woke up with a frog on my tongue: rfm on aftawerks, sophie cooper, yol, ocean floor, anla courtis, robert ridley-shackleton, the slowest lift & f.ampism

November 23, 2017 at 7:15 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Aftawerks – Isle of Dogs (Acid Waxa)

Sophie Cooper – The Curfew Tower Recordings (Crow Versus Crow Editions)

Yol –On/Off (Soundholes)

Ocean Floor – Four Shadows (Aphelion)

Anla Courtis – Concept Bongo (Coherent States)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – A Thin Slice of Sexie Funk (Cardboard Club)

The Slowest Lift – The Slowest Lift (VHF)

F.Ampism – The Unstruck Sound Centre (Ikuisuus)

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Aftawerks – Isle of Dogs (Acid Waxa) Sold Out Cassette and digital album

Now I may not know my 808 from my 303 but what I can tell you is that this tape is what I’ve been reaching for when I need to get shit done.

Putting the bins out?  Check.

Going to argue with the teachers at the kids open day? Check.

Completing that application for planning permission?  Check.

For each domestic stretching task I’ve found Aftawerks’ no-nonsense squelch, jaunty computerised bass and pinprick precise beats the perfect mental and physical workout.

I’m in no way qualified to review this with any sense of where it fits into things historically.  Some of it sounds like incidental music on Miami Vice, some of it sounds like the tunes kids blast at the back of the bus with extremely complicated hi-hat and clave patterns.

But whatever it is I’m bouncing and moving.

So…am I cool now?

sophie cooper solo

Sophie Cooper – The Curfew Tower Recordings (Crow Versus Crow Editions) Sold Out Cassette and digital album

How low can you go?

On this tape Sophie Cooper goes Mariana Trench deep into the wild and weird world of the orchestra’s most misunderstood instrument – the trombone.

Sophie’s ‘bone is not played for yuks.  No sir.  Her Avant Garde drone credentials are writ large on a ‘Tribute to LaMonte Young and Marian Zazeela’s OCEANS’.  But at the same time the farting bluster that comes naturally from hot brass is not shied away from.  In fact it is welcomed in a series of breathy improvisations that notch up extra points for unknown textures and intense control.

At times the brass guffs are joined with real-life human breath totally getting that ‘soft and intense’ vibe Miles perfected on Kind of Blue.  On ‘What the fuck was he thinking?’ trumps turn to growls and growls turn to gasps and I’m transported into a world of leather lungs and wax paper aioli, gently expanding and contracting – the rasping hiss as rich in life in a succulent rock pool.

Delicate sound manipulation enters the frame occasionally with ‘Push the Button’s’ double-tracked horns locking together into some hefty warble tone.  A pot is twisted and it gets fuzzier and hissier until it reaches Michio Kurihara’s mythical bliss-out proportions.

As it stands, with its site specific jams and improvisations, this tape would be a winner.  But add to this the sweet narrative charm and you’ve got a keeper, a real put-on-the-top-of-the-pile-er.

The fabled dial-a-bone sessions link recordings together and are presented unedited and raw…the phone rings, Sophie answers, she asks what kind of jam the caller wants (loud/soft, short/long) and, BBBBUUURRRRRRRRRRMMMMM, she delivers.  Classic trombone action.

Who you gonna call?

yol on off

Yol –On/Off (Soundholes) Cassette

SIDE ON: JUST FIRE. JUST FIRE NOTHING ELSE. FEEDBACK SCOURS CLEAN. YOU DID A CRAP WHEELIE IN THE PARK. GIBBER G-G-GIBBER. ROAR AND RUUR AND RAAR. THROAT IS SORE BUT CAN’T STOP. JUST FIRE NOTHING ELSE.  SSSSSSSSQUEAL – BURN IT CLEAN / CUT IT OUT.  FIRE, FIRE, FIRE ON A LORRY. SCRATCH/BUFFFFFFGGG. SILENCE. TWO DOGS. BACKGROUND CHUNTER ON A TAPE OR SOMETHING. TWO FAKE PLASTIC ROTTWEILERS.  BUMMMMGGGGG—AWWWWWWWWW WHAT THE FUCK IS IN THERE?  EEEEEEEEEEE…SILENCE-CLICK.

SIDE OFF. PROTEST WIG. UGHHH. SCRAPE/SCRAPE. UHHH-GHUUUR. DISEMBODIED WIG HEAD ON THE BALCONY OF THE LUXURY FLATS. SCRATCH. CREEEE—WAAAJ WAAAJ. I SWEAR DOWN IT WAS LOOKING AT ME. HAH-HAH-HER. FADED GHOST LETTERS. GUNG-KIDDLE-TOING. SAY SOMETHING ABOUT. BOING. PAINT, SHOES, GLOVES. PING…CRUNCH. IS IT A WARNING? CHUDDLE-RATTLE-HING. CRAZY PAVING. SCRATCH-UG UG UG MADE FROM BROKEN GRAVESTONES ROARRR-R-RAAAH.  SQUEAL-EEL. ALWAYS KEEP A SPARK PLUG IN YOUR POCKET.  UHG UHG CRASH. SILENCE-CLICK.

ocean floor

Ocean Floor – Four Shadows (Aphelion) CD, Cassette and digital album

These four sublimely beautiful modular synth pieces from one Mr Aonghus Reidy simply ooze out of the speakers like a ripple of ripe camembert.

Opener ‘Airglow’ reverberates round our domestic front room with a poise that turns our little lounge into some ebony-tiled basilica.  A devastating presence wearing the monk’s cowl of humility.  ‘Shadows’ follows with gentle runs of oscillation that wouldn’t be out of place in a schools and colleges broadcast from 1983.

Things wind down a little with ‘Night’ – shimmering like moonlight on a vast lake the melody moving so slowly it almost collapses.  And things are finally put to bed (Ed – groan!) on ‘Slumber’ a real-life lullaby; in equal parts sweetness and sinister.

It’s pretty.  It’s lovely.  What’s your problem punk?

anla courtis

Anla Courtis – Concept Bongo (Coherent States) Cassette and download

Clipped and ribbed thribblings.

Yes it’s the bongo drum – beloved of the beatnik and unwelcome midnight-jammer.  But here Alan/Anla Courtis takes the hippie staple and drowns it in several pints of ‘chunng-fhhfhhung’ stretching each dull thud into a warm tropical front.  Elastic thumps collect in wildly unstable clouds; popping and clicking like plastic thunder.

Waxy rolls and smears. 

Two fifteen minute pieces focus on different approaches.  ‘Concept Bongo I’ concentrates on the short-lived resonance that exists in the negative space these drums are designed to hold.  Vibration is carefully controlled and limited to strict, neat parameters.  The tables are turned on ‘Concept Bongo II” a freer, looser jam, sloshed with reverb sounding exactly halfway between an afternoon with Steve Reich and Faust’s most blunted tapes experiments.

The sound of a million blunt fingertips gently striking pigskin. 

The palette of sounds is, understandably, quite limited to these thrilling pops and clicks but this familiarity make me smile nostalgically, like uncovering a well-earned scar when it’s warm enough to wear shorts.

Can I say Bongo Fury?  Guess I just did.

Robert Ridley

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – A Thin Slice of Sexie Funk (Cardboard Club) 3”CD-r

The Cardboard Prince is pretty much unstoppable on this brief funk workout.  I’m guessing there’s some new kit involved here as RRS sounds deep, heavier and more, well…sexie on this release.

Enough of the preamble – where’s the beef?

  • ‘Eye Just Want 2’ – Chart-ready Brit-funk with indistinct vocals (such a shame I can’t make them out) and an irrepressible squid-beat spurting electric ink.
  • ‘Dancing Under the Table’ – A classic RRS instant composition with a riff on jam sandwiches and death(e), the coiling bass line gradually tweaked till it cries Uncle.
  • ‘Cheater’ –This one is the cream of a particular creamy crop. Lyrics sound like Cheap Trick!  Lyrics sound totally RRS!!  The squelching bass line needs to be wrung out it’s so darn wet.  Many pots are twisted and drum-fills are added with wild abandon as RRS opens his heart to curse all the cheaters out there.

 slowest lift lp

The Slowest Lift – The Slowest Lift (VHF) Vinyl LP

This knock-out tag team: Sophie Cooper and Julian Bradley (AKA The Slowest Lift) find their spiritual home on veteran freek-retreat VHS for their debut long-player.

Let’s recap.  The Slowest Lift excels in duality.  Their coupling of (on one side) shocking distortion, tape noise and blistering huff with (on the other) soft slow voices and gentle unhurried compositions make the act of listening like dreaming through an electrical storm.

The prospect their heaving and groaning fuzz will descend into splintered chaos is always hinted at but generally inches back from the brink guided by a warm sonic-sirocco rebalancing the actors like perfectly carved chess pieces.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this is classy but still a psychic bruiser yeah?

Opener ‘Crystal Fracture’ re-imagines something like TOTO’s Africa decamped to the Devil’s Causeway and played by colourful walkers on sharp sticks.

I’m always intrigued by that songs-named-after-the-band/album-titles-named-after-the-band type of thing. Am I to assume that this song ‘The Slowest Lift’ is a mission statement?  A brief track to distil the essence of Cooper/Bradley? If so I can report back T.S.L. are a devastating cocktail of the fizzy and the smeared – think carbonated grease!

Strung-out lines of gruffly-tempered fluff skittering in a beam of yellow sunlight next…it’s ‘Bank Holiday Tuesday’ – a slow boil.  The birth of casserole-core if you will.  ‘Preset’ has the swagger of some undiscovered Ulver back-catalogue gem; cascades of VU-guitar strummage while Transylvanian horns duck and parry.

A lazy hiss of a harmonium fidgets with those darn tachyons shimmering in and out of phase on ‘Hi from the Skyline Swim’. The voice, relatively en clair is delivering a warning of sorts.  Watch out for the grandfather paradox perhaps?

Taking a breather I think what I like most is the unpolished air to this remarkable record.  The ever-so-slightly discernable patina of tape hiss when another instrument adds to the mix, it’s the sound of unfinished business.  ‘EV Plus’ is a great case in point – like two found recordings laid over each other.  T.S.L. make like archaeologists digging for treasure that their painstaking research assures them is just beneath their feet.

Song title of the month, ‘Extreme Cops’ is a sculpted meringue, chemically complex but light as air, ‘The Chauffer’ similarly buoyant   Compare and contrast to closer ‘Punched’.  A concrete overcoat, worn as you sink beneath the dock of the bay.

The Slowest Lift dog-ear a new chapter in ye olde booke of English free-mind collectives.

“SHhvvvHHHuuuhhHHHHHSshsshSShshsSH”

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F.Ampism – The Unstruck Sound Centre (Ikuisuus) Vinyl LP

A lovingly prepared Petri dish of ripe exotic beans sprouting quivering tendrils that wrap round my pink toes.

A slushy bubbling and melting ripple permeate each of these nine itchy pieces.  Each song a study in Technicolor; detail hanging heavy with Nag Champa and waxy banana leaves.

‘The Loosest Caduceus’ shudders like muscle spasms while ‘Sand/Blood/Glass’ makes me shave my head and begin a Bic-pen trepanation.  An over-reaction from an excited listener you think?  I challenge you not to seep between these vinyl grooves in search of forbidden knowledge. Me?  I napped and woke up with a frog on my tongue.  There’s no escape from the cramps!

But lovers of gritty drama and kitchen sink realism will not be disappointed by ‘Absolute Beyond Ill’ as fucking real as ‘tripping’ down the steps of the police station.

Get merry and totally bronzed with AMPISM!   Essential.

Acid Waxa

Crow versus Crow Bandcamp

Soundholes

Aphelion Editions

Coherent States

Cardboard Club / Hissing Frames

VHF Records

Ikuisuus

-ooOOoo-

insistent as history: rfm on dale cornish, yol, anorak

May 11, 2017 at 4:40 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Dale Cornish – Aqal (Entr’acte)

Yol – Always Leave Them Wanting Less (Self Release/Bandcamp)

Yol – Cancelled Chicken Regatta (Self Release/Bandcamp)

Anorak – If they are OK, then it’s you / The Hum (Self Release/Soundcloud)

dale cornish

Dale Cornish – Aqal  (Entr’acte) CD and digital album

DC’s most recent works have documented the careful unravelling of structure and asked important questions of placement.  Why does that have to go there?  What happens when tension flows backwards into release?  When is too little too much?

And while these territorial grids are remapped the basic building blocks of sound have not been left un-considered.  Sparse blocks are modelled in plastic forms that flow like warm liquid; components are tweaked tightly or merged into unholy couplings.

And yet it all makes perfect sense. There’s nothing in this world that doesn’t sound as if it’s not in exactly the right place at exactly the right time.

OK – that’s enough of the history lesson.  What about this modest disc eh?  On first listen Aqal is by far the most rhythmic session I’ve heard from Dale’s laboratory.  But repeated excavations suggest the whole idea of time is under the microscope here.

The inner sense of timing seems to resonate like a struck bell through each ‘Aqal Pattern’, lulling a lazy reviewer like me through a gradually decreasing sense of control.  The seconds stretch into minutes and that internal body clock (the nodding head, the tapping toe) that metronome our life gets reset on each and every intervention.

My notebook is full of sloping scribbles.

“(AP#1) Full, full, surprisingly full, saucily placed submarine pings and crisp machine-logic handclaps. Get them oars in sync! (AP#2) Ear-cuppingly intimate, a conversation between bass-crustacean, measured in bright bubbles and underwater static (if such a thing is possible). (AP#3 )Brutal dull thumps on slack flesh – a shotgun discharged – cartridges full of indigo snowflakes. (AP#4 )Tubular bells wrapped in downers and sticky bacon –Like something on the Philips label, catalogue number  4FE 8503 (1967).

(AP#5) Shuddering, soaked to the skin, a slow slipping away – drowning in an inch of water/or/ positive athleticism, chrome-plated hurdler, effortless leaping.”

You get the gist.

The final three patterns really seem to shrug themselves free of all that has gone before to emerge unblinking into a brave new world of un-time.  So…Aqal Pattern 6 introduces a succulent throb, a pulse without thought, generating waves like a stone lobbed into a lake.

