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.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Neil Metcalfe and Daniel Thompson – Eight Improvisations (Creative Sources Recordings)


This set of eight improvisations from Neil Metcalfe (flute) and Daniel Thompson (guitar) is conversational and sparsely lyrical, an affable communion rather than a locking of horns; each player deeply attuned to the actions of the other.  Metcalfe for the most part draws fluid mercurial lines, often dissipating into dots of delicately suspended ellipses that dart away in separate directions like sparrows on a breeze.  Thompson is, by contrast, taut and nervy, often impetuous: sudden flurries of activity erupt from fidgety restlessness without warning and subside just as quickly.  On ‘Third Improvisation’ he is soothed by the curls and cool arcs of Metcalfe’s high whistling flutter; becalmed, he is still a fascinating player, tiny gestures are repeated and built upon or rested aside to be restored again later. 
‘Eight Improvisations’ is a compelling collection of duo performances, Thompson’s cross-hatched scribble outlined in bold swooping circles of flute; a gracefully chaotic dance, a thoughtful melding of minds.
Purchase the album here.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Various artists - Bourgeois Kerb Stomp (Herhalen)




For fans of no-fi lurking tape-weirdness, this should be investigated at the earliest opportunity.  Herhalen’s ‘Bourgeois Kerb Stomp’ release is a three-way split shared by Splashy the Blame-Shifter, Lenina, and Ship Canal. 
In ‘Petrol Station Homophobe’ Splashy the Blame-Shifter scrapes up tape murk and drags it over smashed dirty heads, plaintive piano notes ringing out forlornly; the track is a drizzled miniature chamber beauty, in place of strings  you get hissing flickers in a rotting shed.  ‘Excitement as Officer’ has hesitant molten fuzz trying and failing to find rhythmic purchase; a non-structure unable or unwilling to grow beyond an indeterminate revolving fidget.  ‘South of Heaven’ is all amp vomit and rusted voice fragments, buried under a crushing drill feedback avalanche sounding like the metallic scoop of a digger scraping the inner curvature of a gigantic iron bowl; dust packed collage and siren violence; sheer noise catharsis, harsh and skull-crushing. 
Lenina offers deafening violence: ‘Below Me Lay the Wide Waters’ is packed with roaring noise hostility; grey and unceasing for its whole duration, feedback screams slicing a thick hale of gravel-drone.  ‘Yr Average Oppressor’ and ‘False Widow, False Panic’ are both bleak and numbing raw machine yawns. 
Ship Canal’s contributions are from the outer-limits of oddness.  ‘The Stigma of Drinking Alone’ is a nightmarish, drunken mumble, a fog of sound-impressions: looped aquatic voices smear the words “all these areas” into woozy Möbius strips; cracks resounding like a shower of pebbles falling onto weed-wobbled pavement; queasy and jumbled sea-sick organ wheeze; a background throb like straining distantly respiring pipes; garbled chatter, as if through a membrane.  ‘Communicating Directly with the Restaurant’ lists  restaurant transactions with an intonation of glum finality; a procession of events listed without enthusiasm over a soundtrack of echoing dread sculpted from balloon squeak, oozing sonic gunk, distorted lost voices and sharply oscillating whistle; it briefly settles into a techno rush before collapsing as everything falls into mould and decrepitude.
‘Bourgeois Kerb Stomp’ is an arresting work of urban edgeland-concrete; found-sounds sifted with boxing gloves from a mildewed cardboard box.
Dredge 'Bourgeois Kerb Stomp' up from here.

Monday, 30 June 2014

John Chantler - Even Clean Hands Damage the Work (Room 40)


Some albums are seemingly wrestled into shape. The effort required to prevent ‘Even Clean Hands Damage the Work’ breaking its bounds and melting the studio must surely have been strenuous. It feels caged, raging voltage testing the boundaries of its prison, the modular synth eager to escape.

