(oTo) – Ordnance, Tape Only
‘Ordnance, Tape Only’, or oTo to its friends, was a sound-art off-shoot project from fencing flatworm recordings, the micro-label I co-ran with Sean Keeble in the early years of this century. There were fifty oTo releases, with each release limited to a numbered fifty copies, all on one-sided cassette tapes. Apart from the artist name and the catalogue number no other information was included. Inlay cards were made by chopping up various Ordnance Survey maps of this fair country. Thus you got a random square of Britain, five miles on a side, to look at whilst listening to your near-anonymous tape. Oh, and it is nowt to do with London’s Cafe OTO, which it predates by several years.
To my surprise, this insane enterprise caught the collective imagination and I had no trouble filling up the 50 slots. It became a cross section of the UK noise underground at the time and even attracted the attention of the international experimental jet-set with, for example, Thurston Moore donating some skronking. Julian Bradley, who encouraged me to get started with the project, had tape number T01 and I took last one. Whilst chopping up maps I was often left with some wholly blue squares containing just sea. I kept those to one side and the 50 inlay cards for the midwich tape each cover 25 square miles of water.
In a lengthy interview with me conducted by Bang the Bore (read the whole thing here) I was asked a bunch of questions about oTo including this one:
Are you planning on giving oTo a digital after-life? It seems more suited to that format than the ffr releases, possibly… for one thing you can construct the eternally looping playlist implied by how the original releases were structured. It’s also easy to give it that “check it out then move on” response that you mention.
…and I replied:
Well, I can see the appeal for the reasons you mention but, no, I am not planning a digital reanimation for oTo. Difficulty in finding the time would be a major hindrance – many of the masters are on tape themselves and would therefore need recording onto my laptop and mastering before acceptable mp3 versions could be created. The bigger problem though is that I no longer have all the masters. When ffr/oTo was wound up I offered to return masters to artists so they could reissue their work elsewhere and a few took me up on it. Phil reissued the Zen Nuns tape (a collaboration he did with Lasse Marhaug) on BWCD, for example. I realise that most of these reissues are now themselves unavailable but still… I returned this stuff on the understanding that oTo was over. I’d also not feel happy about releasing mp3s of this stuff without the permission of the artists themselves and I’ve completely lost touch with quite a few of them. No, reanimating oTo would be a logistical nightmare. Best just to accept that the moment has passed.
Solid reasoning, I’m sure you’ll agree, but then I found myself shifting a stereo upstairs to the RFM offices here at Midwich Mansions and my thinking began to change… My current opinion is as follows:
Ahh… fuck it!
So, with that in mind, below is a list of the fifty tapes. The blurbs are from the original FFR website. I thought about putting it on Bandcamp or doing something like Jeff did at Union Pole but neither of those options felt quite right. Let’s keep it a private affair for readers of this blog. The whole catalogue is available here in best quality mp3 format.
In general the sound quality is excellent but apologies in advance if one or two things aren’t entirely crystal sharp – such is the nature of the exercise. Amazingly, I am digitizing tapes via the Pioneer tape deck that I originally duped these tapes on. It is still working fine – <appreciative whistle> – they don’t make ’em like that anymore, eh?
Where I’ve created mp3s from a CD-r master there may be multiple tracks, mp3s from tapes will be in one lump. Those little ‘play’ arrows will play the whole thing if the latter or just the first track if the former. Right-click on the ‘Download’ links to save and listen later at your convenience.
Should you wish to hear more by these fine people then some of their recent endeavours can be found via the artist and label links on the sidebar. Otherwise the twin gods of Discogs and Google will provide…
oTo T01 – Julian Bradley
24 minutes of geological lo-tek. Guitars, tape loops, document a sound heard deep under the earth, or deep inside your head. Alan Splet meets Vibracathedral Orchestra. Tick the ‘other’ box and leave the comments blank.
oTo T02 – formula ghost is here bright pregnant off toilet seats each and every year on spell books, voodoo dolls and dried toads
44 minutes. Two epic tracks of failing space folk improv from a ‘band’ better known under another name (editor’s note: it’s Ashtray Navigations, more or less).
oTo T03 – AZIMUTH ERROR
25 minutes exactly. MRI Clough of Klunk, Truant, Rancid Poultry and PRP Group embraces the medium with a single gorgeous track constructed from treated tape hiss and mechanism howl. Careful, fierce: very good loud.
oTo T04 – WEAVER
27 minutes. Apparently this is the film ‘Duel’ (killer truck chases guy for no reason, remember?) compacted through much filters. Loud, noisy and very unnerving. An alias for a new member of the ffr family.