Aqal Pattern 7 lopes in a graceful ellipse occasionally hurling ballast from the basket to rise ever higher.  Closer, the Aqal Pattern 8 steals a dream from Milt Jackson and replays it through unreliable nylon and bronze pipes: a slow and steady manifesto.

Are you ready for a new platform? Time 2.0?

Editors Note: If you’re tickled you’ve got to move quick.  The Entr’acte CD sold out at source – at time of posting only 7 left on Dale’s bandcamp.

yol wanting less

Yol – Always Leave Them Wanting Less (Self Release) recycled cassette and free digital album

Two exceptional 2016 live sets from Yol on this (now sold out) back-to-basics, DIY to the core, tape.

Picking Grit is a tight 11 minutes where vocal repetition ratchets up the urban hysteria to new levels of swivel-eyed tension.

I suspect Yol is using his patented, homemade ‘modual synth’ here.  Created from an aluminium mess tin, bowed yogurt pot and a viciously deployed metal fork it keeps the sound-movements smaller and friction, rather than gravity, focused.

More rubbing / less dropping.

The relatively sparse instrumentation is itchily uncomfortable and claustrophobic.  Couple this with the caustic word-pictures being painted and it’s no wonder the crowd are reverentially quiet. Either that or they’re bloody terrified.

Angry.

The jovial crowd chatter that opens ‘Hi Vis’ is soon silenced with a gentle pattering of wooden blocks and then one almighty blood-curdling scream from a fizzing Yol in fine voice.

The ‘modular-synth’ is left in its canvas tote bag in favour of the more orchestral bin lids and balti bowls giving this side a flatter, wider sound.  The vocal’s are positively deranged in subject matter and delivery ragging on a consumerist sheep-mentality that end with us,

“sniffing marker pens and buying granite worktops.”

The ‘liveness’ just oozes out of this side with a clearly mobile Yol, stalking the venue as the audience mumble and gasp.  The carefully controlled mayhem, the steel toe-capped attack and shuddering decay sprints though the ten minute set.  But as the balti bowls are hurled about for one last time, and in the instant before the cheers begin, one set of booted feet swiftly exit stage left.  Their work cleanly and precisely done.

Angrier.

yol chicken

 Yol – Cancelled Chicken Regatta (Self Release) non-physical download witchcraft

Like Miles and Dylan before him – Yol goes electric!

But no fucker dare shout “Judas” you dig?

Heavily amplified percussion and feedback that’s only just held back from a total war situation colour this download-only non-physical release.

The dull ‘klongs’ and harmonic swoops of feedback melt into an abstract/urban diatribe, a kinetic poem as the recording seems to collapse and implode before your ears.  Yol mentions Gustav Metzger’s self-cancellation concept in the notes and of course he’s nailing this exactly between the eyes.

So the question must be asked.  Has any of this mysterious percussion instrument* survived the performance?  Will my ears ever be the same again?  And of course…who throws bags of dog shit up into a tree?

As ever Yol leaves us all with another bundle of awkward questions to contemplate as the world around us crumbles.

Angriest?  Oh yes – very much the angriest.

*And what exactly is this percussive noise maker?  As the track progresses I’ve moved away from my initial idea of an amplified ice-cream carton (2 litre of supermarket vanilla), to a bubble-wrapped baseball bat being thumped with increasing force against a circa 1985 smoked-glass coffee table (chrome frame still sparkling).  Am I right?  Does it matter?

anorak

Anorak – If they are OK, then it’s you / The Hum (No label/Soundcloud) streamed digital album

Anorak is the perfectly buttoned-up moniker for one dazzling Noah Roth.

Fans of solo guitar + (and more of that ‘+’ later) will totally goof on these plucky tunes that sweep down the heart-tugging chord progressions John Fahey used to such great effect.

What I’m saying is there’s a melancholy built into the DNA of the songs that adds an authentic dustbowl twang, a thirsty longing glance between the acoustic notes and noise interjections.

This Soundcloud stream is made up of two 10 minute songs. ‘ If They Are OK, Then It’s You’ cranks up like some vintage Jim O’Rourke outtake with pure electronic waves playing alongside a steel-string acoustic guitar exploring hillbilly tunings and tumbling over itself in an attempt to stand up straight.

Of course this haste and mess is a ruse to set you up for a cascading waterfall of descending cadenzas played in the delicate style of one Cian Nugent or Tom Scott until the whole thing slips beneath the digital waves.

The real gem is saved for last, ‘The Hum’ a clear stream of harmonic pings and rich-fingered plucking, as insistent as history, guides the listener into a Ed Crawford-style circular riff.  And damn! The story-telling, personal and ever-so slightly abstract, strikes such a fIREHOSE memory-gong I’m transported back to my teenage years: lovelorn and awkward in a single note.

But of course beautiful playing needs some ugliness to react against and the ending minutes – a computer-crashing crescendo, cleverly underlines the nine minutes of prettiness you have just enjoyed.

It’s a wonderful thing readers.

Dale Cornish Aqal

Yol Bandcamp

Anorak Soundcloud

-ooOOoo-

radiofreemidwich goes to tusk festival 2016

October 23, 2016 at 8:22 pm | Posted in live music, midwich, musings, new music, no audience underground | 8 Comments
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TUSK Festival 2016, Sage Gateshead, October 14 – 16

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Hmmm… ‘Long, Authoritative List Of Everything That Happened’? Nah, not really my style. How about ‘Epic Musing On Life, Music And What It All Means’? Oof, maybe later.

Let’s just start with the car.

Dan(iel Thomas – well known in this parish) kindly agreed to drive me, Sarah and Lisa to our digs in Newcastle. Here we are setting off:

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Dan looking handsome, a vision in stubble, Sarah in holiday mode, Lisa appalled at Sarah’s story about someone whose retina fell out and me giving it some cheek. What could go wrong, eh? Well, Dan’s back is crook and went into spasm on the A19. At one point I had to shift gears for him because he couldn’t reach down to the stick. Given that I only hold a license to drive an automatic this was a fraught moment that I had to be talked through. Still, my slight embarrassment was as nothing to the agony Dan was clearly suffering. After gliding into some grim services so Dan could walk it off, Sarah drove the rest of the way.

Luckily, when we arrived a retinue of servants rushed to carry Dan into the fluffy opulence of Malmaison and I was roughly directed to Premier Inn, where I would be KEEPING IT REAL. As I trundled the wheelie case containing my band and my clothes along Quayside the air started to crackle. I looked up and saw – fuck me! – the trio of Mike ‘Xazzaz’ Simpson, Lee ‘Culver’ Stokoe and MIGUEL ‘SKULL MASK’ PEREZ walking towards me (all in black, natch).

Is this Rob? This is Rob!

Miguel said, lunging in for the bear hug.  Mike, who refuses to be photographed despite being a strikingly handsome guy, helpfully took this soon-to-be-iconic picture. Left to right: Miguel, me, Lee.  Tyne Bridge in the background.  Cool, eh?

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I’ve already written something about how important Miguel’s visit is to me and will return to the theme later so for now I’ll keep to the narrative.  Suffice to say I have rarely, if ever, seen anyone so pleased to be somewhere.  The huddle broke up so Miguel could soundcheck and I could settle into my (actually very pleasant) hotel room.

Soon I was trotting back over the Millennium Bridge to Gateshead and up the fuckloads of steps you need to climb to get to Sage:

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My feelings about Sage were fluid and contradictory.  On some levels it is profoundly impressive – an arts-for-all enterprise on a huge scale, proudly publicly funded, run by friendly and enthusiastic staff – but at other times it felt like a vast airport lounge from a Ballardian near-future dystopia.  From across the river it looks like a reclining figure from the title sequence of a cheapo James Bond knock-off (‘Silverfinger’?), on the inside it’s a Duplo play set, lit in sugary, boiled sweet colours.  For a structure so enormous it has little heft.  I could easily imagine the giant struts (one is cutting across the corner of the first picture below) hauling back the whole silver facade on a sunny day, like opening a roll-top bread-bin.  I did get pretty comfortable (institutionalised?) over the three days but there was definitely culture shock to contend with.

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An example: as I entered Hall 2, the main TUSK venue (middle picture above), for the first time on Friday an usher used a torch to show me down the stairs.  The room was dark aside from the stage lights illuminating the band currently playing.  Oh, I thought, it’s going to be like that is it?  Theatre.

Feeling discombobulated and out of my element I leaned myself up against a tousle-haired giant and enjoyed the crunktronik drama of Bad@Maths.  When the house lights went up at the end of their set I realised I was clutching onto:

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…Joe ‘Posset’ Murray – my RFM comrade-in-arms!  Always a delight to be in his company, likewise:

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yol!  Another who fears photography will remove biopsy snippets from his soul but I was NOT TO BE DENIED.  We soon became festival buds and hung out throughout proceedings.  Now though, I was so excited about seeing Miguel play that all I could do was babble and take photos of my new boots.  I’m not joking:

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[Editor’s note: at this point, after I’ve started introducing people but before I start rhapsodising about Skull Mask etc., I’m going to apologise in advance for not mentioning everyone I spoke to. This is partly because my notes are sketchy (and my memory worse) but mainly because I’m uncomfortable assigning some conversations to this ‘highlights package’ and some not. The social aspect of this trip was a thrill – from meeting people for the first time, to catching up with rarely seen friends, to chewing the fat with the regular crowd but outside of our normal context. It was all very inspiring. In short: if we talked, rest assured that I enjoyed our conversation and want to talk to you again.  Likewise I’m not busting a gut to account for every band, nor provide comprehensive links and tags – that isn’t the purpose of the exercise.  A quick net search should fill in any gaps.  There will be one Get Carter joke.]

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Next up it was Miguel Perez, playing as Skull Mask (apologies for crappy picture, I still had the flash on my camera from the boot pics and once he got started I didn’t think to try again). This was what I was here to see and his set – just man and guitar – was astounding. Flamenco flourishes, desert folk, improv spikiness and metal hammering flowed, pressed and burst like a time-lapse film of jungle flowers opening, like lava flow, like clouds of starlings at dusk, like liquid mercury. Miguel is one of the most technically adept guitarists I have ever seen but all that virtuosity is in service of one thing: the truth. To say the music of Skull Mask is heartfelt or sincere is to understate the raw beauty of what it reveals: a soul. Miguel’s soul.

Stood at the front I found myself having an out of body experience. Part of me was enjoying it on an absolutely visceral level, unwaveringly engaged, but another part of me was floating above thinking about what the experience meant. I’ve had a hard time with music this year. I’ve not listened to much and have been in denial about how burnt out I’d got keeping this blog afloat whilst juggling the demands of ‘real life’. I’d been hoping that this event would prove to be a big purge and cleanse and that I’d be returned to music rinsed clean and ready to GO. That didn’t happen, but something better did.

Watching the performance unfold, I started thinking about how beautiful life can be despite, sometimes because of, how hard it can be.  I thought about the miraculous combination of factors – hard work, friendship, sheer bloody luck – that led to us all being in this room at this time.  A strange, accepting calm enveloped me whilst at the same time the more present, grounded part of me was yelling (internally – I do have some control):

HOLY FUCKING CHRIST!! MIGUEL IS SAT RIGHT IN FUCKING FRONT OF ME PLAYING THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF THAT FUCKING GUITAR!!  FUCK!!!

At the end of the set I felt myself tearing up.

Outside, shortly after, Miguel was holding court talking ten-to-the-dozen.  I’ve never seen anyone more stoked – his heart must have been beating like a sparrow’s.  He explained his philosophy of life, about living in the moment but appreciating the steps that have brought you to it, about the Mexican relationship with the dead, about the music he had just played.  I couldn’t keep up – my mind had been blown – but luckily it didn’t matter that I couldn’t say anything, as Miguel, beer can in hand, couldn’t quiet down.  And why the hell should he?  It had been a triumph.

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A short time later I found myself stood next to Miguel watching Guttersnipe (how wonderful to be able to type that sentence).  I had predicted that their set would be amongst the most talked about at TUSK and they certainly left the crowd open mouthed, wide eyed, ears ringing.  I feel like I could write reams about this band, scribble profane codices, letterpress manifestos, paint placards to be carried in protest or celebration but when I actually sit down to type… it’s confounding.  The strength of Gretchen’s personality – gentle, thoughtful, keenly intelligent, enabled by a seemingly (to this fat, middle aged man) unbounded energy explodes on stage into a writhing conduit for, what?  Rage?  Despair?  Whatever it is, it feels like unmediated access to the same rooms that Miguel opened doors to.  Likewise, Rob’s unassuming, cheerful manner translates into the most glorious, life-affirming, pushing-a-shopping-trolley-down-the-concrete-stairs-of-a-car-park, free-punk drumming I’ve ever heard.  Afterwards, Paul Margree, of the We Need No Swords blog, tried to praise his technique and, in typical self-deprecating fashion, Rob disagreed:

My technique is shit, there is just a lot of it, and fast.

Love it.  This pair are unique, the band are important and you have to check them out.

Wandering in a daze after this I was collared by the very lovely Jen Parry who wanted to show me the exhibition of Matching Head artwork that she had put together, which was hidden under a staircase around the corner from the main entrances to Hall 2:

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I really dug this and thought Jen had captured the vibe of Lee’s cut-and-paste aesthetic very cleverly.  The exhibit was interactive in that you could make yourself comfortable and listen to Matching Head releases on the tape recorders provided.  On the leather sofa (bottom picture) there was a hammer (and some goggles – health and safety!) which I assumed was also there for punters so I used it to whale on some of the tapes and tape cases that were artfully scattered about.  It seemed appropriate at the time, though I’ve noticed a disapproving tweet from Andy Wood about the smashed cases since.  In my defence the artist was there egging me on and taking photos of me doing it!  My apologies if I got the art wrong – difficult to tell nowadays <winking emoji>…

About this time I realised I was shot for the day and silently drifted away.  Back at the hotel I half-watched Dredd on Film4 whilst sorting out stuff for the next day’s gig.  In my pants.