Constructed around five movements separated into two side-long suites, it begins with ‘November Parts 1 + 2/Dismantled Cabaret.’ Thick with congealed roaring buzz, shimmering in a heat-haze, frequent sharp swipes across the sound-field appear and vanish like a low-passing helicopter; a constant thrumming, air and ears full of rumbling tactile sound. It becomes more scattered as it progresses, still loud and static-packed but relenting, peaks and troughs surfed with emotive aplomb: sombrely cooling circuits, dying electronics sparking surreal dialogues with other broken appliances, a scraping scree of bellowing machine noise, crusted tentacles of sound-data curling in fierce heat.  Blown ashes conveyed in softly gliding glissandi.  Machines in oppositional dialogue with themselves, a fever dream of process diverted from straight lines of cooperation into wonderful self-destruction.

The second side ‘Wollmar Rogan/The Knight Firth’ commences with a sustained drone, a pew clearing organ-dawn, a long rumbling yawn.  Tangential clank and insect-like chitter intrudes on the humming stasis; the drone recedes like the sun finally falling over the horizon to be replaced with insect night-chatter and the fluttering of aquatic synthetic gills.

‘Even Clean Hands Damage the Work’ is pyrrhic and hypnotically captivating music; a moment-to-moment drama.  Close concentration is rewarded with a world of sound, wires enmeshing the mind, burying it in hooting bird-like barely controlled chaos.

Get the album here.
 

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Various Artists - Soft Bodies Never Sleep (Soft Bodies)


‘Soft Bodies Never Sleep’ is the second compilation from Soft Bodies, a label with a diverse and open-ended roster, an approach mirrored in their club night The Electric Dog Show and this absorbing collection of music.
‘Sovereign’ by Quimper is a spooked tremulous torch song, a night ballad sung from atop a disused lock-up bathed in the orange glow of street-lamps.  With ‘The Falling King of the Oxygen Thieves’ Midwich Youth Club offer a space-prog feet-on-amps rock chugger frequently dispersing on the (solar) wind before manifesting again; losing interest in itself at the half-way point and metamorphosing into bit-crushed Nintendo-funk. A beautiful humming drone is conjured on ‘Long Enough’ By Rob Britton, chimes sparkling, synths swelling, a wave cresting in a brief beat before splashing ashore and disappearing in rivulets of sighing electronics. ‘Flea Circus’ by Gyratory System is an anarchic broken carousel of a song, close cropped reed riffs splashed with bright lurid synth strokes, maddening videogame repetition with a paradoxical louche jazz feel, cognitive dissonance in strong effect.  On ‘Cutter Street,’ Bogus Pipeline spew a frenetic punk-noise racket-rant, machine gun drum tattoo, unhinged but concisely vomitous.  This is in sharp contrast to the backwards rush of psych swirl, crisp beats, guitars, keyboards, and vocal samples wafting like sunflowers that can be found on (Episodes From) The Field Bazaar’s ‘Skywine,’ reminiscent of  Rounds-era Four Tet without the cosmic skronk. Sounding like it was recorded in its titular crawl space, Petuna Liebling MacPumpkin’s song is the aural equivalent of an eye looking out of your plug hole, a lo-fi ballad from somewhere beyond the skirting. ‘Abomination’ by Pete Murgatroyd is a shuffling velvety hammer-hip-hop mumble. ‘Help Box’ by 6&8 is the startling highlight; dizzying and hostile in large part, an aggressive mutating algorithmic ear-virus battled with calm passages of trumpeting synth blurts and mangled vocals whispering sleepy gnomic poetry; a snow-crashed brain-blast.
‘Soft Bodies Never Sleep’ is an album of oddpop emissions; inventive, lyrical, wide-ranging in tone and sound, subtle and not-so-subtle; a collection of songs charmingly and weirdly off-kilter.
'Soft Bodies Never Sleep' is available here.