oTo T05 – DJ Gormless Kid
30 minutes. ‘Mix’ of heartfelt early 90s style electronica.
oTo T06 – Ceramic Hobs
45 minutes thereabouts. A great collage of noise, studio chatter, audience reactions, big live rock, ropey cover versions from the gods of Blackpool.
oTo T07 – Killy Dog Box
31 minutes. Quiet, ghostly atmospherics and ambience. Subtle, simple, effective.
oTo T08 – Wagstaff
Wagstaff provides thought distortion, far away loops, faded memories. Like waking up on a coach at night or hallucinating peripheral-vision insects.
oTo T09 – wave 7, wave 8, wave 9, under
Seasonal atmospheres from Alistair Crombie (who also records with beats as d/compute for mouthmoth). Shifting, uplifting.
oTo T10 – freshwater angling in britain
a robot menagerie documented with the medium of electro-collage. fish bubble, insects hum, then we visit the city noise factory where these things were manufactured.
oTo T11 – DER DRITTE MANN
30 minutes. More film fun from Mr. TG Hopper. This time the zithers of ‘The Third Man’ get scrambled and undone.
oTo T12 -Robert Warner
27 minutes Skull scraping trance-inducing loop manipulation from Lafayette, California. Reminiscent of Expose Your Eyes.
oTo T13 – Cuckie and Randy
Cuckie and Randy are Rachel and Matt (Random Number). This is supposed to be a satire of the doom-laden electro-industrial that we all used to pretend to like in the 1980s, but actually sounds like a long, slow random number track: which is great. Or maybe I still don’t have a sense of humour…
oTo T14 – manherringbone
manherringbone entertain and envelop with an intriguingly fierce noise collage for electronics, distorters, static and voices. All the way from the USA.
oTo T15 – Don Bosco
What seems like noise blow out is in fact a cleverly textured bit of teeth loosening. Several tracks, several different but equally heavy-planet atmospheres. Inspired by animals possibly.
oTo T16 – Harrison/Hayler
Paul Harrison (expose your eyes, fiend) and Rob Hayler (midwich, truant, oTo, FFR) get together to mix steel-press beats, waves crashing, sine whines and paranoia into sticky madness.
oTo T17 – Culver
Beautiful sounds from Newcastle. A guitar/effects (probably) depict the world being born – to grin through the tears with.
oTo T18 – Leo Slayer
Great Butthole(ish) loops and crustacean pop help increase your attention span.
oTo T19 – bla
Simple, unpretentious, impressive. Four/floor techno as she was supposed to be (gets strange towards the end too).
oTo T20 – DAPPER
Augmented four piece featuring thurston moore (of sonic youth), byron coley, dan ireton, gene moore and others. A hungry ghost’s chains get rattled in crashing loops, followed by burst-of-fairground.
oTo T21 – BackDrumMower
An introduction to a peculiar world. Part early sonic youth style noise-improv, part humorous collage, part disturbing cut-up. Watch out.
oTo T22 – Michael Gillham
A wonderful swarm of guitar drones. Like being a grub eating honey in your hexagonal cell and listening to the rest of the hive go about the day.
oTo T23 – Joe+N
Joe of Carbon treats us to a short and lovely guitar mediation/meditation. Thoughtful, soulful, complete as it is. Perfectly formed.
oTo T24 – BASQUADECK SHELF
An historical oddity. All the way from 1985 this is the complete recorded output of a formative Neil Campbell (and friends) project. Weird incantations and inexpert thumping. Actually pretty good.
“Strange” – Neil.
oTo T25 – The Dead Body
A very low fidelity collection of hissings and groaning. Like a stop – motion recording of decay recorded on wax cylinder. Very good at room-filling volume.
oTo T26 – James Lost
End-of-the-pier Gorgonzola through the anti-histamine murky filters. The last days of summer. Reminiscent of V/vm’s ‘Caretaker’ project only interesting and accomplished.
oTo T27- Posset
Fine, fine electro acoustic (un)music improv from Newcastle. Stars of the first oTo gig night, Posset present beauty, tension and squealing noises.
oTo T28 – Howl in the Typewriter
45 minutes of psychotic cover versions from Stan Batcow (ex of Ceramic Hobs). Pretty much has to be heard to be believed. A unique aesthetic at work.
oTo T29 – No Energy
FFR label mate pokes nose into sister label’s business. Utterly organic, completely electronic. Very short (18 minutes) but compelling insight into the private life of some overclocked machine.