—ooOoo—

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On Saturday I woke from from the dream-free sleep of the righteous and padded downstairs to gorge on obscene amounts of breakfast in a room with a view of the underside of Tyne Bridge.  Glorious.  As I was tucking into my second plateful, I noticed that I had been name checked by Dawn Bothwell in the introduction to the festival programme.  Blimey!  I nearly spat out my bubble and squeak.  It all added to a cheerful, woozy calm, a kind of blown-out relaxation that I hadn’t felt since sitting on Low Newton beach in Northumberland with my wife Anne and son Thomas back in May:

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Aside from feeling sheepish about instigating a complicated, 6-way conversation about how we were all getting there (the more tired I am the more insistent I am about knowing WHAT HAPPENS NEXT), I was also relaxed about performing.  My band was packed (see picture above, midwich fits in a rucksack), I was sweet smelling, fully medicated and my cheek pouches were bulging with spare breakfast.  LET’S GO!

Well, let’s all see Wolfgang Voigt first.  This involved sitting in the Northern Rock Foundation Hall, feeling like I was in a dream version of a school assembly, with the headmaster replaced by an anonymous, unannounced middle-aged man giving a wordless, non-performance whilst illuminated by his laptop screen.  The sound – an ambient, computer-musicish drone, augmented by airy and/or brittle vibes familiar to those who know his work as, say, Gas – was perfectly lovely but I doubt it would have held my attention without Rachel Lancaster’s terrific visuals.

Rachel’s film was perfectly measured to draw out the best in the music.  We were reminded that there is nothing more sublimely beautiful than smoke rising in still air (‘Patrons are requested to smoke only on the right hand side of the auditorium’ – remember that?), unless the smoke is thick enough to resemble glaciers calving, or liquids of different densities spiralling into each other, or the pearlescent quality of crocodile scales as the creature lies semi-submerged and glistening…

Right then, NOW let’s go.

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‘Dark Tusk’ was set up by Lee Stokoe as a fringe event to help make the most of Miguel’s visit.  Here’s the blurb:

With the arrival of Miguel Perez in the UK to perform as Skull Mask at TUSK, it would be unthinkable to let him escape back to Mexico without congregating with some of his closest conspirators from the Northern noise void.

Culver & La Mancha del Pecado: with six collaborations to date and numerous splits and joints amassed, a live collaboration between these 2 horror drone obsessives was inevitable…

Midwich: one of Miguel’s most ardent advocates via his Radio Free Midwich blog, this is a mega-rare live performance from Rob Hayler’s solo electronic machine-dream.

NeckvsThroat: an ongoing postal duo of Miguel and Yol, binding guitar and voice with barbed wire and discarded steel.

Xazzaz: sinkhole drones, guitar fog and harsh dives from darkest Northumberland.

Plus sound installation by MP Wood.

2pm till 5pm at the Soundroom, Cuthbert Street, Gateshead, NE8 1PH. 15 min walk from Sage Gateshead.

Free with Tusk pass, £3 without.

The Soundroom

Cool, eh?  I love a matinee performance, me.  Miguel, yol and I met up with Jamie (if you don’t know his recordings as ‘Wrest’ you should check them out immediately) and his pal Steve who had kindly offered to drive us to the venue from Sage.  Miguel spent the journey telling us about how he had fended off two shitfaced Glaswegians in the hotel bar the night before.  They had offered him drugs (‘the hardest in Glasgow!’) in full view of two coppers who also happened to be there.  He wanted no part of it, fearing he was being set up, but Jamie assured him:

Nah, that kind of thing just happens around here…

…and expanded on similar topics whilst Steve forlornly tried to get him to concentrate on the journey and offer directions.  Never mind, we got there.

The Soundroom is a community centre/rehearsal space/gig venue sat in isolation in Gateshead.  I suspect most of us scuzzball, dog-eared, D.I.Y., no-audience underground types found it much easier to breath there than in the airy atrium of Sage and it is well equipped with a very decent PA.

Turn out was good, including – fuck me! – is that…

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…erstwhile RFM colleague, Discogs obsessive and near-hermit Scott McKeating?  Yes, it is!  Just one of many hands from the pantheon of the righteous I shook during proceedings.  You know who you are.

Once underway, the gig proved a joy.  First up was Neck vs Throat, the duo of Miguel and yol, playing with the lights on for full kid’s-birthday-party-at-local-church-hall effect:

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I needn’t say too much about this one as, amazingly, a video exists of the performance – filmed by Pete Cann (who, being an absolute darling, had come up from Leeds just for the afternoon) on his ‘phone.  Sound quality is hardly crystal but fuck that – it’s a document.

What truly boggled the noggin was how fluid and natural the partnership appeared.  Prior to that very afternoon the project had only existed as a transatlantic file swap.  Now it felt like a psychic connection, the product of long hours of rehearsal.  Miguel’s fingers-in-the-soundhole grappling, like a wheelbarrow of gravel being dropped into molasses, perfectly in sync with yol’s clattering, guttural retching and bleakly comic exhortations.

Next was Xazzaz and Mike treated us to the best set-that-wasn’t-Skull-Mask of the weekend.  As has already been noted, he forbids photography so all I have is this snap of his set-up, snatched prior to the show beginning:

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Mike used two (maybe three?) guitars and three (maybe four? Five?) amplifiers to create a drone/roar of ego-obliterating purity and intensity.  All the Xazzaz recordings I’ve heard have been exceptional but actually being there as it unfolds live was a shortcut to… I dunno?  Enlightenment?  For something as heavy as watching a gigantic dinosaur thrash its last and slowly sink into a tar pit it was a strangely life-affirming, awe-inspiring experience.  North-Eastern drone-metal of this quality is pretty much my favourite thing in all the world.  Fucking hell, I thought, I’ve got to follow that…

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…and so it came to pass.  I thanked all who were there and those involved in setting it up, had a quick word about the two tracks I was about to play – one inspired by a dismissal of our music by Miguel’s daughter, one a version of my track from a split CD-r I shared with Miguel, dedicated the set to him and… faded up a recording of my son snoring.  The rest was thick, chewy, throbbing drone at pleasingly high volume that would have gone entirely to plan if I could have stopped myself fiddling with the cut-off.  Anyway, it seemed to go down well and I was rubbery with relief once all was packed away.  Enjoyed the opportunity to bounce about on my seat too.

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Finally then: Culver and La Mancha Del Pecado.  Another unique opportunity to see a transatlantic tape-swap project in the flesh and this time the one that kicked it all off.  Miguel later told me that, like so many of us who end up in noise, he found himself looking for something without knowing exactly what that something was.  He discovered Skullflower, read up about it, saw Culver mentioned, found a rip of a CD-r in a shady spot on the internet, listened to it and heard the contents of his own head reflected back at him.  Soon they were collaborating on a series of beautifully sustained, utterly nihilistic, implacably menacing ‘horror drones’ and the rest is willpower and logistics.  This set was an absolute masterclass.

…and it wasn’t even 5pm.

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I have to admit that the evening programme back at Sage was something of a blur after that.  My highlights were the early doors sets from Usurper (above above) and Ashtray Navigations (above).

Surprising myself, I realised that this was the first time I had seen Ali and Malcy go at it live despite having heard many of their releases and eyeballing numerous zines and comics over the years (indeed, one of my collages can be found in Giant Tank Offline #4).  My usual reaction to their work – amused bewilderment – was swept away by a far more concrete admiration for the Dada lunacy of the performance.

For example: crouched under a table, each took a turn deliberately and repeatedly banging their head as if trying to get up and forgetting the obstacle above them.  I thought that the yellow objects taped to their heads were something like washing-up sponges to soften the blow but was later informed by Stuart Arnot (of Acrid Lactations, who was roped in to their gig at the last minute) that it was butter and that the stink in their hair afterwards was rank.  Idiocy or commitment to the art?  Or both?  Oh, you decide.

After the first few minutes of Ashtray Navigations starting, Miguel, who had been leaning on the stage, came over to shout in my ear…

Now I know why everyone loves them!

…and I had to grin because he was right: it was, from the off, a performance full of heart that encouraged a reciprocal response from an eager, affectionate crowd.  Phil pulled out one heart-stoppingly preposterous solo after another whilst Mel – resplendent in glittered Converse – held down the electronics and laughed at the site of Gretchen Guttersnipe and RFM’s own marlo eggplant wigging out front and centre.  Much as I enjoyed the bubbletroniks and nostril-flaring bombast I think my favourite track was a lengthy ambient piece halfway through during which Phil folded himself up and sat on the floor.  It was spacious and woozy but had a crisp brittleness to it that kept it fresh and engaging throughout.  Have I heard this before?  Probably, but I couldn’t name it.  Shameful, I know, considering my placing in the AshNav fan club.  What can I say?  I’m a big man, but I’m out of shape.

The evening culminated with me, Dan, Lisa and Sarah reconvening and rolling up to my second fringe event of the day.  This time at The Old Police Station (a venue I was told is ‘borrowed’ from the council?), a ten minute walk up the hill behind Sage.  The place was already full when we got there at about 1am and there was a great squat gig vibe with people spilling out into the street, sat on the pavement talking loudly, drinking and smoking.  For me it felt like travelling back in time 25+ years to my misspent youth in Brighton, a bittersweet feeling I was reluctant to embrace until someone appeared, like Scooter in the Muppet Show, shouted…

C’mon Miguel you’re on!

(or something like that) and we all piled in to a tiny front room to see Oppenheimer play.  Seriously, there must have been 30-40 people plus a four piece band in a space more suited to two sofas and a telly.  Once over the initial crush panic, it was awesome.

Oppenheimer are the aforementioned Jamie (drums), Lee (bass) and Mike (guitar), this night augmented with Miguel (also on bass) and they play, Christ, how to describe it?  Super-basic, long-form, thug-punk, primal-metal.  Whatever it is, it had the packed crowd bent at the waist, rocking in unison.  It is a crying shame that Mike doesn’t allow photos because when he was stepped on by a drunken and oblivious punter the look of lupine ferocity he threw was fucking terrifying.  I did get this pic of Jamie, Miguel and Lee though, which, as a piece of reportage, is my favourite of all the photos I took over the weekend.

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After the set I waved goodbye to my sweaty comrades and walked back to the hotel.  I put a music channel on the TV as I got ready for bed.  Every video looked like a film by Matthew Barney.  Lights out: 3am.

—ooOoo—

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On Sunday morning I felt exhilarated after the remarkable day before but old and tired after the late night.  Oof, I don’t intentionally go to bed at 3am ever nowadays.  Thus another war-on-the-buffet, gargantuan breakfast was warranted before I stumbled to Sage in order to meet Paul ‘Pops’ Margree, still of the We Need No Swords blog, who wished to interview me for his podcast.  I’d met Paul for the first time this weekend, we’d hit it off and were already chatting in a free and easy fashion.  However, when the tape recorder was switched on something stamped on a fuzz pedal between what I was thinking and what I was saying.  Oh well, here’s hoping he can salvage something coherent.

We adjourned upstairs to the Northern Rock Foundation Hall (where Voigt played) to see yol at midday.  This was easily the weirdest programming kink of the festival – both venue and timing – but a fair few people had turned up to see yol take his turn as headmaster-gone-wrong at the front of assembly.  The gig was intense, muscular, poised.  The venue adding a unusual theatricality to the bulging veins and growling stutters.  I always look around at the audience during a yol show, relishing the expressions of appalled fascination, but the stage lighting made it difficult to gauge reactions.  His comic timing was faultless though, plenty of half-laughs as we appreciated him diffusing the tension with a funny line then realising that what he had just said was easily as bleak, nihilistic even, as the rest of the performance.  To describe his total commitment to expressing his vision I need to reclaim a debased word and re-inflate it with meaning:  yol is an artist.

Feeling some trepidation about lasting the day I decided to accompany the men in black (Jamie, Mike, Lee, Miguel) back over the river and had a laugh walking with them through the Quayside market as far as my hotel.  I cocooned myself there until it was time to go see Tony Conrad: Completely In The Present.  Cuddling up with Joe Murray in the back row, this turned out to be a beautifully measured and life-affirming documentary about a charming and fascinating artist, surpassing all my (fairly high) expectations.  I loved it, and can only praise the transparency of the film-making – the director Tyler Hubby does an excellent job of standing back and allowing the story to be told by Conrad himself, a wise decision when your subject is such an intriguing raconteur.  With a voice and demeanour like a cross between William Burroughs and John Waters, Conrad chuckles through a life of iconoclasm, innovation and determination in a way that can’t help but be awe-inspiring.  There is also an hilarious section about what a total bell-end La Monte Young is.  I don’t want to get into any more detail about the content as you really should track this down – you’ll be rewarded.  The film was clearly a hit with Tuskers and provoked much discussion afterwards.  I was lucky enough to see Conrad live twice and boasted of it many times during the rest of the night.

During the evening programme I made the effort to give every act a fair shake, a decision made easier by the fact that my brain was shot and I found myself in a state of happy bewilderment wherever I was standing.  Highlights for me were probably Silent Servant and the final act Senyawa.

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Tall table for a short guy, eh?  Must share Dan’s back problems.  Silent Servant – American producer Juan Mendez – was notable for changing the atmosphere in Hall 2.  Suddenly all the middle-aged beardies (like myself) found themselves at a club night.  Advertised in the programme as ‘grinding, irresistible techno’ I actually best enjoyed the bits where he veered into Electronic Body Music territory – the kind of high camp, leather bound pounding that our Belgian friends were so good at in the late 80s.  yol was tempted in, amused by the prospect of seeing me dance, and guarded my handbag and coat whilst I stomped and flailed in tragic approximation of my twenty-something self.  The ‘pit’ of Hall 2 was soon lined with middle-aged beardies (like myself) leaning on the wall, sweating and clutching at their chests.  Whoo boy, haven’t danced for any length of time in a while.  The young and beautiful looked on in amusement.