Dieter Moebius - Nidemonex (More Than Human)

‘Nidemonex’ by Dieter Moebius is the latest in More Than Human’s highly desirable vinyl EP series; the label so far having released a clutch of excellent records, most recently Time Attendant’s ‘Treacherous Orb.’  Moebius fails to rest on his considerable laurels here, instead creating a sinister and dark work, as scabrous in texture as it is in tone.

‘Inmedin’ is a drifting cloud of chattering chime and singing sheet-metal, gradually burnished into a dark brassy shine by a malevolent bass line and an occasional beat like a dog coughing into a glass bowl.  ‘Zytos’ is less dense but no less arresting; reversed robot chatter and degraded field recordings of asteroid mining complexes compete with repetitive industrial hammers demarcating a primitive and crude machine rhythm.  Final piece ‘Xenos’ has drilling shrill radio frequencies scanned and discarded, a rising and falling off-waltz low-end  judder; weirdly liquid, the synths squirm and complain under congealing toxic rubbery matter; a seizure-like slap-basis interval occurs in dialogue with the circuitry of sparking android songbirds.

‘Nidemonex’ is a sparse and dark trio of communications from strange echoing spaces.  Oddtronic space music with a distinctly uncosmic intent, Ballardian in its alien sense-fractured topography; not so much bathing in the majesty of stars as shivering in some radiation-shattered derelict hulk, hopelessly adrift and crumbling, the vessel’s SOS subverted into unreadable obscurity. 
Acquire 'Nidemonex' here.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Broetzmann / Adasiewicz / Edwards / Noble - Mental Shake (OTOROKU)



Wasting no time in getting started, Peter Broetzmann begins ‘Mental Shake’ with a harsh piercing buzz of rusted saxophone holler, the rest of the group wobbling into form behind him. Steve Noble (drums) and John Edwards (bass) are a proliferating complexity of beats and accruing rumble; Jason Adasiewicz’s vibraphone dropping small calm raindrop chimes into the thickening deluge. A condensing swirl, mass and weight gather about the players with increasing density for its opening minutes, an intense sucking undertow developing with each passing moment, a crashing wave building and dissipating into frothing broiling surf. It is at moments like this that the band display their improvising genius, momentum and darting movement appearing again from a froth of scattered parts; Adasiewicz offering soft dabs of ringing sound, his delicacy in startling contrast to Broetzmann’s scurrying verbosity; Noble and Edwards buttressing the music with their usual fascinating hive-mind clatter. 
‘Mental Shake’ is another great release from the Café Oto house label OTOROKU. A performance of exquisite confusion clarified in thunderous violence.
'Mental Shake' is available here.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Matmos - Café Oto, Dalston, London – Sunday 1st June


Matmos.  Picture by Dawid Laskowski
Arriving to a packed Café Oto with blacked-out curtained windows was a disconcerting experience.  The warm evening sunlight was left at the door, the interior an expectant gloom waiting to be filled with the scraping noise and strobe assault of Jeff Carey.  He unleashed brutal screes of sharply contoured roaring gravel from a space-noise console, an almost unceasing ear-raid, the audience strafed with digital violence, the joystick music-interface and steeply inclining tilt of his table making the performance a visceral pixel-drenched arcade dive-bombing.
Drew Daniel with Jeff Carey.  Picture by Dawid Laskowski
Setting up stall within the rubble, Matmos charmed the audience with amiable humour, their characters in warm human contrast to the often jarringly alien sights and sounds they unleash from the assorted laptops, samplers, synths and films.  The show began with a gurgling descent down rancid sewer pipes, sparkling flakes of gold flushing and scouring the tunnels; the sound of competing drones intermingling with Aeolian harp flutter and bass wobble bliss, as M.C. Schmidt declared: “shit into gold!”  The material performed was all new apart from a song from the Supreme Balloon album, its joyous melted lurid organ riffs clashing with stylobuzz grinding.  Matmos were joined by Carey for another piece, encompassing metallic ringing and bit-crumbled scrape hum while a projector screen showed a slow zoom into a piano interior, hammers falling like soft stabbing blunted teeth.  A second collaboration saw a violinist joining the group for a kitchen pot-step washing-up clatter-racket which became a beautiful lowing juddering Strauss mountain dawn-rise with squealing strings accompaniment.  The duo’s legendarily odd sound-sources came into play when Schmidt cast stones from a bag onto the floor of the venue while Drew Daniels repeatedly struck a highchair with his baseball cap.  The best was saved to last which featured Schmidt dueting with a film of himself cleaning a prepared piano, answering a mobile phone simultaneously with his projected alterna-self.  The piece was loud, chaotic,  mad, and enormous fun; a dada dialogue, a clash of sense and nonsense, two electronic wizard-savants not entirely in control of their process and seemingly happy to abandon it to gleeful accident and spontaneous creation.



