Sunday, 9 November 2014

Cordyceps is Your Friend - Cafe Oto, Dalston, London - 7th November, 2014



Grapefruits began this night of warped and dark electronics with a set comprising cello, synth and drums in a union of fierce and frantic improvised abrasion. Sounding like an audio version of a slow camera zoom onto knotted scorched wood, this trio carved a sound dense and violent; a congealing of acidic elements: squealing effects-manipulated cello strings, drums like bursts of instantaneous rust, and a synth emitting noxious fumes. The cello playing was startling in itself; nerve peeling scrapes,  treated, degraded, buried in waste and grit. The only rest they allowed the audience was a late-on sick pulse that left behind much of the clatter; a chute of noise, down which the band dropped into uneasy calm and amplifier hum; their set drawing to a close with tendrils of bass gloop quivering into silence.

The second set was a calmer proposition. Pascal Savy, by contrast, was slow, minimal and understated. Using his synths to build an accumulating menace like malevolent birds gathering on a overhead cable. This was noise set in monochrome relief, black eels gliding through blacker water.

Luke Jordan employed a fluted brass object laid on a sheet of metal and tortured into horrific bellowing walls of sound by his electronics. It provoked utter nullity, and a little tedium, through sheer brutal ear-fuckery. A nihilist roadwork skull-scooping head-excavation. But in a good way. Or not? I have no idea; I just wanted it to end.

The highlight of the evening was Embla Quickbeam. She played uncanny field recordings from Area X or The Zone. Water flowed through bird calls and insect click-clatter. This was music haunted, moist and moss-choked; eerie and beautiful. The fog-bound samples eventually faded into sighing loops of glass-rim singing, songs for Charles Burns' woodland people and tree-hollows full of fingernails.

The evening ended with a performance from Ewa Justka. She was accompanied by boxy monitors and strip-lights that flashed and pulsed in fierce and glaring unison with the mutoid techno thump of her set. Off-grid with a skewed rhythmic almost-logic, it flayed brains with machine-gun rattles one moment, only to cut-up jump into more sedately paced amniotic beats. Given how harsh and machine-like the sonic components of her set were: juddering blasts and bangs, contracting crunch, industrial steam bursts; experiencing the music was intuitively human. Although,  perhaps human with a Cronenberg warp; VHS tapes jammed into navels, a screaming array of blood-type squirting through cholesterol-furred fibre-optics, saliva-slick USB ports, and suspiciously fleshy laptop track-pads.

Throughout the evening Laid Eyes lit the rear wall of the Cafe Oto with pixelated decrepitude and boxy mushroom cloud error-visions. Context-less intertitle cards seperated segments of negative-flashed children climbing trees and close-up images of babies' faces on bubbling rotten film. At one point, van-Gogh night-swirls bathed the venue in a sickly glow. The visuals perfectly complimented Cordyceps is Your Friend; the success of this third edition making a trip to the fourth essential.



Friday, 31 October 2014

Fallout Shelter Disks: Sophie Cooper, Giving Rock 'n' Roll to Everyone



Photo credit: Harry Wheeler
 
Sophie Cooper is the subject of this inaugural feature in a new series at Ears for Eyes: Fallout Shelter Disks. Those participating choose six albums/EPs/singles/mixtapes, one book, and one luxury item to take down into an atomic fallout shelter come the end of the world.

Sophie performs solo under her own name and has appeared in a number of other bands including Leopard Leg and Remedial Queen of England. She has released music on Exotic Pylon, Tor Press, and most recently on Wild Silence. Sophie recently organised Tor Festival which hosted artists from across a diverse spectrum, among them were Delphine Dora, United Bible Studies, These Feathers Have Plumes, and Family Elan.

As mushroom clouds sprout into the sky and the ash begins to fall, here's what's on the shelves of Sophie's bunker.

Albums

Yo La Tengo – and then nothing turned itself inside out
I heard ‘Our Way to Fall’ from this album on an Uncut CD in 1999 and was totally hooked. At 17 years old I’d never heard music which combined song with the weird so well before. Ever since then this album has been my safe place, the last album to listen to before bedtime, so familiar and awe inspiring. This comes to the bunker because I expect to be pretty stressed out down there, this will be my sedative.

The Beatles – Abbey Rd
I’m a massive Beatles fan and it was a toss between this one and Sgt Peppers for the apocalypse but this one won because it is a totally flawless album that I’ll never bore of. The B Side in particular has soundtracked so many good nights in singing along with my nearest and dearest. There will be beer in the bunker right?

Jack Rose – Red Horse, White Mule
Where better for contemplation than deep down in the earth. This is why I’m taking Red Horse, White Mule down there, such an emotional and honest album. I’d also take this with me to remind myself of times gone by and of my friend Kelly who gave me this album on a tape with a mixture of Van Morrison and country music on the other side many years ago.

Serge Gainsbourg – Historie de Melody Nelson
If you’ve been at my house past midnight you’ll have heard this record. I’m fairly confident that if it was in English I would be totally appalled by the lyrics but as it happens my French isn’t great and it’s not going to get any better down in the bunker so, Serge, you and your pervy tunes are coming along mainly for the rocking basslines.