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The last act on Sunday, and thus of the festival as a whole, was the Indonesian duo Senyawa.  Vocalist Rully Herman powered through a scouring range of timbres and techniques, hands grasping the mic stand or raised up in Black Metal claws.  Fuck me, the swagger on this dude.  Wukir Suryadi held his own playing an apparently hand-made instrument called the bambuwukir which resembled a giant phallus, stringed and pegged, which he could pick or bow to create anything from the most delicately augmented silence to brutal shredding.  I suspect they personify exactly the type of high-quality, cross-cultural, what-the-fuckery that TUSK wishes to promote and that their place on the bill was no accident.  Having them headline the whole shebang was programming genius.  After their set, under the cruel house lights, Lee Stokoe and I exchanged the kind of blasted/delighted look that Lee Etherington, creative director of TUSK, must design the festival to provoke.  Congratulations, mate – mission accomplished.

All that was left to do was say goodbye.  Handshakes were exchanged, gratitude expressed, Miguel was hugged, wished well, hugged again, wished well again but now with a distinct wobble in my voice.  I nearly fell down the stairs in my hurry to get into the fresh air.

We’ll see each other again sometime, right?

Yes.  We will.

—ooOoo—

Postscript:

a) We got home safely, as did Miguel.  Dan recovers.

b) Two Skull Mask tapes were made available to coincide with Miguel’s visit, one released by Invisible City Records (hello Craig) and one on Lee Stokoe’s Matching Head.  I’ve been listening to them as I typed this article and I reckon you should buy both.  Lee also has some rad Skull Mask t-shirts for sale.  Hit him up via the contact details on the Matching Head Discogs page.  All the discerning blog editors are wearing ’em – an Autumn wardrobe essential.

c) Last year the live-streamed sets from TUSK were made available after the event via the Archive page of the TUSK website.  I shall be keeping an eye on this, and on Lee Etherington’s Twitter feed (@tusk_music), in the hope of similar generosity with this year’s recordings.

—ooOoo—

TUSK Festival

sliver lizards: joe murray on olivier di placido, fritz welch, kelly jayne jones, ross parfitt, jon collin, yol, culver

October 8, 2016 at 2:44 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Olivier Di Placido & Fritz Welch – untitled cassette (tape, humansacrifice, HS0010, edition of 75 or download)

Kelly Jayne Jones & Jon Collin – Sheffield, 9 August 2015 (tape, Early Music)

Jon Collin with Ross Parfitt – Münster, 10 April 2016 (tape, Early Music)

Yol – This Item Has Little Or No Scrap Value (tape, Beartown Records, edition of 48)

Culver – Gateshead Soup (tape, Matching Head, MH213)

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Olivier Di Placido & Fritz Welch – Untitled

Absolutely no nonsense Technicolor squall and dramatic brokenness from that most hectic of fluffer duos: Di Placido/Welch.

Like stitches in yr lip this stings a little as it wrenches new shapes outta junk-drums and garrotted-guitar.  Frantically itchy as scabies it is… the scabby metre has you shuffling on and off the hot foot never quite sure where to hang your hat.  But I’m diggin’ it… diggin’ it bad.

I’m listening with an abstracted grin now.  I just can’t help it; the reptile part of my brain fair goofs on the hard/soft, fast/slow choices being presented to my dense grey lumps.  But at the same time my debonair city-slicker love-node is lapping up the lightening-fast interactions and improvisations between flapping pig skin and eviscerated coiled steel.  The perfect music for the metrosexual caveman perhaps?  Shit… let’s throw a party to find out.  I’m on nibbles.

Is that some post-production fingering I can hear in the backmasked vox that plays us out of this side?  Wonderful, wonderful… let’s get some electronics soaking up this gravy to deglaze the nuggets.

Goosh… ya!

The other side* made me squirt like Slaine in full-on berzerker mode such is the slap and clatter, the fizzing rip and hi-hat chit-chit-chit-bash.  Like an erotic jazz experience it manages to create that brassy plateau of living a constant high… then stops on a teasing sixpence.

It’s not all hi-NRG jizz-riffles though.  One small section’s a right downer of industrial ‘booms’ and ‘crashes’ played out next to a juddering (bass) washing machine that segues neatly into a promise of friction and anatomically crude charcoal drawings.  Phewy.

The art of the improviser occasionally gets ladled with faux academic nonsense from highfaluting bodies, boards and authorities.  A pox on them.  This is vital as hydrogen and alive as a fresh pig because it’s free from any grey-beard permission.

Play this at your next lecture and watch Prof implode!

*I’ve used the rather unhelpful ‘this side’ and ‘other side’ descriptors because there’s nothing as bourgeois as track titles or side demarcations on this babycake.  Total Hardcore yeah.

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Kelly Jayne Jones & Jon Collin – Sheffield, 9 August 2015

On seeing the title a ripple of excitement forced me to check last year’s journal and I can see I was right there, in Sheffield, when this piece was recorded.

…firmly camped upstairs for the rest of the show Jon Collin & Kelly Jones played guitar & flute but nary a note was plucked or blown.  99% of the sound came from feedback tones as fresh as a handful of snow down the trousers.  Thin and minty… menthol smoke sprouting from the fingers.  Control was the watch word and even a dropped e-bow couldn’t interrupt the stately ‘hhiiiimmmmm’…

Listening back to this, in a domestic setting, seems to downplay the austerity and dial up the astringent complexity.  The sharp guitar tones (sliver [Editor’s note: I suspect a typo but am leaving it in for the sake of poetry] lizards shimmer across cool marble) mesh perfectly with the breathy feedback/flute (crystallised ginger crushed into powder and applied to the forehead) and create a ritual of pure transcendent beauty.

I’m often lost in the fog of metal or jazz (crashing and slashing) but the paleness and gentle simmering of these mercurial sounds has tickled my mind forever with its frosty bliss.

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Jon Collin with Ross Parfitt – Münster, 10 April 2016

It starts with twin guitar plucking, wild and free as a Manx cat, but stretching out time into an almost cosmic nothingness.

However sparse and spectral this recording is though there’s a right-in-your-face attitude with some heavy clarity.  Those brushed-steel sounds emerge from the plucks adding an odd gamelan ‘kong’ to the twisting strings, reminding us we are on a journey.  From here to where doesn’t really matter but the steady pad of the foot and swing of the arm propels this music constantly forward.

Don’t look back.

A lake of clear water lays still and calm.  Birds (too far away to distinguish species) swoop lazily overhead.  All is peaceful until the standing stones begin to quiver, small pebbles roll down to the lake sending ripples across the surface drawing patterns that weave and double cross.

A watery maze appears.  The walls clear enough to see through but refractions set up a prism effect showing the landscape with a rainbow light.  Glorious colours indeed… but what’s that smoke on the horizon?

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Yol – This Item Has Little Or No Scrap Value

Ever wondered what JAZZ would sound like after Yol had had a fair go at it?  Wonder no more as ‘Finley Crafted’ kicks like a Sidney Bechet joint with bruised ribs.  Yakety-Sax and Ten-to-Two drums are pushed out a porthole but the pulse… the all important swing remains.  It’s all syncopated beats and bomb-detonation throat, man.  Gosh! This is heady, heady head-est schizz right from the get-go.  These ‘live’ recordings are juddering with malevolence and stark contrast.   ‘Bleed Mouth Parts’ and ‘Trapped in Portland Works’ are two of the most violent and brutal recordings I think I’ve ever heard.  Sorry Extreme Noise Terror.  Yol has beaten your usually exceptional ROOAAOOORRROR  trump with a single (but scientifically focused) gob, cheap spanner set and polystyrene block.

Real rubble is thrown about for ‘Bird Feathers’ a rare decent into bass with (what sounds like) a fully pressurised deep sea diving suit dragged down a spiral staircase – as you listen, ear cocked against the air tube, it pulses ‘Vuphhhh-chk-hhhoooofff’.

The final boof , ‘A Medium Experience’ brings the hooligan noise back into home territory with the warmness and (dare I say it) comfort of interlocking manacles.  Again my jass-ears are focused on the clattering percussion; the tinka-link of scrap metal that divides time like a punk Dejohnette.  Do I have to say it? Essential.  Essential and life affirming motherfuckers!

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Culver – Gateshead Soup

What is there left to say about Culver?  The most singular of artists he does his thing with no regard for fashion or favour.  You’re into it or you’re not.

This tape (same as the last and same as the next) was picked up at a live show and apparently not available via more ‘official’ channels.  What?  Less official than a regular Matching Head release… that’s like trying to copyright snowflakes, man.

But what’s it sound like?  A slowly emerging landscape of loops that I’ve tried to scientifically represent (a) to (g):

(a) a foul machine heating up and  (b) three solitary acoustic guitar notes

(a) with (c) brown organ smear

(c) and (d) foreboding doom rumble

(d) incorporating (e) bleak metallic thunder

(e) gives way to (f) plumes of black smoke rising over the battlefield

(f) gently diminishes for (g) Valium earthquake

(g) x 2 fades out incredibly slowly leaving you praying for a start to the endless nothingness…

—ooOoo—

Olivier Di Placido & Fritz Welch

Early Music

Beartown Records

Matching Head

dark tusk: neckvsthroat, xazzaz, midwich, culver, la mancha del pecado live

September 30, 2016 at 9:53 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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Dark Tusk, Saturday 15th October, 2016

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I’m delighted to be playing at the above event, taking place as part of the fringe of TUSK Festival, 2016.  Here’s the blurb from Lee ‘Culver’ Stokoe:

With the arrival of Miguel Perez in the UK to perform as Skull Mask at TUSK, it would be unthinkable to let him escape back to Mexico without congregating with some of his closest conspirators from the Northern noise void.

Culver & La Mancha del Pecado: with six collaborations to date and numerous splits and joints amassed, a live collaboration between these 2 horror drone obsessives was inevitable…

Midwich: one of Miguel’s most ardent advocates via his Radio Free Midwich blog, this is a mega-rare live performance from Rob Hayler’s solo electronic machine-dream.

NeckvsThroat: an ongoing postal duo of Miguel and Yol, binding guitar and voice with barbed wire and discarded steel.

Xazzaz: sinkhole drones, guitar fog and harsh dives from darkest Northumberland.

Plus sound installation by MP Wood.

2pm till 5pm at the Soundroom, Cuthbert Street, Gateshead, NE8 1PH. 15 min walk from Sage Gateshead.

Free with Tusk pass, £3 without.

The Soundroom

Way cool. I’m still figuring out what my set will consist of but whatever I play will be called ‘NADA/ROTO’ which is cribbed from a tweet by Miguel and describes his daughter’s reaction to his music.  Once I post this I’m going to blow the dust off my MC-303 and edit some recordings of the faulty strip light in my cellar plinking and buzzing.  Sounds exciting, eh?

See you all soon!

—ooOoo—

TUSK Fringe events

can’t feel my toes: joe murray on faniel dord, shareholder, stuart chalmers, yol, jazzfinger

September 23, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Faniel Dord – The Curse Of The Dripping Jaw (CD-r or download, Dante’s Ashtray)

Shareholder – Five Mile Throwdowns (self-released tape or download)

Stuart Chalmers / Yol – Junk Seance (CD-r & collage in decorated envelope, Quagga Curious Sounds, QCS_090, edition of 30)

Jazzfinger – Beachy Head / Moroccan Car Park (D. Harwood Remix) (7″ vinyl in screenprinted cover, Distraction Records, DIST23, edition of 100)

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…and here’s another thing.  Cock-punks talk about ‘meaning it’ but the NA-U are well used to full-immersion in their practice.  No-one dials this shit in.  You’re either totally committed or you may as well settle back to watch Oranges Are Not The Only New Black.  Or something.

Here are four examples of total commitment.  Are you sitting uncomfortably?

Faniel Dord – The Curse Of The Dripping Jaw

Faniel Dord kills the song, deletes the long-form drone and brings back the radio play with his utterly bonkers, psychedelic horror noir – THE CURSE OF THE DRIPPING JAW.

It’s a story as old as storytelling itself; the mortal narrator lifts the veil between the two worlds, receives an ancient and evil wisdom and is then cruelly punished for his trouble.  The gods are such dicks yeah?

It’s totally base, crude and infantile, as Dord swoops through a cast of barely comprehensible characters each revealing a grim (and usually dripping) secret.

So far, so Spike Milligan, but what sets Dord firmly in the wonk-camp is his eccentric timing and ‘rude kid’ narrative. Voices speak over each other, interrupt, argue and go off onto muttered tangents.  They lose their script and adopt different accents mid-sentence.  These characters are not so much unreliable as actively confusing and devilishly impish.

And like all good radio plays the incidentals lend an extra layer of gosh.  This being a Faniel-joint, fings get rambunctious and frenzied quickly; the foley work stands proud but with deranged intention, like planting a fresh turd in a gravy boat.  The musical numbers have a twist of the Alan Bishop about them as the spaghetti-western-meets-his-Uncle-Jim vibe informs a couple of tunes or even the warbling of (deep breath) Wings!

If you’re looking for the perfect antidote to po-faced rumble and plinks dial ‘F’ for Faniel and get in touch with your inner-Rawlinson (NSFW).

five-mile

Shareholder – Five Mile Throwdowns

BRONTOSAURUS-MONOLITH- QUIT -MUSIC FROM THE VERY EXCELLENT SHAREHOLDER LURCHES OUTTA MY ‘PHONES TODAY.  TREACLE-THICK AND HOT-SWADDLED IN 50,000 TONNES OF FUZZ AND DISTORTION.  Q:SOUNDSLIKE?  A BLACK WREATH OF A VOICE OFFERS DARK CRITIQUE WITH A POET’S EYE.  SUPER-HEAVY, WITH SERIOUS DAMAGE INTENDED, TWIN GUITARS MAY MOAN, MAY ROAR, MAY MAJESTICALLY IMPLODE – AT ODDS WITH THE WORLD AND AS QUICK AS PLUCKING A DUCK. THE TRAP SET LAYS BURIED DEEP, DEEP, DEEP THEN HOPS FULL-FRONTAL CRASHING AS FLINT ON STEEL (WITH ALL THE IMAGINED SPARKS). MEAT TENDERISER BLUSTER MIXED WITH THE DRUNKS WITH GUNS DEDICATION TO PURE THUDDING REPETITION. SAY IT ONCE, SAY IT AGAIN, KEEP ON SAYING IT.  MOMENTS OF RESPITE ARE SLIM BUT OFFER SOME COLD COMFORT: HUGE CHUNKS OF IT IS MORNING ARE SPECTRAL AND SPIDER-LIKE, MORPHING INTO A GAMELAN CHIMING – A LEAKING BEAUTY.  AN UNEXPECTED MADNESS DELIVERS AN ACCUSATION,

IT’S ALL BECAUSE OF YOU

MAKING STRANGE BEDFELLOWS WITH COLD HOURS, A GENUINE CREEPY FOOLER (GLAD I CAN’T UNDERSTAND A WORD). WHEN A ROUGE BASS NOTE NOSES IN, ALL PINK AND AQUIVER, I WONDER

CAN YOU BE BOTH MATTER-OF-FACT AND IMPASSIONED?

