months, with various stages of development and articulation being sent back and forth between the artists, until both felt that their contribution was complete.

…making explicit, as if it were needed, that there is another level on which all these objects need unpacking.  At the risk of sounding pretentious, the packaging also involves a metaphysical or conceptual element which acts as a further framing device for the content.  This can be more or less obvious or implicit, more or less important to the listener or viewer’s experience but it is there and it is there because these artists wanted it there.

I am, as ever, in awe of the graft, the seriousness of intent, the lightness of touch, the quality of finish, the expert use of meagre resources, the intellectual rigour and the coherent and fascinating aesthetics that our scene is capable of exhibiting.  You’d think I’d have lost the ability to be amazed, wouldn’t you?  Not a bit of it.

Michael Clough on Soundcloud

Michael Clough on Tumblr

(contact him via the email address in the article above)

Crow Versus Crow Blogspot

Crow Versus Crow Bandcamp

Seth Cooke

Every Contact Leaves A Trace

ants, ice, eggs, oscillations

May 1, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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Alas, I remain ill.  No need for further details or more moaning.  Suffice to say I’ve been signed off work by my doctor for another week and little vials of my blood have been taken for some occult purpose.  Ugh.

Naughtily, I went out to the Ceramic Hobs gig on Saturday night but used up all my available energy in so doing and had to leave early.  Still, it was a great night.  Two car loads of people came down from Newcastle so I got to talk to Hasan and Ben Jazzfinger, Lee Culver and Mike Vest (Bong, Basillica etc.) as well as the usual Leeds crowd.  The music was all terrific with Jazzfinger being properly awesome: half an hour of super-dense drone. Hasan literally had his head inside the speaker.  A more detailed review of the night, with photos, can be found over at Idwal Fisher.

One of the non-musical highlights of my brief time out of the house was a conversation with Seth Cooke (co-curator of Bang the Bore) in which we talked about the sort of hyper-detailed oddities and field recordings he currently finds himself listening to.  The following day I restoked the conversation via email and Seth kindly sent a bunch of recommendations.  This list of links has provided me with such a lot of pleasure over the last couple of days that I found myself cut-and-pasting it into other personal emails.  Once I started doing that, it’s appearance as the centrepiece of a blog post was crushingly inevitable…

Seth sez:

As to artists who utilise ingenious methods to record microscopic sound events (usually completely unprocessed), or who frame the commonplace in a manner that makes you wake up and pay attention, or who put microphones in positions impossible for the human ear…

The ants eating an apricot recording (editor’s note: this one was mentioned in conversation and led to the email exchange) is by Jez Riley French, which I think is self released on his own label Engraved Glass (he’s vaguely local, resides in Hull). But for convenience’ sake, it’s on his Soundcloud.

This is one I reckon you’ll love (it’s from one of my favourite albums of this year so far) – an excerpt from Stephen Cornford’s Binatone Galaxy exhibition (released on Senufo Editions, I think), in which he fitted tape decks with self-amplifying cassettes so that the turning of the cassette motor is amplified. Very beautiful, very musical (editor’s note: I do love it, you may too).

Lee Patterson is also great – he got a lot of unexpected mainstream attention when he released Egg Fry on Richard Pinnell’s Cathnor label. Egg Fry is fantastic, highly recommended – teeming with detail, the frying/cooling egg sounds like an army of insects and unexpectedly synth-like. And here’s a few streams that are also pretty damn good.

Here’s some unbelievably beautiful recordings of ice cracking on a frozen lake, from Andreas Bick’s website. Fucking amazing stuff (editor’s note: I concur.  Sounds so ‘radiophonic’ it is hard to believe it is a natural phenomenon).

I quite like Wire-writer Will Montgomery’s stuff, too (editor’s note: ‘Wire writer’?!?  Heh, heh – how quickly we forgive, eh?). Some lovely frogs he’s recorded here.   His Thames recordings available from the Compost and Height blog.  Bill Fontana has also done some fun stuff around the Thames.  Eric La Casa also excellent in the water recording stakes.

Here’s a modestly successful one of my own, difficult to capture accurately because of the massive difference in dynamic range between the wash cycle and the spin cycle.  Length, on this occasion, due to preserving the narrative of the machine’s process and presenting the recording for what it was – plus it seemed patronising to assume that a listener couldn’t handle listening to the process unfold in its own time. If you want to skip out the detailed, hypnotic but highly repetitive riff section then you can see where the action starts on the Soundcloud wave form. The final oscillations are epic (editor’s note: indeed they are, Seth’s washing machine puts many noise artists to shame).

Hope you get a kick out of at least some of that. What a beautiful sounding world we live in!

I couldn’t agree more.

—ooOoo—

P.S. The version of the classic Adam and the Ants logo above is by jakeford.

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