Elliot Smith – Figure 8
Life isn’t going to be easy down in a hole and there will be bleak times that only Elliot Smith will be able to soundtrack. The best thing about Smith’s music is that he had a wonderful ability to write about the worse aspects of life but in major keys with uplifting melodies which I’ve always interpreted as an end to the woe. This album has the perfect “Everything means nothing to me” track on there and I can imagine needing to play that quite loudly within the metal constraints of the bunker and having a good cathartic cry. 

David Bowie – Soundtrack to Labyrinth
There isn’t going to be that much to do underground so why not liven things up a bit with a few parties dancing to the Labyrinth soundtrack? I think that imagining myself as Sarah… through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen… would be a good way to pass the time.

Book

The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and back again)
I’ve decided that having one novel to read over and over would quickly become boring but taking ‘The Philosophy of Andy Warhol’ would be perfect because you can dip in and out of it and think about it as deeply as you chose to depending on how your day was going. His attitude would be perfect for a bunker. Warhol would teach you to see beauty in the situation, not to fear death, and to generally accept your lot. I reckon Warhol would have done well living in a bunker: Sometimes people let the same problem make them miserable for years when they could just say, "So what."

Luxury Item

My Tanglewood Parlour Guitar
I promise you that I will never be the person at the party who pulls out an acoustic guitar and starts jamming in front of everyone but if it’s just going to be me there then why not. 
 
Ears for Eyes: Your luxury item is a guitar, could you remain creative in such isolation?

Sophie Cooper: I consider this luxury item to be more of a boredom breaker than a means for staying creative. I've no idea if I could continue to write fully formed songs in isolation like that but I'm fairly sure I'd be happy to sit with my ear pressed to the wood of the guitar and listen to the resonance of the strings inside for hours. I've got a hamster called Woodstock and he has loads of stuff in his cage to keep him entertained, it's a similar principle.

I'm with you on the Yo La Tengo album - all is well when that comes on. Do you think music can help even in extreme circumstances such as being in an underground bunker?

I can't think of a time in my life, "extreme" or otherwise, which hasn't been accompanied by music so I can't see why being in an underground bunker would change this. I have gone through difficult times and used this album to escape into, maybe Yo La Tengo should start marketing it as a therapy record. 

Your selections are a mixture of escapism (Labyrinth) and tools for coping with the situation (Warhol/Figure 8). Could you find a balance? Would you reach a calm acceptance or retreat into full "I am in a fantasy castle and everything is fine" sort of state?

I hope that I would lose it and imagine myself as Princess Peach or something but I doubt I would. My biggest fear is that if I allow myself I can suffer from claustrophobia so if I could deal with that I'm sure I'd accept it down there. What else can you do really and let's face it I'd be better off in there with these awesome albums than up on ground level.

How do your current surroundings affect your music? Is there anything specific about your town/environment that can be heard in your songs?
I can’t be stressed when I’m thinking about making music, especially now I’m writing ‘songs’ which are highly emotional things to produce. I work best when I’m awake and calm which just wasn’t happening for me living in London. Now, when I step outside into Todmorden I feel as though I’m still in my living room which I see as a true indicator of feeling at home and I need that. Can this be heard in my music, well, I’m not even sure there’d be any music to hear if I wasn’t in this situation so yes. 

You organised Tor Festival earlier this year. How did that go?

It couldn’t have gone better really, not one bad act on the line-up. The turnout was fantastic, everyone got paid, it sounded perfect, it looked incredible in Todmorden Unitarian particularly with the psychedelic lightshow, the community were really embracing and supportive and I had a really great time. My personal highlights were Irma Vep, United Bible Studies, Delphine Dora, Bbblood and Alannah Chance’s after party DJing, it was all amazing though.

I have a desire to take this to another city for a repeat visit, possibly to Stoke on Trent, where there are some incredible things happening in the arts right now. People I’ve met recently in Stoke are very resourceful and open minded so I’m interested in organising a similar event in unexpected locations there. We’ll see what happens.

If you emerged after a number of years to find a band of cultists obsessed with your music awaiting you and your leadership, what society would you build with them? (sort of like Tina Turner in Mad Max 3, if she'd played herself).

I've not seen Mad Max 3 but I have seen Bill and Ted so I guess I'd just give rock n roll to everyone.
Sophie's rock 'n' roll is currently manifested in a brilliant release for Wild Silence: Our Aquarius. More of her music is available here and to keep up to date with her activities, get yrself over here.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Monday, 1 September 2014

Fallout Shelter Disks: an announcement

Credit: James Vaughan X-Ray Delta One under a Creative Commons license

Ears For Eyes seeks applicants for a regular feature entitled Fallout Shelter Disks. You, as an individual, duo, 27-piece free-jazz orchestra, occult entity or sentient computer virus, will select six albums/songs/EPs, a book and a luxury item to take down into your bunker should the apocalypse occur. A conversational exchange will then take place in a manner that in no way resembles a certain BBC Radio 4 programme.