THE SURLY/CONFIDENT DREAMLIKE IS ANTHEMIC TO THE POINT OF FINDING OUT WHERE JIM KERR LIVES, RINGING THE BELL AND THEN KICKING HIM RIGHT IN THE NUTS.  SHAREHOLDER – ALWAYS FILLING ARENAS.

junk-seance

Stuart Chalmers / Yol – Junk Seance

An almost indescribably excellent collaboration from the King of the Loops and the Master of Kinetic Poetry.

The frantic pace and electricity of opener ‘World on Fire’ shakes my varmints like Kid 606 did back in the day when it was acceptable to wear Hi-Tops.  It’s a hyper-real explosion fizzing with extra-strength gristle taking Yol’s scorched-earth screams and Stuart’s Dictaphone frot into strange new territories.

A stunning symbiosis starts to take place.  I’ve always been fascinated by the politics of collaborations; who gives and who takes, where the total becomes more than the sum of its parts, how compromise can open up new avenues of grot.  And here you have two artists seriously leaning-in to each other; the methods start to bind in a ferric DNA with the hoarse throat and metallic tinkle meshing perfectly with the sophisticated Dictaphonics.  Check out the liquid tape-scree (sodium burning bright) and desperate industrial voodoo cures [Editor’s note: typo for ‘curses’?  Don’t care – I’m leaving it in.] of shattered lung on Rusty Rats.

Did you?  Recovered yet?

And those moments just keep coming and coming; ‘Pop Eats Itself’ and ‘Secret EVP Door’ [Editor’s note: my favourite track, astounding] crackle and fizz like blistering paint.  The sound bubbles up with malevolence, rippling and roaring with an evil turpentine stink.  Small moments catch my magpie eyes… is that Leonard Cohen, a castanet, a dropped coin?  Has Yol keeled over and fainted?  Why can’t I feel my toes?

Closer ‘Best Shot’ is like a peak into a fantasy dimension.  Puppet-master Stuart controls a rogue Yol and pits him against the real thing using the in-built slurring qualities of the Dictaphone to mimic and provoke.  It’s a pointed statement, with added whirr… the muscular text smudged into granular sound poetry.

beachy-head

Jazzfinger – Beachy Head / Moroccan Car Park (D. Harwood Remix)

Jazzfinger drill deep into the earth on ‘Beachy Head’.  Smudged groans overlap each other like large terracotta tiles.  The high-tension pings pepper things up.  A forever-murk of old tape gunk, air-to-air recording techniques and telepathic improvisation grease the wheels in ways only Jazzfinger can.

As ever, listening to a Jazzfinger jam, equal and conflicting forces tear at your brain; the urge to submit and go under, drown in the pregnant fullness or treat this with an archaeological bent and carefully sift through the multiple layers, up to the armpits in rubble and soft red dust.

As reviewer I had to flick between approaches to bring you back this missive and found myself spending hours, possibly days putting the needle on and off, on and off, never quite sure if it was night or day, making astral travel a distinct possibility.

The flipside,’Moroccan Car Park’, is an eccentric remix, bold in terms of scope that shimmers from barely-there gossamer tones to full-on horn blasts perfectly echoing the ‘whale talk’ vibe of side A.

With such rich material to work with D Harwood is wise to craft a self-standing structure, distinctly recognisable as Jazzfinger, yet strangely unfamiliar and distant.  This wonderful blend swirls like pungent spice or choking incense, filling the room with deep memory.

Packaging detail: This seven-incher comes in a deluxe package… an eccentric fold out sleeve that nestles the precious wax like a lotus flower.  The dark image is, essentially, blacker than black with a delicious tackiness [Editor’s note: presumably Joe means ‘to the touch’, not ‘cheesiness of design’] and sulphur whiff.  Includes download code too for the ultimate customer service experience.

—ooOoo—

Dante’s Ashtray

Shareholder

Quagga Curious Sounds

Distraction Records

a stressful night in the bathysphere: joe murray on sindre bjerga, bruce russell, gnarlos, no intention, yol

September 15, 2016 at 12:04 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Sindre Bjerga – For The Automatic People (CD-r, LF Records, LF057)

Bruce Russell / Gnarlos – Ruined Again (12″ vinyl, L’Esprit De L’Escalier, LELE04)

No Intention – Representative Work (tape and zine, spam, spam 17)

Yol – Is it Acceptable? (CD-r, LF Records, LF056)

lf057

Sindre Bjerga – For The Automatic People

I’ve been listening to a lot of Sindre lately.  A damn lake of Bjerga-tronics have I been imbibing.  Morning (Sindre), noon (Bjerga) and night (Sindre again).  Those tape-jaxx interventions and kitchen-sink drones have been both bread and beer to me.

So much Bjerga has been supped I’m starting to look like the Norwegian ambassador himself. See my ‘Sindre-selfie’ for evidence:

self-portrait-as-sindre-bjerga

Diversion innit!  To get you in the mood and all receptive to my reviewing like.

Here comes the rot.

FTAP starts with some seriously munged vocal slurp.  Slow and low it hoists its freak flag and blows goonish raspberries to keep it flapping.

As ever, the pinch is never far from your ears, this time with an extra element of ‘double-singing’ that would make I DM THEFT ABLE widen his eyes and say ‘goop, goop, goop’ from his bristly gob.

From this point in it all gets a bit Philip José Farmer; a dune buggy idles on the sands, erotic-robots squeal with pleasure leaking greasy r/jizz.  Are those tentacles caressing the brushed-steel bodies?  Eek… time to make my excuses and leave.

I spy the spring-loaded ‘Bjerga-ma-phone’ dumbly boinging underneath this radio interference from Mars and can feel the slow creep of bacteria munching through the red sands.  It’s all fizzing crackle (cruck) and blistering sparks (hwunk).

Like a tennis match played with tinfoil equipment there’s a thin swoop and crisp backhand smashing lettuce through a sieve before the tape mush (source: Culver plays The Sweet?) takes over again burying me up to the neck in chatty sound ants.

I’ve never felt so tired I…

…as I awake the sun is starting to set.  I can’t move my head to see but I can bloody feel those robots dragging themselves towards me.

gnarlos

Bruce Russell / Gnarlos – Ruined Again

As warped a slice of wax as you’re going to find this side of tomorrow.

Seymour ‘Gnarlos’ Glass performs a magical work of tape-wonk blending musty sound-ingredients into a fetid whole: marbled like inexpensive brisket. Sections of this side entertain a gentle wobble and circular riffling that’s lifting the side flaps of my cap and inflating my valve. How exhilarating!

Brief mind-pictures?

  • Small mechanical birds mutter brief algorithms.
  • Slow goons argue about magnetics in a variety of future languages.
  • A visit to the All Moscow Dog Show (тяв-тяв)
  • A stressful night in the Bathysphere

Again I’m floored by the rattling squawk of the finch and whirr. It parrots a flywheel that, in turn, scores concentric patterns into the sole of my foot. I can trace them with a sharpened pinkie, mirroring the record rotating nearby in my darkening room.

Confused by the repetitive motion the Gnarlos-sounds sprays from my heel just as clear as from the knocked-off speakers causing a Quadraphonic effect not heard since Tommy pulled back the chromed plunger and let his blind fingers do the talking.

But don’t go to bed thinking this is just an exercise in the knockabout and playful.  ‘The Organ Courier and the Chinese Billionaire’ simmers with such a heavy beauty it’s almost too delicate to bear at times… that’s value for fucking money, eh?

Bruce ‘Dead C’ Russell quotes those fancy-pants French philosophers on ‘No Mean Dub/No Mean Cry’ as he rustles digestive biscuits in an old tin bath… the grimy miner.

Imagine the re-scoring of an Italian horror movie in which they all decide not to go back to the cabin but check out the swamp instead.  Ankle deep in solid water the perfectly represented group watch the fireworks damply explode overhead with a slub, a grobe and a wimpy gnash.

After a while sounds roll backwards, I pick out the Vuvuzela listed in the sleeve notes but also hear something darker…perhaps it’s Chango resplendent in his red and white beads, oiled moustache atop a wet red mouth.  Where’ve you been hiding fella?

In and around my increasingly religious visions the electronics swarm like a high pressure front and dry room recordings, half lecture, half apology, leap from varying fidelity-boards blowing kisses into my crispy ears.

Praise Him!

no-intention

No Intention – Representative Work

Totally beguiling and innocent tape work from Vitrine boss Allen Mozek.

For the pragmatic it’s a tape of domestic psychedelics; poems read by a variety of groovy cats, piano, occasional percussion and glorious tape gunk.

You know the kind of thing.  Lo-fi?  For sure.  But with no actual intention?  Here’s where we have to draw a line in the sand.

For dreamers and lovers this is blissful stuff.  A stream-of-unconsciousness it nudges at the same sleep-centres that pitch the wheel on my nocturnes.  Repetition and repeated themes allow both brain-drift and moments of sharp clarity.  I find myself zeroing in on details… a piano run, a particular condenser mic tone, a twist of unexpected studio panning.

There’s a bustle and busyness to the proceedings.  Short, quick steps clipperty-clop with a deft ‘pocket jazz’ feel.  It’s almost impossible not to get lost in the rattle and hiss, to picture yourself, collar up to keep out the drizzle, dashing between antique shops to keep out of the sudden downpour.

But what works so well is the sense of time travel.  This is undoubtedly made up of recordings made at different times for many purposes and then carefully stitched together, in yet another place and time.  But with an educated editor’s ear goofing on the similarities and differences, the sonic jigsaw soon fits snug and any ragged edges get snipped to fit.

An honorable mention to ‘Tape Op Ex (Four Cartridges)’ that has a European finesse, grand architecture and ruinous fountains, sweeping into a feedback breakdown that could be culled from a retro-BLOWHOLE session.  Damn!

And of course, things end with a sigh, a gasp.  The mechanical click accompanies a ditch-dry Allen,

these are my representative works.

And these works do you so very proud man.

acceptable

Yol – Is it Acceptable?

Yes, always.

Tempting thought it is to submit a two word review to THE BIG HIMSELF [Editor’s note: I would have published it too.] there is so much in these wonderfully rich recordings it would be a crime to short-change you (my dearest of all possible readers) of the fullness my ears have gratefully received from his majestic and most furious Yol-ness.  You feel me?

This collection of recordings sounds very, very live with a clear and achingly honest ambience. Traffic noise, hard brick-reflection and the occasional snippet of audience voice place these as performances or site-specific experiments.

And these urban performance spaces reveal an instantly recognisable landscape.  For me it’s the loading bay behind Cowgate Morrisons; fenced off with razor wire, concrete-grim with 24 hour dust and punctuated with rusty piles of unwanted something.  For you it will be a similarly bleak and underappreciated space.

But in Yol’s hands the sonics kick-off like a glorious one-man Neubauten nursing a Pernod-fulled hangover.

Trucks back-up beeping rudely, the diesel blows gritty chuff making a reet big KOFF, KOFF, KOFF.  Rubble is dragged across a factory floor and metallics cry out, bruised by sharp knuckles.

These are the bass rumbles.

But there’s a balance, a lightness to counteract this darkness – enter the domestic floor percussion.  Your yogurt pots and balti bowls make a brittle clatter that dances brightly and sparkles in the stereo field.

For me it’s the deformation of language that’s absolutely, totally riveting here.  It all starts with what I guess proper-critics would call a vignette. A super-lit and hyper-real world is conjured up in a few brief sentences or words, bold as Japanese calligraphy.  But these words are squashed and stretched in strange and terrifying directions.  Yol circles individual syllables like a vulture, swooping in to tear at a fricative or rip a vowel sound clean out of its meaning-carcass.

Words are shorn of a regular purpose when they are hoarsely barked with a Gobi-dry mouth.  But they land more powerful than ever; stark and isolated.

To my tin ears this plastic language and clatter is seen through a lens of what it means to live in Britain today; a country pulling away from culture and kindness. A country hurling itself into a greedy grab bag for the few and saving the rain-water kebab meat for the rest of us.

And what sound sums up this futility, the almost desolate hopelessness?  Perhaps it’s the lonely squeal of a castor that ends ‘Soz Hard’.

A symphony of petrochemical by-products and constant spiralling pressure.

—ooOoo—

LF Records

L’Esprit De L’Escalier (just a Discogs page – you may have to dig)

Spam (excerpt on Soundcloud, release coming soon)

credit where it’s due: skull mask, neck vs throat and tusk festival 2016

September 2, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | 5 Comments
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TUSK Festival 2016, 14-16th October, Sage Gateshead

Skull Mask – Alzhared (self-released download)

Skull Mask – Sin Nada (self-released download)

Skull Mask – Aura (self-released download)

NECK VS THROAT VOLUME 3 (self-released CD-r and download)

tusk poster

HOLY LIVING FUCK!!  MIGUEL PEREZ IS COMING TO THE UK IN OCTOBER AND PLAYING AS SKULL MASK AT CAFE OTO IN LONDON AND TUSK FESTIVAL IN GATESHEAD.  CLEAR YOUR DIARIES, BOOK YOUR TICKETS!  BE THERE, BE THERE, BE THERE!!  JESUS FUCKING CHRIST IS THIS FOR REAL?  BLIMEY, FOLKS: IT IS!

*Ahem, OK, deep breath, damp flannel on forehead*

Let’s have a little think about what’s happened.

—ooOoo—

Why are the stamps on post from Hull never franked?  A mystery I pondered as I carefully opened the latest jiffy bag from yol and tipped his letter and a CD-r copy of NvT3 onto the kitchen table.  He wrote:

How are things?  Here is the NVT physical thing, figured you should be one of the first to get one seeing as it’s your fault.