M.C.Schmidt. Picture by Dawid Laskowski
 Matmos’ live experimentation couldn’t be any more engaging, they abandon conceptual rigour for the pursuit of good music when circumstances demand, never slaves to their own sharp intellects.  With Matmos, the music is paramount, as it should be.

View Dawid Laskowski's Flickr page here.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Aaron Dilloway - Medicine Stunts (Hanson records)




The buzz of washing machines, a ruffling dusty sound, revolving and looping; the first piece on this digital release from Aaron Dilloway leaks weirdness and indistinct intent.  Living chains dangling like tentacles from a ceiling lost in darkness, clanking hooks suspended in grey gloom, the occasional echo acting as a joyless dub chasm-drop.  There is an accumulation of detail and scraping hissing ambience that makes this as haunted and desiccated as any tape-concrete music I’ve ever heard; there is a subtle compositional sophistication at work on ‘Medicine Stunts’, an intriguing sequencing of sounds that captures the attention until the end, and beyond.  A musical evocation of the woods around Twin Peaks, untrustworthy owls hoot emptily with forlorn exhaustion.  Elsewhere, gurgling lungs hock rusty barrels into cement mixers; apathetic ventilators wheeze and respire in roofless hospitals; cloth sacks full of taxidermied song birds squirm, their undead tweeting muffled and obscured.  A ghostly whistle acts as a spine throughout, a thread winding through this dark and fascinating album. 

Originally released in a tape edition of 100 on the Lal Lal Lal label, this digital version is available from Hanson Records, a rotting forest-shack housing many a diseased and nightmarish transmission.

Purchase 'Medicine Stunts' here.  Label info here.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Ex-Easter Island Head - Daylight Music, Union Chapel - 24th May


Missing much of Mook and Papernut Cambridge, I arrived in time for the band that most strongly drew me to this session of Daylight Music at the Union Chapel.  Ex-Easter Island Head began in an almost ritual manner, an invocation of sorts; four guitars laid upon tables, struck with mallets and resounding, appropriately given the venue, like great electric church bells.  A complicated rhythm was conjured: cow bells and drums, beats, chimes and klangs entwined in an ever-thickening spiral; spinning and sucking, the undertow of repetition becoming hypnotic; loops within loops within loops; all human-derived and played.  This was machine-like in process but full of hand-crafted brain-sculpted beauty; a half-hour of magic.  A mid-section saw all three band members rubbing the guitar strings into shivering choirs of undulating noise.  The final third built to a thrilling motoric coda; the sudden end felt wrenching and cruel; the cheers that immediately filled the venue were not, the band appearing moved by the long and grateful applause.  The show was performed with light pouring down upon the pews; the band adding further illumination in the minds of those observing their unforgettable performance. 