Choose wisely, these will be your cultural companions until the air and food run out, or you're devoured by giant irradiated mutant rodents. 

Interest parties please email: zombini99@gmail.com.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Time Attendant - Bloodhounds (Exotic Pylon)



Echoing bloop-fugue drift album ‘Bloodhounds’ is the debut long-form release from Paul Snowdon in the guise of shuffling synthotist Time Attendant.  It follows several excellent EPs for More than Human and Exotic Pylon records.
Atmospheric and evocative of experiences you haven’t had, it is steeped in the weird and uncanny.  The music is deeply odd, but not the alien oddness of cold machine process; there are clearly hands at these dials, switches and wires; what those hands are connected to I wouldn’t like to guess.  ‘Nettle Sting Riddle’ is a drum pad beat in thick moss, a drummer boy separated from his troop in a thickly fogged endless meadow; suffused with a weird internal logic that defies easy unpacking.  ‘Sugar Beet Perfume’ deploys pitch-bent guitar noise and a precarious beat patterned around interlocking rusted wheels.  The frog-chorus of weirdly phased and overlapping electro-croaks on ‘Inky’s Pitch’ is combined with small bubbles of bass and static.  ‘Crystal Mascot’ mixes the gentle clumping thwok of wood chime and crushed bird-song with hazy drones and bleep-melodies in a frame of hissing tick-rhythms that speed and slow like a broken record player.
Sounds pile on sounds in unlikely serrated blocks, a dada assemblage that is challenging to make sense of.  The answer is to not; it is what it is, and that is remarkable enough.  Spun together with human ingenuity but warped with garden-shed-bound lunatic urges; the album often resembles a brain where neurons must fire across weed-choked drainage canals.  With ‘Bloodhounds’ Time Attendant presents a noise-world runny around the edges, its modular-synth gravitational core a shifting kaleidoscope of trumpets, horses, voices, passing trains – a parade of almost-shapes smashed into non-linearity, a musical version of Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Nude Descending a Staircase’; a paradoxical mix of motion and mind-consuming self-examination, the forward drive of ‘Bloodhounds’ is frequently distracted by bizarre road-side monoliths.
Time Attendant’s recent live performance at London’s Brixton Windmill saw him at one point channelling the motorik chug of Neu.  The smooth glide along endless utopic Autobahns was suddenly diverted onto Ballard’s Westway, a crash expelling Snowdon onto a concrete island where he patches together synths from wind-blown crisp packets, crushed Coke cans and the occasional whirling hubcap.  Growing old with a squirrel in each pocket of his dirty overcoat, he plays infinite sets of broken techno to a menagerie of rat skulls, urban foxes and stranded badgers; the music almost entirely lost in the constant roar of traffic.
Grab a copy of 'Bloodhounds' here.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Tasos Stamou and Adrian Northover - Mantra Gora (Linear Obsessional)




‘Mantra Gora’ is the second in Linear Obsessional’s series of duo improvisations and this time around features Tasos Stamou (prepared zither, cassette loops, digital horn, test generator) and Adrian Northover (alto and soprano saxophones).  The sound is spectral and oddly peripheral, like something not fully graspable, music as fleeting corner-of-the-ear sense impression.  Full of sax squeak and hum, sci-fi bloop, tape gunk, and unidentifiable rattle and klang; stalking the edges, never fully darting in any particular direction, happy to perpetually chase its own shimmering multi-dimensional tail.  ‘Mantra Gora’ gathers its music from a wind-blown piling of detail, an accumulation of sound-mass from a subtle interlacing of breath and thin slivers of fuzzed metallic noise and static-drenched bleeping.  Stamou and Northover, across these seven close and concise explorations, prod and entice their instruments into bonds of unlikely beauty and fertile weirdness, a rolling union of delicate hissing furred elements and soft singing feathers.

More details on Linear Obsessional and 'Mantra Gora' here.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Tapiwa Svosve and Julian Chalabi – bracket bracket bracket (Raw Tonk)




‘bracket bracket bracket’ is a succinct EP full of ideas from the hands and minds of Tapiwa Svosve (alto saxophone, cassette player) and Julian Chalabi (guitar).  ‘Stendreck’ finds burring saxophone lapping against fluctuating tape echo and boat motor noise; the two elements playing coincidentally rather than in sympathy, each chasing its own tail in isolation; the middle point, the music, formed from the churn and friction at their adjoining borders.  ‘Future Shores’ is pulsing electric guitar throb and overheated sax honk, the players more closely aligned here; eruptions of pedal manipulated hum, the roar of electricity in beautiful union with the coarse buzz of straining lungs through mouth and reed.  ‘2’ is a highlight, an accumulating ticking bricolage of amplified dust, string klang and sharp guitar notes picked out in clusters of folkish loops, sounding like a vinyl copy of ‘Live From a Shark Cage’ left out in the sun for days; it is weirdly danceable before a violent carpet tug pulls the ground away and the sax wails in spluttering pain on the smashed-ankles coda of ‘Dawn Chorus.’  ‘bracket bracket bracket’ is another excellent release from the Raw Tonk label.
Grab a copy from here.