Tagged: cassettes

Key Largo

Leighton Craig
Green Coronet
AUSTRALIA A GUIDE TO SAINTS SNT018 CASSETTE (2016)

This is a four song cassette and download release from Lawrence English’s Room40 tape offshoot A Guide To Saints (since 2012), although I actually have a cd-r promo here on the desk in front of me. As it’s a release designed for the cassette format, I’ll stick to the Side A/B protocols when discussing each piece of music. Those with an interest in American automotive history will be disappointed to learn that this release is not a tribute to an American muscle car from the 1960s, but Craig’s own Australian-made Coronet Phase 2 guitar amplifier.

The first piece (track A1 on the cassette), “Green Shroud”, has a core of a sleepy keyboard figure which repeats over which Craig layers high pitched sine waves, synthesiser, birdsong, some other pre-recorded material sourced from who knows where and heavily treated – with an analogue delay of some kind I think – somewhat out of control vocals. It might be my imagination, but there’s room noise on this track as well which suggests that something acoustic was recorded with a live mic that was neither edited nor gated later on. All of this gives one the feeling of wandering around a phantom new age festival with nothing better to do than soak up the mix of sound systems, stalls and sounds of nature on a lovely summer’s day. “Drowned World” (track A2) is a chord held down on a keyboard with clarinet extrapolations and more birdsong overlaid. Apparently, Craig dangled microphones out of the window of his Brisbane studio to capture his environmental recordings and the sound of an aeroplane passing overhead produces a pleasant effect here.

“Arc The Solar Causeways”, (B1), begins on unaccompanied electric piano. Delicate. Distant processed vocals like eddies in a stream, flowing around bulrushes. I like the way the processing becomes more and more evident; slowly taking over everything, not just the vocals. There’s a period where the music seems to fight it; the repeated vocal sounds skirt around dissonance briefly, before the entire mix becomes unstable and collapses into itself. The final piece, “Divided By Zero” (B2), is initially a conflation of what could be electronic feedback and vocals. This is the most like a “song” of all the four pieces. Although what the “song” is about exactly is hard to discern. The feedback is processed but this time the dissonance is more pronounced – it sounds like a Roland tape echo being abused here. A keyboard part cycles around the latter part of this composition, with the long-suffering tape echo being manipulated to within an inch of its life. Great bit of studio technique – I’m all for that.

On Safari

The cassette by Usurper is on Singing Knives Records, the Sheffield label who are doing their part to keep the lunatic fringe alive…the Scots duo Usurper occupy the first half of this 45-minute tape with an interminable piece of absurdist poetry / performance art, on which they recite words such as “snake, monkey, mosquito, giraffe, elephant” with bizarre vocal inflections, and create their own brand of broken, formless acoustic noise using whatever non-musical objects they can clasp in their paws. We are invited to read this escapade as a warped 19th century jungle expedition, along the lines of a lost Joseph Conrad novel…to me it feels more like they’re glancing at pictures in a children’s story-book, which is not meant to be a disrespectful remark, but there is a sense of infantile fun at work here, a possibility which is not dispelled when you see pictures of them performing with hand-drawn paper masks attached to their heads with masking tape. This “jungle” side appears to have begun life as an experiment using the Google search engine, subverting its “normal” use and instead using it as a random word generator of some sort. As they near the end, and the cries of “snakes! snakes!” become increasingly more demented and alarming, we might almost be hearing an episode of The Goon Show…it conjures up comic-strip images of hapless explorers in pith helmets and khaki shorts, flapping about as they face their doom.

Usurper are Malcy Duff and Ali Robertson from Edinburgh, and have released a fair number of CDRs and cassettes since 2005 for labels such as Giant Tank, Sick Head, Harbinger Sound, Unverified Records, Bug Incision Records, and Chocolate Monk. I’m unsurprised to find that Malcy Duff has worked once or twice with fellow loons Anla Courtis and Dylan Nyoukis; Usurper’s inchoate noise is not far apart from the churning porridge mass that Nyoukis specialises in. While I enjoy the absurdity of Usurper, their noise disappoints me as sound art; it seems thin and under-nourished. They seem to have no interest in using the microphone as anything other than an inert instrument to document their flat and uninteresting voices, which would be fine if there were a bit more energy and variation to the vocal performances. Consequently much of the tape is a dreary listen.

Usurper continue on the B-side which, judging by other online accounts of the tape, involves a dialogue around a kitchen table with more non-musical objects and simplistic repetitions of “rat-a-tat” and “blam”, while a young child occasionally intervenes with their own vocal contributions. Again, the rather flat delivery of the monosyllabic nonsense words is disappointing; in the hands of a Dadaist like Tristan Tzara or Hugo Ball, this vocal salvo would have created an explosive situation and every “blam” would have struck terror into the hearts of the bourgeoisie. By contrast, Usurper just seem bored and unengaged; this may be a deliberate post-everything beyond-ironic stance, but it also makes for a tiresome listen. However things liven up somewhat when events take them outside, and against the roar of traffic Duff and Robertson suddenly erupt into an impromptu improvised dialogue that blends clichéd dialogue from cowboy movies and pulp novels with surreal, florid, stream-of-consciousness gibberish. Overlapping voices give the listener too much to digest, and the sheer lunacy of their performance is enough to short-circuit common sense in 50 seconds. From 30th December 2016.

Yaschichek, Little Box

Herewith four more cassettes from the Russian Spina!Rec label. Arrived here 20th December 2016.