This made me laugh.  To what extent can credit (or blame) be claimed in what this blog refers to as the ‘no-audience underground‘?  Most of the work we cover is the product of the singular vision of artists driven to create on their own, or in small groups, yet the whole thing exists as a (more or less) self-sufficient network.  We are friendly and sociable loners, well-connected outsiders – it’s a satisfyingly odd set up.  To claim credit for the work of others, for making something happen without actually booking the acts, folding the J-cards or whatever yourself, is to place yourself above the milieu.  This doesn’t seem right – I loath writers who consider themselves ‘gatekeepers’, the pretension is nauseating – yet things have happened/are happening partly as a result of radiofreemidwich. It feels a bit wierd.

vol 3

Take NECK VS THROAT for example.  It was perhaps inevitable that compulsive collaborators yol and Miguel would sext up a transatlantic relationship.  All RFM did initially was drunkenly encourage the swapping of numbers.  However, once the first volume won the prestigious Zellaby award for album of the year in 2012 and Vol 2 was released on my own fencing flatworm recordings they have been a house band.  The addition of Joe ‘Posset’ Murray on squigglephonic dictaduties strengthens the RFM connection and makes Vol 3 an even more bizarre experience.  Hilarious and unnerving in turn, like a gestalt switch duck/rabbit picture, this is essential listening and unlike anything else.  If this is my fault, it is in the same sense that the baboon turned inside out by a gone-wrong transporter experiment is Seth Brundle’s fault.

sm

But all this is burying the lead isn’t it?  Check this out from the TUSK festival website (review quote by Joe):

SKULL MASK is Mexico’s Miguel Perez, emitting stream-of-consciousness compositions via steel-strung acoustic guitar, melding with dub and found sound interactions. Residing squarely on the US/Mexico border, Skull Mask came to us via the fevered advocacy of the Radio Free Midwich blog (you all need to bookmark that site when you get home). As RFM describe his sound:

“Miguel Perez … packs his atlas and strolls the deserts of this world (and the next) on the sun-damaged Artificio y Fetiche. The taught and springy acoustic steel-string has a slight reverb warble as Miguel conjures up the skitter of a green lizard’s quick limbs, the poisonous spines of a cactus and the glassy psychedelics found in handfuls of sand.

This is a desert that’s teeming with life, studded with microscopic activity, scuttling and slithering between the bone-dry gullies.”

There are parallels with Sir Richard Bishop but Perez’s approach is more languid, starkly sun-baked and deeply preoccupied with his own journey to wherever he’ll take the guitar and his audience. He comes to the UK for the first time to perform at TUSK.

Wow, ‘influence’, eh?  Some of you may be amused, or rolling your eyes, at how blown my mind is by these circumstances.  Sure, you may think, Rob knows people who know people who all read RFM occasionally.  It’s a small pond so this kind of thing is likely to happen sometimes, right?  It’s also the case that Miguel hasn’t exactly been sitting on his hands waiting for that big break email – he’s the hardest working guy in dronebusiness.  So what’s the big deal?  Well, it’s that the opinions expressed by this blog – alongside the actual hard work of many other people – have led to a commitment to transatlantic travel, to an expenditure in the hundreds of pounds and, most importantly to the opportunity for the ‘scene’ to meet one of its most enthusiastic members in person.  I’m going to shake the dude’s hand for five minutes straight.  I’m going to shake EVERYONE’s hand!

So, feet back on the ground, what should you expect?  Miguel’s Skull Mask project is succinctly described above and plenty of reviews of his releases can be found by clicking on the tag at the top of this article.  With a background in metal as well as improv, Miguel is an exceptionally talented musician and whilst fans of, say, Jon Collin, will recognize the vibe Miguel’s take is uniquely colourful and richly textured.

The three releases listed above are his most recent and representative.  I’d recommend taking these daily, like medicine.  Miguel will be looked after during his brief visit but he will have to meet some unavoidable expenses himself.  Thus, if you can afford to donate a couple of quid, a few euros or dollars for these downloads via his Bandcamp site then I’m sure he would be very grateful – as would I.  If you enjoy RFM then you could consider buying something from Miguel a type of ‘subscription’ to the blog.  Go on, everyone’s got a wierd little amount in the bottom of their PayPal account – give it to him.

This feels like a fresh start.  Those following the blog will know I’ve had a bit of a crisis of confidence which, coupled with a gruelling time in ‘real life’, has kept me quiet and the blog more or less inactive for a few weeks.  My roving reporters have been busy filing copy whilst I’ve been ‘out of the office’ so I’ll try and use this energy to get a bunch of their posts published.  In-between now and TUSK I’m hoping for a flurry of articles.  Can’t let the blog idle now can we?  We’re awfully important, don’tchaknow?

—ooOoo—

TUSK Festival (Miguel plays on the Friday 14th)

Cafe OTO (Miguel plays on Thursday 13th)

Skull Mask

NECK VS THROAT

the 2015 zellaby awards

January 8, 2016 at 11:24 am | Posted in blog info, musings, new music, no audience underground | 2 Comments
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zellaby award envelope

Hello friends and welcome to the 2015 Zellaby Awards and Radio Free Midwich end-of-year round-up.  I’m very glad to see you.  My apologies in advance to those long term readers expecting the usual introduction full of whimsical nonsense.  There will be some of that, of course, but this year needs to be taken seriously and I’m going to start dark.  Don’t worry though – spoiler alert – there will be joy and life-affirming redemption by the end: this piece is my It’s a Wonderful Life.

Firstly, it is not the job of this blog to comment on the wider world but aside from the rise of Jeremy Corbyn, our glorious future prime minister, 2015 was largely without hope. I wish you all good luck in navigating the coming End Times.

Personally, away from music, my year can be split into three four month long segments.  For the first of these I was ill with non-stop, run-of-the-mill viruses.  Nowt serious on its own but the cumulative effect of so many strung together – a necklace of snot – left me in a parlous state.  My depression played cards with its fidgety cousin anxiety, waited until I was defenceless and then kicked in the door.  The second four months were spent off work attempting to shift these unwelcome guests whilst maintaining a functioning family life.  I’ve written about this debilitating effort elsewhere, no need for further details here.  The final four months of 2015 were the tale of my recuperation and slow recovery following a change in medication and a breakthrough in both the treatment of my illness and my attitude towards it.  After much grief, I left 2015 exhausted and resentful but hopeful that new ways of muzzling the black dog will allow me a lengthy period of peace and sanity.

When I was down in it, days, weeks even, passed when music seemed more trouble than it was worth.  The list of releases submitted to RFM for review, plus other stuff that caught my bloodshot eye, became an untended vine cracking the panes of its greenhouse and desiccating the soil in its giant terracotta pot. I’d try to ignore it, slumped in my deckchair, but would be tickled awake by a tendril and look up to see something like Audrey II grinning down at me:

Fleshtone Aura

Or maybe one my colleagues – Joe, Chrissie, Sof, Luke, marlo – would arrive with a ladder, new glass, plant food, exotic orchids or intricate alpines to distract me, gawd bless ‘em. Looking back, I’m surprised at how often I actually did pick up the trowel – if only to wave hello, or whack Luke on the nose with it when I found him digging in the flower beds – and I’m quietly proud of maintaining this garden despite the inclement mental weather. During 2015 radiofreemidwich received approximately 32,000 visits – a new record. 93 posts were published, including the blog’s 500th, by half a dozen different authors. The most popular of which were last year’s Zellaby Awards and my no-audience underground ‘state of the notion’ address – most gratifying as both are heartfelt celebrations of the scene. Not bad, eh?

Now, at this point in the introduction I was going to get catty about my usual scratching posts, hit a few sacred cow arses with a banjo etc. but, looking down at the silted pavement and up at the grey sky, it’s clear that what the world needs now is love, sweet love – not smart alec remarks and passive-aggressive score settling. So let’s get the party started instead.

Here’s the rules: to be eligible in one of the following five categories this music needs to have been heard by one of us for the first time in 2015.  It does not need to have been released in 2015.  As the purpose of these awards is to spread the good news about as many quality releases as possible, should an artist win in one category they will not be placed in any of the others.  I do not vote for my own stuff as midwich, nor any releases that I had a hand in (thus no Aqua Dentata on fencing flatworm – sorry Eddie). The team will avoid touting each others’ projects too – not because we care about conflict of interest (there isn’t any down here) but we do like to maintain at least a veneer of decorum. Aside from marlo, who has been nostril deep in PhD crap all year and thus didn’t feel qualified to contribute, the whole team has chipped in and I will be pasting their responses below. This year I am at least nodding in the direction of democracy when compiling the lists but, as editor, I am reserving final say.  Don’t worry though – my dictatorship is benevolent and progressive.

Right then, time to pop some fucking corks…

sof's pina colada

—ooOoo—

Radio Free Midwich presents the 2015 Zellaby Awards

5. The “I’d never heard of you 10 minutes ago but now desperately need your whole back catalogue” New-to-RFM Award

Chrissie expresses doubts about the whole process then nails a perfect nomination:

I’m not much of a one for end of year retrospectives, forward is my preferred direction. Also I find it hard to compare music and place it in any sort of order. One day a particular piece or artist will be exactly what I need, another day it will have me screaming for the STOP button.  Add to which I haven’t actually reviewed very much this year. Even when I found a (rather large, rich) niche to occupy I still take longer to complete a review than I’d really like.  Still, I hate to disappoint, and I never miss a deadline so…

Sabrina Peña Young

Even while reviewing one album, I couldn’t help mentioning tracks on other albums!

[Editor’s note: an extract from Chrissie’s review of Science Fiction & Horror Movie Soundtrack Collection: Strange Films of Sabrina Peña Young:]

‘Singularity’ is a whole Star Trek episode in miniature. It opens as an almost conventional, if nicely constructed piece of theme music, and gradually becomes something very much more. Going from the journey out, discovery of a possibly inhabited planet, then meeting an alien, trying to escape and the closing theme music again – a novella in seven minutes forty-three seconds! To be honest I’m pretty sure that that isn’t the actual narrative of ‘Singularity’ but I like to make things up as I’m listening and that idea seemed plausible at the time [Editor’s note: it’s the RFM way…]. What it’s really about is the rise of machine intelligence, of course; which is equally scary, possibly.

SPY0

Joe speaks in italics:

Not for the first time, Serbia’s No Basement is Deep Enough label has pinned my lugs back and hotly tongued my ear.  But this time it slipped a note in my pocket that read ‘G.J de Rook’ (but no phone number I notice!). 

Gerrit’s considered gobble-de-gook on a and bla is the metallic-gravy I’m craving right now.  The calm and pleasant gibber hits that sweet-spot of babies gurgling, a hummingbird’s gaudy thrum and the plastic pop of wrenched bubble-wrap.  These are universal sounds; sounds enjoyed from the Mongolian deserts to the Seattle coffee-house scene. These are the sort of sounds we need to send into space – gaffer tape a CD-r to Voyager or something- for them bug-eyed overlords to ponder.    

Although Gerrit’s wider discography is relatively thin and achingly expensive don’t worry readers, I have a plan in place to slurp slowly in discreet ‘o,o,o,o,o,oa,oa,oa,oa,eh,eh,eh,o,ooo,o-like’ sips.  Think on.

rook

Sof’s joy in discovery:

I heard and reviewed the album 3 by Sonotanotanpenz at the start of my Midwich employment and have since heard everything I can by them because, for me, they just tick all the right boxes. Cheers to Kirigirisu Records for pointing me in the right direction finding this stuff!

sonotanotanpenz - 3

Luke forward/slashes:

Ben Hallatt – Kay Hill, scke//, KIKS/GFR – the sinister/minimal man, eerie urban horror with muted synth/tape work.

tessellation

…and I say:

…that I haven’t had the wherewithal for the obsessive curiosity that usually makes it so easy and obvious to decide the winner of this category.  I have a few interests bubbling under – that lovely, young Graham Dunning seems like an intriguing chap so maybe I’ll stalk him once I have the energy – but in the meantime I’m happy to to go along with Chrissie’s nomination of Sabrina Peña Young.

SPY1

4. The “Stokoe Cup”, given for maintaining quality control over a huge body of work making it impossible to pick individual releases in an end of year round up

Sof ponders:

I don’t think I have an answer for this one, I can only think of Delphine Dora who released four albums this year which to me seems a huge amount! I’m not really into musicians who put out so much stuff that I can’t keep up. It puts me off if I’m honest, I like small and considered bodies of work. [Editor’s note: a very practical attitude – and Delphine should definitely be on everyone’s list anyway.]

delphine

Chrissie scratches her head too:

I’ve not really reviewed enough to come up with a suitable nomination for this. Similarly for the label award. I was tempted to nominate Steve Lawson for the Stokoe cup but he might be rather too ‘big’ for that to be sensible now and also I don’t believe he’s ever been reviewed here [Editor’s note: he is and he hasn’t but, hey, s’up to you – it’s an indication of where you are coming from too]. However he does release a considerable amount of material and it is of quite an amazingly high standard.

No doubts from Joe:

We’re all renaissance men and women now eh?  Fingers in various pies yeah?  You’re a composer/performer, a curator, a thinker, an archivist, a broadcaster, a hard-assed critic and goofy listener, a publisher and promoter?  Scratch the N-AU and we bleed like colourful skittles. 

This is all vital and impressive for sure.  But the real trick is to weave all those various roles together with a broader sense of ‘who you are’, a central-unifying-theme and aesthetic that’s as real as Westeros fantasy shizzle. So with the powers invested in me by the fabled ‘Stokoe Cup’ I hereby recommend Andy Wild, the Crow versus Crow guy guy, as an upstanding exemplar of unified vision, industry and purpose.