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Isnaj Dui - Euplexia (Rural Colours)




‘Euplexia’ is the new album from Isnaj Dui (aka Katie English); like her previous work it combines bass flute and electronics, with the addition of dulcimers on this release.  Beatific and almost entirely peaceful, the songs unfurl like petals seeking the sun; organic and plant-like in construction and pacing, progress occurs in slow steady growth, curls and incremental lunges; mind encircling sound-vines.  ‘Euplexia’ is not entirely homogenous in tone, the calm is disturbed by the slide of ‘Basement Floors’ into dank dripping subterranean spaces, stagnant pools of clanking percussion dripping ceaselessly.
The musical structures within ‘Euplexia’ appear eroded rather than written, like a menhir which has long-since lost its original boundaries, reshaped by wind and rain.  The electronics and loops are coated in moss and sap; acorns as processors, rocks as pedals; the bass flute winding like twisted branches.
There is something of the woods about Isnaj Dui; the woods in all their guises; as peaceful retreat from urbanism, unsettling home of unseen creatures, or mythic womb of many a folk-tale.  This is all encompassed in ‘Euplexia’; the album meandering through many textures and atmospheres. As Isnaj Dui, Katie English makes beautiful wind-borne music, swept to and fro like falling leaves, arcs of sound described in descending curves.

Buy 'Euplexia' here.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Cup and Bow - Bridge Physics (no label)




‘Bridge Physics’ by Cup And Bow is an album for fans of looking under the bed at night.  Using home-made instruments, synths and electronics; Cup And Bow create a creaking multitude of noise: fog horns and floating hover-menace; flickering peripheral shimmers; weary shuffling bass wobbles; waste-plain wind gusts; doom-trumpets ripping feedback from baked rocks.  Siren klaxons cause a weirdly lonely confusion; alarms sounding in empty rooms; the Nostromo’s corridors, empty of life, in the brief moments between Ripley’s escape and its self-destruction; metal, darkness, and audio distress its sole remaining inhabitants.
The occasional clatter of woody percussion resembles Demdike Stare if they left their machines unhindered, running loops autonomously.  The funereal pacing throughout enhances a uniformity of tone and delivery that becomes stifling in places, an atmosphere clogged with airborne dirt and heat; alien, dank, and sinister.
To purchase 'Bridge Physics' point yourself here.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Lost Trail - Blacked Out Passages (Visceral Media Records) / Live at Glenwood Coffee & Books, Greensboro, North Carolina, 04/11/2014 (no label)




Slate grey and beautifully so, ‘Blacked Out Passages’ hums into life like a sun rising in a sky choked with perspective-flattening monochrome cloud.  Employing longform drone, field-recordings, subtle guitar bubblings, and ambient electronic noise they create an opaque, mysterious and lustrous mist of sound; fog-choked sleepscapes for the deepest of dream dives.  The shivering and haunting ‘A Parking Lot Gloaming’ is especially affecting, a voice intones the possibility of a post-death transference of yourself into ideals and causes, an ascent into posterity and collective memory mirrored in a wonderful drift into crackling vinyl respiration and soft pillows of looped static.  There is an intensity of musical direction throughout that ensures ‘Blacked Out Passages’ transcends the merely pretty, it gathers an emotional weight about itself that belies the effortless slipstream it superficially resembles, it is a wrenching and disorientating experience to emerge into the fiery rumble and fierce Penderecki moan-chorus of closer ‘Rooftops/Spires/Valleys’.  The fury abates and the album closes in loops of sawing buzz, bird song, and fragile piano melody.




A cyclical furrow of stylus through ash.  Radiophonic ghost emissions.  Frequency-scanning hiss.  Train roar and shovel scrape.  Deep breaths of stellar sighs.  ‘Alpha’, the first half of this recording of a Lost Trail live show performed in collaboration with Animals Like Earthquakes, seems conjured from disparate noise ephemera before silky strands of synth-noise bind and warp the fragments into a whirlpool of grinding pressure; intensely alienating and bleak; it eventually falters like a crumbling engine, surrendering to rust and ruin.  ‘Beta’ begins with distorted voices, forgotten moss-choked answer machine messages, corralled into humming drone bliss by screaming guitar shepherds.  Whistling kettle elephant calls are stretched into tape-smeared crumble elegies.  A melancholy bellow into wilderness and wastelands.