oTo T30 – Trademark™
Brilliant mix of hard-tronix, bust beats and noise from one of my current favourites. And you thought no good music came out of London! Pah! A varied and rewarding tape that will have you nodding yr head and annoying the neighbours.
oTo T31 – Purple Better One
Kev Trundley of AcidFuck on an atmospheric trip. Field recordings from inside the head something dangerous. The kind of soundtrack you should hear whenever someone says ‘this used to a sacred burial ground before they built these houses’.
oTo T32 – Paradise Camp 23
All the way from the USA, but sounds like it has been bounced off a star and been dragged back through a grubby little nebula. This collage of noise, voice and rock guitars swims and changes colour like a cuttlefish.
oTo T33 – HEDREN
Another in the oTo sequence of mangled film soundtracks. This time ‘The Birds’ get chlorinated. Will give you sore, red eyes.
oTo T34 – THE PRESTIDIGITATORS
Beautifully brutal jazz-noise aggro. Totally exhilarating blow-out catharsis. Absolutely drives you sane. One of my personal faves. As good as any noise you’ll hear this year, guaranteed.
oTo T35 – LA MER DU NORD
Fantastic free-rock duo improvisation/dual. One of those rare recordings where the combatants seem telepathically linked. This tape fucking rocks.
oTo T36 – CANDI NOOK
Woman of extreme music, Fiend and Susan Lawly recording artist, Candi Nook takes on techno and cuts off its hair with a bread-knife Alternately worryingly unstable and rinky-dink funny, this is the sound of presets on the edge.
oTo T37 – O’DEA
oTo’s occasional celluloid series comes to a conclusion. Featured feature this time is Night of the Living Dead ‘reanimated’ (ahem) with the usual filter-embalming.
oTo T38 – VIATICUM
US Freak-outs from James Lindbloom’s band. Sometimes krautrock, sometimes Vibracathedral-esque, always groovin’. Very alive.
oTo T39 – bin.audio[box]
A collaboration between Marco Riedel + Joe Gilmore. Possibly the oddest of all oTo releases. This short piece (19 minutes) features klunk-y glitches and digital processing accompanying the sound of a binaural microphone being taped up in a box and labelled with marker pen. Has to be heard on headphones for the full on ‘this-is-what-it’s-like-to-be-a-parcel’ vibe.
oTo T40 – Brian Lavelle
Two longish tracks from one of the leading lights of the no-audience underground. Fantastic, beautiful, haunting. Scrapes, fuzz, far-away melodies will make you rewind and replay over and over.
oTo T41 – TK94
A well chosen series of styles/sound sources/samples – including fantastic use of the jackhammers rebuilding Leeds railway station – provide you with an alternative soundtrack to your life. Fictional but documentary electronics.
oTo T42 – Anomali vs Fornax
Long-form brooding electronic landscapes. If giant metal pyramids descended to Earth and created a suspiciously utopian society through mind control this is what they might be thinking themselves.
oTo T43 – Asté
Cut-up post-rock and stoner-improv from starry-eyed beauty merchants. Superb.
oTo T44 – Disco Operating System
Loops, thumps and electro-rockin’ from one of the Mancunian noise mafia. Fun, with much groove and some diverting sincerity.
oTo T45 – Ernesto Diaz-Infante
San Francisco improv artist takes a break to record a bunch of window-installers at work (not Microsoft – the glass kind). A laid-back feeling of industry taking place makes this a real pleasant background-noise field recording.
oTo T46 – TapeNoise
Deliberately unnerving experiments in volume and cut-off control. Silence and noise battle it out to be the most scary – enjoyable in a masochistic sense.
oTo T47 – Formula Ghost 2001
A record of the FG set at the summer 2001 oTo gig night in Leeds. Short but poignant and beautiful, features Phil Todd and a guest appearance from Simon Morris of Ceramic Hobs on vocals. Good ‘bootleg’ style recording.
oTo T48 – The Zen Nuns
Fantastic, billowing, psychedelic noise from doyens of the field Phil Todd and Lasse Marhaug. Ego-dissolving.
oTo T49 – The Bongoleeros
A recording of the first live set of this caveman-voodoo howl. As lo-fi as it comes and totally fucking rockin’ as a result. Think beefheart, link wray and, er…, greek traditional music plus genuine gargling.
oTo T50 – Midwich
Glacial, minimal, analogue – Yorkshire nothing music. Designed to segue into the Julian Bradley tape thereby freeing you of the need to listen to anything but oTo ever again…