Not only is Andy releasing beautifully packaged CDs on the CvC label, he’s keeping us up-to-date with a set of paintings and photography.  He’s had a one-man exhibition, “You’re Gonna Need That Pure Religion, Halleloo” in his native Halifax.  He’s researched, presented and broadcast almost 100 radio shows and curated a bunch of special one-off sessions (like John Peel yeah).  And all this strikes me with a look and a feel that’s unmistakably CvC and unified.  Here’s an example: as Andy dug deeper into old blues records spindly hiss and burr appeared on the paintings (and in the exhibition title).  The smeared photos mirrored the abstract sound of worn vinyl.  The shows became looser, the voice deeper and the mood darker.  Do people still do mission statements?  If so, is ‘be beautiful’ taken?

crowradio

Luke starts on a theme:

A tough one this year with the above mentioned Ben Hallatt and the incredible Stuart Chalmers.  My vote, however, has to go to Robert Ridley-Shackleton: the Oxfam prince, the cardboard king.  He keeps on peaking, inhabiting his own corner. In a just universe he would be on the X Factor panel: he IS pop.

robbie7

…and I say:

Well, Joe makes a compelling case for Andy Crow there and since being born from an egg on a mountaintop the nature of Shackleton is irrepressible, but I’m handing the trophy to a familiar name and previous Zellaby award winner: Kev Sanders.

Whilst not quite reaching the Stakhanovite release rate displayed in 2014, his productivity remains alarming high, as does the quality of his work. I’ve not reviewed a great deal of it, nor much else released on his label hairdryer excommunication (this collection of haiku from September being my main engagement) but it has been an ever-present background radiation.

If you picture the year as an autobahn, one which I have been stalled beside, hood up, engine steaming, then Kev’s music is a series of electricity pylons running alongside carrying cables buzzing with an intensity that is somehow both bleak and comforting. I wish him well with his coming move to that London and look forward to a chance to catch up whilst he is otherwise engaged. Now, like a casino bouncer chucking out a professional gambler, I’m banning him from winning anything else for a while. House rules.

embers

3. The Special Contribution to Radio Free Midwich Award

Sof and Chrissie have a playground tussle over who gets to be teacher’s pet:

SofIt’s no secret that Rob Hayler has had a rough year with his depression but his drive and passion for underground music has meant he’s kept up with this blog which I’m sure a lot of folks wouldn’t do under the same circumstances – fair play and respect to you!

Chrissie: At the risk of sounding like a spoilt kid sucking up to the boss, I’d like to nominate Rob for this award. In what has been a difficult year for him he’s hired three new writers, no small risk in itself, trusting our ability to actually deliver readable prose (well, in my case anyway) in usable quantities, not to mention editing it onto the blog in good shape and good time. He’s also put up with my erratic writing schedule and lack of enthusiasm to take anything off the review pile – preferring to go off on my own in a crusade to bring more female artists to the notice of our good and loyal readers.

[Editor’s note: it might appear shameless to include the above, and I admit it kinda is, but, as I’ve pointed out, it has been a tough year and I was touched.  Let me have a little sugar, yeah?]

Luke picks an outlier:

Sorry gonna have to be Robert Ridley-Shackleton again [sings: “Return of the Shack!  Here it is…!”].  A little quote from Robbie following a chat about tedious porn/bondage themes in noise:

To me noise is a positive thing, it fills my brain full of the joys. I don’t understand all the negative themes presented, to me it’s life affirming

Yeah baby!!!

[Editor’s note: R-Shack’s physical contribution to RFM is indeed notable as he sent copies of all his releases plus extra examples of his womble-on-ketamine junk art not just to RFMHQ but also personally to Joe and Luke too – a Knight of the Post.]

Joe rallies the troops:

As ever, I reckon this one belongs to everybody.  Anyone that sent in a tape, clicked on a link, wrote a review, listened with intent, left a comment or gave a god-damn fuck.  This one’s for you.  It’s all of us that make this: writers, readers, editors…even you cynics (coz debate is good, yeah?).  We’re all part of the oneness.  No one hears a tree fall in an empty forest right?

…and I say:

Tempting as it is to fall into step and punch the air, nostrils flaring, there is an objectively true answer to the question and that is: Anne, my wife.  Without her love, care and truly unbelievable strength this blog would not have continued to exist.

However, if we limit the word ‘contribution’ to meaning actual hands-on graft accounting for the endeavours of the no-audience underground then only one name can be engraved on this medal: Joe Murray.

Of the 93 posts published this year a huge proportion were by Joe and each of those usually contained reviews of numerous items sourced from far-flung corners of the outer reaches.  Despite his hep prose poetry being the best music writing currently available – Richard Youngs himself described Joe’s review of his epic No Fans seven CD box set as ‘the definitive account’ – he is completely selfless in his unpretentious enthusiasm.  He embodies the ethos of this blog.

posscat

[Editor’s note: hmmm… getting a bit lovey and self-congratulatory this isn’t it?  Maybe I’ll rethink this category for next year <takes deep breath, dabs corner of eye> OK, on with the big gongs!]

2. The Label of the Year Award

Sof sticks to the point:

I’ve really enjoyed every release I’ve heard from Fort Evil Fruit this year, and most years, I think we must have the same taste in music.

fort

Luke whittles on the porch:

Another tough one with old favourites like Chocolate Monk continuing to deliver the goods.  However at a push it’d be Winebox Press, a fairly laid back work rate but always something to look forward to, can’t think of another label as aesthetically as well as sonically pleasing to me at least. Objects of cosmic power that’ll warm you from the inside out.

winebox

Joe’s takes a turn:

Let’s hear it for Cardboard Club.  Why?  For the dogged determination and other worldly logic of course.  I have no idea what is going on in the disco/noise shire of Robert Ridley-Shackleton.  All I know is that I like it, I like it a lot. 

Robert’s singular vision is not so much outsider as out-rigger; a ghost on the pillion.  The label spreads itself across media so the scrabbly zines, tape artwork and ‘pocket-jazz’ sound can only contain the RR-S, nothing else.  But what made me giggle, what made me really smile was the recent move to vinyl.  Some lame-o’s see the hallowed seven inch as a step up; a career move if you please!  With that kind of attitude the battle is already lost and all ideals get mushed in ‘rock school’ production.  None of this for our Cardboard Club… it sounds exactly the same!  A hero for our troubled times.

cclub

…and I say:

Yep, all excellent selections deserving of your attention but, with hairdryer excommunication out of the way, I’m going to use editor’s privilege to share this year’s prize between two exemplary catalogues: Invisible City Records and Power Moves Label.  Both are tape-plus-download labels based on Bandcamp, both have strong individual identities – in ethos and aesthetic – despite presenting diverse, intriguing rosters and both share impeccable no-audience underground credentials (PML’s slogan: ‘true bedroom recordings with delusions of grandeur’).  It don’t hurt that the gents running each – Craig and Kev respectively – are polite, efficient and enthusiastic in their correspondence too.  Anyone looking for a model as to how it should be done could do worse than sit at the front of their class and take careful notes.

[Editor’s note on the Editor’s note: yes, yes, I know that ICR re-released my epic masterpiece The Swift, thus making it the label of the year by default but I felt duty bound to mention it anyway.  Shame on Tabs Out Podcast, by the way, for filling the first 135 places of their 2015 Top 200 with hype and industry payola.  Glad to see sanity and integrity restored with #136.]

icrpower

1. The Album of the Year Award

Chrissie kicks us off:

1. R.A.N

My first female:pressure review and the one I still listen to the most.

…not only are the individual tracks on this album good, but the ordering of them is exquisite. They follow on from each other in a wonderful, spooky narrative that runs smoothly and expertly from start to finish – the gaps between them allowing you to pause for breath before being dragged into the next hellmouth.

RAN_-_Her_Trembling_Ceased

2. FAKE Mistress – entertainted

The opening track, ‘Appreciate the moment’s security’, will pull you in with its drama, heavy noise-based beats, spooky voicing and very punkish shouting but you’ll stay for the gentler opening of ‘You better trust’, intrigued by where it’s going. There’s harsh noise in the middle of this track and in lots of places on this album, but it’s never over-used. It’s here as a structural device to take you by surprise and drag you out of your complacency.

entertainted

Luke casts his net wide:

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP

Charlotte Braun – Happy Being Sad

Absurde, Chier – Absurde VS Chier

Skatgobs – Pointless

Blood Stereo – The Lure of Gurp

Alec Cheer – Autumn

Ali Robertson & His Conversations

Guttersnipe – Demo

xazzaz – descent / the crusher

VA AA LR – Ping Cone

Stuart Chalmers – Imaginary Musicks 3/4

Anla Courtis – B-Rain Folklore

S C K E / Kay Hill – Disclosure, TESSELLATION A/B, IN-GRAIN, Cold Title

Jon Collin – Wrong Moves / Dream Recall

Whole Voyald Infinite Light – Uncollected Recordings

Ashtray Navigations – Lemon Blossom Gently Pixelating In The Breeze

Melanie O’Dubhshlaine – Deformed Vowels

yol / posset – a watched pot never (no link – ask yol or Joe, they’ll sort you out)

half an abortion / yol – the designated driver

Shareholder – Jimmy Shan

[Editor’s note: blimey, eh?  Luke also provided a ‘year in metal’ list too!  Available on request.]

lemon

Sof’s impeccable taste displayed:

I’m going with Steven Ball’s Collected Local Songs which I reviewed earlier this year because it’s the one I’ve gone back to over and over, each listen revealing more to me. It’s such an original piece of work.

Originality is the theme of my list –

Saboteuse – Death, Of Course (this maaaaaaay, have come out last year!)

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

Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God

Guttersnipe – Demo

Rosemary Krust – Rosemary Krust

Sam McLoughlin & David Chatton Barker – Show Your Sketches

Delphine Dora – L’au-delà

steven ball - collected local songs

Joe selects:

I fucking guarantee your serious music critics will moan and denounce 2015 as a fallow year for sounds.  Fools!  If you look around there’s an embarrassment of riches spilling out of the tape drawer, CD-r pile and download..er…folder? 

I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable hurling my opinion of ‘what’s best’ around so, in the spirit of “non-competition and praise”, here’s what I’d play you right now if you were to pop round for sherry.

  • yol – everyday rituals. When a record makes you run giddy for the Spanish/English dictionary you know something extraordinary is at work.  You’re familiar with yol yeah? You’re not?  Get a-fucking cracking pal.  This is a truly explosive & genuine performance that makes your insipid rebellion look safe as milk.
  • Duncan Harrison – Others Delete God. A super-subtle voice and tape work.  What I love is the ‘too studio-fucked to be field recordings and too much punk-ass rush for fluxus’ approach.  Natural and wonderfully blunted domestic, ‘Others…’ inhabits its own space – like a boil in the bag something served piping hot.
  • Midnight Doctors – Through a Screen and Into a Hole. The merciless despot with a harmonium!  Phil Begg’s steady hand guides a cavalcade of rough North East gonks through their paces to produce a timeless noir classic.  It is equal parts soundtrack, accurate cop-show homage and mysterious new direction for tight-meshed ensemble.  C’mon Hollywood… make that damn call.
  • Shareholder – Jimmy Shan. Rock und Roll songs collapse in sharp slaggy heaps. Dirty explosions replace instruments (the guitar x 2 and drums) leaving us dazed in a no-man’s-land of stunning, blinding light and electricity.  Ferocious and don’t-give-a-fuck all at once.
  • Tom White – Reconstruction is tied, even-stevens, with Sindre Bjerga’s – Attractive Amplification. The world of violent tape abuse is one I follow avidly. But there’s nothing to separate these two outstanding tapes (of tapes, of tapes, of tapes).  Both Tom and Sindre have the muscle memory and total mastery of their mediums (reel to reel and compact cassette) to wrench brown, sticky moans from the vintage equipment.  It sounds belligerent, punch drunk and rum-sloppy to my ears.  A perfect night out chaps!

yol - er

…and finally, your humble editor:

Bubbling under: here are the releases that made my long list but not the countdown. Every one a cracker, presented here in alphabetical order to avoid squabbles breaking out in the car park:

Culver – Saps 76

David Somló – Movement

Delphine Dora and Sophie Cooper – Distance, Future

Dominic Coppola – Vogue Meditations

Hagman – Inundation

Hardworking Families – Happy Days

Ian Watson – Caermaen

joined by wire – universe allstars

Luminous Monsters – The Sun Tree

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Self-Titled EP

Saturn Form Essence – Stratospheric Tower

Shredderghost – Golden Cell

yol – everyday rituals

[Editor’s note: I also have to make special mention of Askild Haugland and his peerless recordings as Taming Power. I’ve received two (I think, possibly three) parcels from him this year containing his work, all the way from Norway, and these recordings always have a profound and meditative effect. Some of it, for instance the 7” single Fragments of the Name of God, could quite possibly be perfect.]

OK, right – ooo! exciting! – here’s the top ten, presented in traditional reverse order:

10. E.Y.E – MD2015

md2015

…and what a joy it has been to have Paul Harrison back in the fray!  Yes, after over a decade new material from Paul’s Expose Your Eyes project was finally made available via his new Bandcamp label Eye Fiend – a repository for much missed Fiend Recordings back catalogue (Mrs Cakehead has to be heard to be believed) and digital versions of the new stuff which is otherwise only available in tiny hand-splattered physical editions.

MD2015 is a four CD-r, four hour and twenty minute set comprising discordant synth clatters, decontextualized chanting (familiar to anyone into first wave industrial music), beats: pitter, patter – galloping hooves – factory presses, intoxicating loops, delirium (remember that footage of animals drunk on fermented fruit?  This is the OST to a bootleg version of The Lion King that features those orgiastic scenes), repetition beyond human endurance / irresistible motoric groove, ‘proper’ noise – all primary sexual characteristics out and flapping in the breeze, and sorbet-refreshing shortwave-radio-ish pulse.  It is a lot of fun.

9. AAS – Balancing Ritual

aas

Y’know when your favourite stoner rock band lay down a super heavy, half-hour long, ego-obliterating, tethered crescendo but it isn’t quite enough so you and a hardy group of the suspicious break into one of the spaceships of a seemingly benevolent alien race currently visiting Earth and discover this playing inside?  Yeah?  A version of the above but clinical, steely, a step up from our humble efforts.  It’s like that and I, for one, welcome our new drone overlords…

Graham Dunning offered to send me a tape of this, I visited Bandcamp for a sneaky preview and ended up so impressed that I’d bought the download and fallen in love before my exhausted postie even delivered the jiffy bag.  I can count on the fingers of no fingers the other times that has happened recently.