'Blacked Out Passages' is availble here and 'Live @ Glenwood Coffee & Books, Greensboro, North Carolina, 04/11/2014' hereLost Trail is a duo of Denny and Zachary Corsa; explore their work here.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Various Artists - For Syria (Linear Obsessional)



Made in reaction to the ongoing disaster in Syria and hoping to make a beneficial ripple in the misery, is this great compilation album from Linear Obsessional.  The artists all donated work for free; the sounds they created are never less than fascinating.

Bruce Hamilton’s ‘Mohika’ is a meditatively sparse piano rumination.
Iris Garrelfs adorns Viv Corringham’s wonderful vocal wanderings with weird echoing electronics.  ‘Five Faced Bishop’ by Pete Flood is a glitching judderwaltz on broken stilts around reverberant ballroom acoustics.  Kev Hopper’s contribution ‘Bevelled Edges’ has an absorbing lounge insouciance, a lovely night-time tired and slightly drunken sway across bright keys and glutinous guitar effects.  ‘Intervention’ by Duncan Goddard is filtered through a plastic sheen; helicopter bass synth-whips sparking up conversation with doomy classical chord structures.  ‘Violence for your Furs, a Rework’ is full of piercing sax flutterings; sharply metallic, striking sparks; Mark Browne’s playing both snaking and lithe.  ‘Dead Voices on Air’ by Coele-Syria is a glowing ambient duskscape; glassy tones, piano melodies dancing like insects in the air, beautiful, still and poignant.  A dubby bass line, clattering kitchen-sink percussion, and twitching electronics disperse into a haunted drift coda on Marsh and May’s ‘Down the Line’.  Richard Sanderson’s ‘ShiverTipple’ is a captivating sighing taut-wire wind-hymn, becoming increasingly insectoid and alien as it progresses.  On ‘A Suit of Tin’ by Solaris crashing guitar-like down-strokes of noise interrupt winding curls of what might be accordion and clarinet, like the crashing footsteps of iron giants in peaceful butterfly-strewn fields.  The album takes a menacing turn into buzz and surface scraping abrasion with ‘Cities Without Windows’ by Chris Whitehead.  A radio-frequency scanning investigation finds only fuzz for days before alighting upon a sweetly sad folkish piano-led instrumental that comes and goes in fugue-like fashion on ‘Farewell to Woolworths’, from The Original Beekeepers.  Sue Lynch and Adrian Northover’s ‘Two Figures in a Picnic Area’ sees the two creating an argumentative sax duo packed with whistle, spinning drills and shrill vibrations in a committed and lively engagement .  ‘Degenerating Meganucleus’ by Colin Webster and Graham Dunning is all aquatic plonk and quick-sand static while snatched voice clips are sliced, stamped and burnt.  A hiss-beat ode to the age-old fish-selling trade emerges on Jude Cowan Montague’s ‘Libya’, a ticking electro pop song skewed with weird booms and business analysis digressions into the Libyan oil economy.  Skitter’s ‘DISNAE (mix) 29042014’ is a hive-storm of confusion, a rapid flicker of hot noise and foundry scraping, fierce and violent. 

Final song ‘Masters of War / War Coda’ by Mike Cooper, combines guitar, smashed piano and arresting lyrics (“you put a gun in my hand and you hide from my eyes, and you turn and run first when the first bullets fly”) in an anti-war dark ballad, an indictment of desk-bound war-mongers with drawers full of blood.  The album and song closes with a fierce free-jazz attack, words no longer enough; a suitably heated and enraged closing-of-curtains on a thought provoking and sadly necessary project, an engagement between the abstraction of the experimental underground with the reality of a collapsing nation. 