8. Duncan Harrison, BBBlood, Aqua Dentata – “Ineluctable modality of the visible”

ineluctable

What an excellent three-fer.  Not only occupying a wholly justified place in the chart but giving me the opportunity to praise Paul Watson (BBBlood), Duncan Harrison (who’s Others Delete God tape, so highly praised earlier, shamefully passed me by.  Did I ever own it?  Did I send it to Joe in a moment of madness?  Ah, who knows?) and Eddie Nuttall (who, as Aqua Dentata, is producing amongst the finest work on my radar).  Here’s some extracts from marlo’s review:

…But, damn you, Duncan Harrison! The first track immediately gets me back in my academic head! ‘(Je suis) La Loi’ makes me think of psychoanalytical linguist theorist Julia Kristeva and deconstructionist scholar Jacques Derrida. The use of breath and physiological sounds makes the listening an embodied experience. The listener feels present. It is hard not to notice if one’s lips are dry or if you possibly had too many coffees…

…In ‘Nexistence of Vividence’, BBBlood returns to more of the crunchy reeling and wheeling and dealing. It is a typhoon that builds and waits. Never fully collapsing, the sounds peters out like attempting to catch water running through fingers. Yet there is an ethereal resolution to the struggle and the listeners are laid to rest, an aural wiping of the brow. Time to rest after the long haul…

…Eddie Nuttall, a.k.a Aqua Dentata, is not from this planet. I honestly don’t think he is. His music feels like extraterrestrial communication from outside our universe. Like binaural beats and subconscious interfering hypnosis, his untitled track sounds like it is made of laser beams. As a listener, you feel like you merge with the frequency and question your ability to make cognitive sense. It isn’t because of a reliance in bombarding one with several sounds but rather a direct cerebral invasion…

7. The Piss Superstition – Garage Squall

garage squall

Joe reviewed this one in the shape of a UFO. No, I don’t know why either but it is absolutely bang on:

Mag-lev trains.

The very best form of bluster.

As gentle as breath on a mirror,

Predator’s Answerphone message

The Velvet Underground trapped in a matchbox.

A map! Hectares of featureless crystalline crackle – zoom into mountains,

A corduroy vibe; not geography teacher clichés but that ribbed softness – a tickle on the fingernail.

Ride the world’s slowest roller-coaster taking 1000 years, cranking the incline.

Forbidden Planet strained with nourishing iron-rich greens,

A dream-tractor changing gear on the endless road.

Immense power restrained by gravity

A hit of strong, clean anaesthetic,

I’m counting backwards.

10, 9, 8…

6. Stuart Chalmers – Loop Phantasy No. 1, No. 2, No. 3

lp1

Joe again, not sparing the superlatives:

…But this time I throw my regular Northern caution and cynicism out the window and claim these three recordings THE MOST IMPORTANT SALVAGED TAPE LOOP RECORDINGS EVER YEAH.

What?  Like…ever?

I hear you ask.

Yes

I answer with a calm, clear voice.

Like in the whole 100 year history of recorded music?

You probe,

even including the oft- mentioned high- water mark of looping Tom Recchion’s Chaotica?

You add.  I merely smile and press play on the device of your choice.

You must listen, you must listen to truly understand

I chant with glassy eyes.

Anyway… fuck yeah!  That’s what I’m saying.  If you want to know where looping is right now in 2015/2016: PLAY THESE RECORDS.  If you are looking for an instructional map of what’s possible with simple tape loops, a couple of pedals and some hot ears: PLAY THESE RECORDS.  If you want to open up that valve in your stomach that helps you release gaseous tension: PLAY THESE RECORDS…

…Students of tape culture – your set-text has arrived.  Screw in those earbuds and get seriously twisted.

5. Ashtray Navigations – A Shimmering Replica

ashshimmer

A beautiful album in every respect and an entirely life-affirming experience.  Terrific to see Phil and Mel get such a high-profile, flagship release in what was a high-profile, flagship year for the band.  I will have more to say on this in a long-planned article which will be published around the eventual release date of the long-planned best of Ashtray Navigations 4CD box set.  Coming soon!  In the meantime: buy this.

4. Melanie O’Dubhshlaine – Deformed Vowels

mel

Likewise, Mel’s remarkable solo venture deserves a much more detailed account than it is going to get here.  Via a kind of meta-semi-improv (or something?) she continues on her utterly compelling, largely unheralded project to reinvent music on her own terms.

I imagine a Dr. Moreau style musical laboratory in which Mel cares for her cross bred instruments, incunabula parping their first notes, joyfully interacting with the sentient automata Mel has created to entertain them with.  She dangles a microphone over the giant aquarium tank in which they all live and conducts this unique performance.

Unlike anything else I’ve heard this year, or maybe ever.

3. Helicopter Quartet – Ghost Machine

ghost machine

A peerless work, even within the band’s own faultless back catalogue.  From my review:

It is difficult to write about Helicopter Quartet, the duo of RFM staffer Chrissie Caulfield (violin, synths) and Michael Capstick (guitars), because their music is so enveloping, so attention seizing, that when I’m listening the part of my brain I use to put words in a row is too awestruck to function.  However, following many hours with it, I am certain this is their best album yet.  That a work of such mature beauty, sculpted over months, is freely downloadable is surely further evidence that we are living in a golden age for self released music.  It has the austere and magisterial presence of a glacier edge, the drama of that glacier calving into the sea.

If you ever act on anything I say then act on this: go get it.

2. Guttersnipe – Demo

guttersnipe

Wow, this kicked the fucking doors in.  With this CD-r and a series of explosive live performances Guttersnipe owned 2015 – they were either your new favourite band or you just hadn’t heard of them yet.  Luke got to review this one, here’s an extract:

Guttersnipe whip up a frightening noise on drums, guitars, electronics and howled vocals that will have you reaching for the light switch. The cassette fidelity smudges the freejazzmetalhaze into a fog of terror from which emerges the fangs of a gaping gob ready to bite you. I’ve been listening to a lot of black metal recently and these vocals could have the corpse painted hordes crying for their mama.  However, they are not the guttural grunts of the alpha male but more a feminine screech of desperation and disgust which the other two respond to by conjuring a blackened and unsettled miasma.  Calling this disc demo leads me to believe that Guttersnipe are selling themselves short.  This is impressively original material that comes over like a Xasthur/Skullflower hybrid with a hefty slug of secret ingredient.  Marvellous job.

Amusingly, and presumably because he hadn’t seen them live at the time, he seems to imply this duo is a trio – a testament to their ferocity (and my skills as an editor…).

1. namke communications – 365/2015

namke - 365-2015

Finally then, the winner of the Zellaby Award for album of the year presented by Radio Free Midwich is, in an unusually literal sense, the album of the year: 365/2015 by namke communications.  Here’s some context from a piece I wrote in March:

…old-friend-of-RFM John Tuffen, in a project which recalls the conceptual bloodymindedness of Bill Drummond (who has raised ‘seeing it through’ to the level of art form), is recording a track every day throughout the whole of 2015 and adding them to the album [on Bandcamp] as the calendar marches on … each track is freshly produced on the day in question and, as might be expected, vary enormously in style, execution and instrumentation – there is guitar improv, electronica in various hues and field recording amongst other genres welcome ’round here…

Indeed, added to various forms of (usually light and expansive) improv and field and domestic recordings of life’s ebb and flow were many forays into sub-genres of electronica, techno as she is written, actual *ahem* songs, drones of many textures, experimental sketches with software and new toys, callbacks, the odd joke (all tracks in February had the duration 4’33” following a twitter exchange with me) and so on and so, unbelievably, on.  I can’t claim to have heard all of it – of course I haven’t – and there are misfires – of course there are – but the level of quality maintained is gobsmacking given the scope of the exercise.

Each track was accompanied by notes, most with a picture and then a tweet announced its presence too.  John was no slacker on the admin – I approve.  In March I suggested:

This one I have no qualms about dipping into, in fact I would recommend constructing your own dipping strategies. As the year progresses you could build an album from the birthdays of your family, or never forget an anniversary again with a self-constructed namke communications love-bundle. Won a tenner on the lottery? Create your own three track EP with the numbers and paypal John a couple of quid. Or perhaps a five CD boxset called ‘Thursday Afternoon’, in homage to Brian Eno, containing everything released on that day of the week? Or condense the occult magic with a set comprising every 23rd track? Ah, the fun to be had. Or you could just listen to it on a daily basis until it becomes a welcome part of your routine…

I was at least half-joking at the time but engaging with 365/2015 has proved a unique way of experiencing an album.  During the worst of my illness, as I spent nights trawling Twitter unable to sleep, it did become a valuable part of my daily routine.  Literally a light in the darkness – Bandcamp page shining on the tablet as I lay in bed – John’s project, existing due to nothing but his crazy drive to create (the whole thing, 40+ hours, available as a ‘name your price’ download!), truly helped me through.  A clear and worthy winner.

In conclusion…

So, that is that for another year.  John’s prize, should he wish to take me up on it, is for namke communications to have the one and only release on the otherwise dormant fencing flatworm recordings some time in 2016.  A surprise baby sister, perhaps, for his lovely available from namke communications released by me back in the day and now (I think) a teenager itself.

Many thanks to my fellow writers and to all who support us – for your time, patience and enthusiasm – it is much appreciated.  Heartfelt best wishes for the New Year, comrades.

All is love.

Rob Hayler, January 2016.

—ooOoo—

hubcap castanets: joe murray on yol

August 30, 2015 at 3:10 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , ,

yol – everyday rituals (self-released download)

yol - er

In the week I’m listening to this new yol release I’ve also been trying to learn about the art of Flamenco through a series of YouTube videos, records and documentaries.  Two very separate worlds perhaps?  But something about the rawness of yol’s music keeps snapping the grey matter and I’m seeing similarities, seeing patterns and tight-locked truths.  Forgive my occasional lapse into Spanish, but this language is perhaps the only one that does yol justice. Vamonos!

—ooOoo—

Inside the familiar brown paper another yol explosion awaits ignition.

This dirty bomb starts with the gentle rhubarb-rhubarb of a gathered arts crowd; tailing off pretty darn quickly as yol delivers extreme gara (1) – another punch in gut to the chattering classes.

‘fun and games’ packs a huge amount into a 9 minute work-out but still feels prison-lean.  Metal on metal squeal (painful to my delicate shells) rubs up against a pasting table full of kerosene-filled jam jars.  Meanwhile busy hands polish concrete with a wire brush; plastic coffee cups get bowed and a dog toy is gripped tight in a skinny fist.  Many dropped spanners jitter on the deck.  I’ve never been one for virtuosity but there’s a ‘Jaco Pastorious at the food bank’ at work here. yol’s unique vocal technique, honed over each underground detonation, reaches a point of mastery…

Argos catalogue slightly damp, the sound of tears

…  sure you get the arranque (2), a hurgle-hock of Hull’s spluttering, the throaty roar, the snippets of gloomy everyday poetry (the thoughts we dare not voice); but there’s a high-pitched jipio (3) I’ve never heard before – a wetter mouth spitting.

A crowbar dragged on the concrete floor makes gorgeous patterns during ‘fire, this way’.  A partial drone relax takes root like Basinski’s loops? It’s all gritty but comforting like musk scented toe-jam.  That is until an amplified bucket is rattled and the rivets shake loose like aluminium pop-corn.  AAHHHHHHH!

The ‘poundshop gamelan’ takes Balti-bowls and sparkling test tubes full of orange cough medicine and adds the skim from the warped copy of Selected Ambient Works Volume II you left in your ex-partner’s car during the summer.  But you want to know don’t you…does it sound like gamelan?  We’ll it’s certainly got the “Downg. Downg. Downg-downg-downg-downg!” of massive bronze headaches perfectly balanced.

A plastic punk, but not Bertrand fumbles with the Tupperware on ‘faded beach scene’.  A mysterious saga unfolds.  With a nod to last year’s extraction this feedback is sculpted around rounded shapes.  But the sympathetic growls are even more pained; it’s not just the volume or intensity that makes me blink uncomfortably… it’s the unfettered babeo (4) and bloody desperation in how some of these lines are delivered.

Things draw to a zinc-coated climax on the 10 minute tarantas (5) ‘bucket ritual’ Like Chadbourne’s rake the neglected orchestra of the caretaker is rummaged to give us a weather report delivered a golpe (6) like an end of the world address; ecological disaster being a likely extinction lever.

yol is in full-on breakdown mode here.  He shreds and jibbers, snivels the guasa (7) and rails.

It’s just a bit of banter

… becomes a most sinister line, thrown out among the “shiny things” delivered in a slimy moan.  As you’ve probably guessed the ‘accompaniment’ to this hellish screaming kinetic-poetry is a smashed and battered bucket (and occasional tinkly bell) being thoroughly GBH’d.  You don’t need blood when you’re internalising all these bruises and knocks!

yol is mining some pretty dark corners here.  His Jondo (8) might be buried in Hull’s industrial estates but that black seam is as rich and deep as any foul Andalucían deposit.

—ooOoo—

yol

—ooOoo—

(1) Gara – literally “claws”; guts, force

(2) Arranque – spontaneous outbursts of uncontrolled emotion that a performer may emit

(3) Jipio – a cry (such asay) used by the singer to find his pitch or simply put into the middle of a song

(4) Babeo – repeated meaningless sounds such as ‘bababa’ in the middle of words

(5) Tarantas – a mining song of free rhythm and by far the hardest to sing, demanding tragic intensity as well as unusual control, both vocal and artistic, in the melisma (5a)

(5a) Melisma – series of notes sung on a single syllable of the coplas. To the ear unaccustomed to it, the sound may seem like unmusical wailing.

(6) A golpe – sung to the rhythm of only a stick hitting the floor, or knuckles on the table

(7) Guasa – joking in bad taste, rustic trickiness

(8) Jondo – describes the emotional depth you have to mine to really get the feeling for Flamenco. You can’t just sing nice, or fake it.  You have to dig deep and feel it, breathe it and ‘be’ it.

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