A celebration of charitable artistic creation in support of a people facing division and destruction; as well as serving an excellent cause, ‘For Syria’ also acts as an effective sampler for Linear Obsessional’s multifarious interests.  Give them your time, ears, and money.

Available until June 1st, get a copy of 'For Syria' here.  All proceeds go to the Disasters Emergency Committee Syria Crisis Appeal.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

The Electric Dog Show (Howlround / Gyratory System / Quimper) - Wed 7th May 2014 - Power Lunches, Dalston, London

This second edition of The Electric Dog Show, run by Soft Bodies Records, was held in the basement of Dalston’s Power Lunches bar was a synesthetic delight, combing a varied band line-up with colourful projected film accompaniment, the artists performing in a hazy fog of strange film fragments.

Quimper made electro odd-pop with fidgety rhythms.  Nocturnal and weirdly suburban; the sound of things that should be foxes but aren’t, dashing across orange-washed pavements.  The singing was smeared and echoed over laptop-derived electronic backing, sounding a bit like Broadcast covering a Junior Boys song they’d only heard once through a neighbour’s wall.  A set of dreamily-aloof ballads, soaked in ennui and spooked by owls.  Music for hot nights where whatever is ruffling through the bins below your bedroom window sounds like it has too many legs.

Gyratory System

Gyratory System are a reeds, pedals and bass trio that made looped and phased jazz riffs, closely curling, insistent and forceful.  Dub rhythms underpinned phased sax interactions.  A band lively and bouncing, the film projections on white office shirts were an apt metaphor for the label itself, the extraordinary and every day in ghostly uncanny concurrence.

 
Howlround were amazing, perfectly eerie, a droning, revolving yawn of sound, a morass of crumbling noise, whale moans, the distress of slowly compressing hulls and skulls, they; conjured a hard to place melancholy – perhaps from the knowledge that the tapes and machines are at the end of their lives, still vibrant but with numbered days.  Long strands of tape spun around stands, the duo stumbled around the flickering web like spiders, the audiences’ minds caught and bound, constricted further with each passing minute.  A ballet of thread-hanging twirls, or a pair of tape-architects measuring drone boundaries for fencing-in sound-ghosts.  This was likely to be the last live performance for the duo, as Howlround are faced with a choice between playing live and preserving the machines for further spectral recording duties.



The projections were brilliantly selected throughout: Disney cartoons, Svankmajer Jabberwocky loops, Terry Gilliam collages; a perfect overlay for the bands on stage, a shifting of place, the basement descending into dreams.
 
An evening canvas of wonderful weirdness, painted with strange light and stranger sounds.  The Electric Dog Show will become an essential fixture among London’s avant club nights should it become a regular occurrence.
 
 
Soft Bodies label info here.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

LOUP - Modern Heretic EP (Gaffer Records)




LOUP are a duo of Clément Edouard and Sheik Anorak employing drums and saxophone with electronics in a mind-scrouring EP for Gaffer Records label.  ‘Modern Heretic’ ranges from stop-start death grind dynamics and dark stormy layered drone on the title track to the free-fuzz-jazz of ‘Drums Unit 2’, and the obliquely funky judderscape of frantic drumming, skipping cd rhythm-erosion and caustic machine malfunction acid baths that is ‘Way After JC’.

All is not full-on blurt, however.  Burst of silence as jarring as the scolding textures are emitted at intervals; these act as brief respites in an otherwise torrential assault; ragged disintegrating umbrellas.

LOUP operate at an intersection of free-jazz, grind-metal and improvised noise electronics.  Error-rock, reject-jazz; this is pieced together from screaming off-cuts, slivers of shredded sound scorched together at furious pace; a mutating Yves Tanguy bio-morphic shape ascending a rung-less ladder.  With these three blasts of invigorating, fascinating, impassioned music; LOUP have made an EP for those in need of a thorough head-cleaning.

Get 'Modern Heretic' here.  Gaffer Records website: here.