Andrey Popovskiy is the St Petersburg composer whose work has been arriving here since 2014. If there’s any connection between his releases Rotonda and Kryukov, it might have something to do with the way sound behaves in an enclosed space, and the exigencies of recording devices in attempting to capture the elusive reality of acoustical behaviours. While Rotonda seemed to misfire for Jack Tatty, we liked the mysterious properties of Kryukov (his split tape with Dubcore) and the way it somehow summoned an aesthetically pleasing effect from such everyday banality. Even to call Popovskiy a “kitchen sink” composer would be to make it far too exotic; he’d be happy to occupy the cupboard under the sink, along with the cartons of bleach. Works For Voice Recorders 2011 (SR029) takes this pared-down approach to an even further extreme. On the A side, there are five short pieces documenting his experiments with voice recording devices (dictaphones, perhaps? If those things even exist any more), placed inside a room and capturing whatever external bumps and groans may come their way. There’s also something about the devices being used to record themselves – contact mics placed in their own innards, or something. All manner of recorded artefacts are generated in a refreshingly non-digital manner. I can’t account for why this unprepossessing, near-blank grind effect is so compelling, but I can’t stop listening to it.

On the flip is a long piece called Zvukovanie, and is a far more ambitious composition lasting some 34 mins. He’s created layers of sound from field recordings out in the streets, musical performances, and rehearsals, superimposing them into what is described as a “three-dimensional” piece. Percussionist Mikhail Kuleshin and improvising trumpeter Vyacheslav Guyvoronsky join him in this task. While this might seem a recipe for chaos, in Popovskiy’s hands it results in a very pleasing jumble of balmy strangeness, drifting and shifting in unexpected ways. The listener is not being “directed” to pay attention to any one element, and instead is free to wander in an open landscape of sound events, much like an exotic street bazaar, and picking up what trinkets they may. Delightful.

SR027 is a split. The side by Andrey Svibovitch did little for me; very ordinary sounds emerge from his synths (probably due to use of over-familiar filters or pre-set sounds) and he has a simplistic approach to playing chords, both of which point to under-developed techniques. He produces a stream of undemanding electronica with little structure or originality. The four parts of “What Hides The Voice” were originally presented as part of a multi-media installation with the work of visual artist Maxim Svishev. Svibovitch creates his music using voice samples, yet what ends up on the tape is so synthetic and processed it seems to have zero connection to anything as natural and human as a voice.

The side by Sergey Vandyshev is more engaging. The electronic music of this fellow is described as an experiment in “pure data”, and there are references to “digital generators” and “granular synthesis algorithms”…most of this is beyond my ken, but it seems to point to a process-based approach where machines do most of the work, but also indicates that Vandyshev is a skilled manipulator of digital data, perhaps doing it “at source” in some way. What I mean by that is he may bypass the conventional routes of feeding information through pre-sets and filters. Anyone who can run an algorithm at granular synthesis level is capable of anything. The sound of his untitled tracks is certainly quite clean, and feels uncluttered by unnecessary elaborations. I also like the loops, repetitions and insistent pulsations, which are set forth in a very porous, open-ended manner, as if he’s found a way to avoid the trap of the strict grid-systems imposed by digital sequencers. This reminds me very much of a more low-key version of Pimmon.

SR028 is a split. For this release we have a rare (for this label) instance of acoustic music played on musical instruments – as opposed to their standard electronic fare. Blank Disc Trio are a Serbian group of improvisers who have been at it since the late 1990s. It used by a duo of the core members Srdjan Muc and Robert Roža (guitar and electronics, respectively), but have since been joined by Georg Wissel, who puffs a “prepared” alto saxophone. For this tape, they were joined by the pianist Dušica Cajlan-Wissel and the electric guitarist Julien Baillod. What they play is a rather tentative version of the “electro-acoustic improv” thing, a form which in their hands takes a long time to get started and is littered with many half-baked stabs and much guesswork along the way. I like the abrasive textures they manage to summon up, and it’s good that they know when to shut up and leave gaps for each other, but overall there isn’t enough coherence or continuity in these wispy musical ideas to sustain my interest.

On the flipside we have Ex You, another three-piece of Serbian experimenters. Milan Milojković, László Lenkes and Filip Đurović blend electronics, guitar, and drums into a pleasing scrabbly mess of non-music, keeping it fairly low-key and resisting the temptation to create a hideous energy-noise blaroon-out. The addition of guest cello player Erno Zsadányi only increases our pleasure in this grumbly, meandering groan-fest. Like their Blank Disc brothers, this group sometimes finds it hard to crank up the old motor, but once they get it turning over we’re guaranteed a much more exciting drive through the old Serbian mountain tracks. I wish more drummers could act with the restraint and decency of Đurović; he doesn’t call attention to himself with fills and ornament, but his steady gentle pulsations give a surprisingly sturdy backbone to this music. Two members of the trio also play in Lenhart Tapes Orchestra, should you feel curious to investigate the Serbian “scene” further; their 2014 album Uživo Sa Karnevala Glavobolje looks like the one to go for.

The tape Povstrechal Gaute Granli (SR030) is a team-up between Mars-69 and Gaute Granli, another one of the Russian-Norway “hands across the water” affairs which this label does so well. Mars-69 are I assume Mars-96 with a slight change to the name – at any rate the core members of this Palmira trio appear to be intact. They’re about the most prolific bunch on the Spina!Rec label and we’ve enjoyed most of their disaffected noisy work. I always thought they were a guitar-bass-drums trio but here they’re spinning their craft with synths, syn-drums, and vocals. As for Gaute Granli, we’ve been enjoying the solo work and group work (in Freddy The Dyke) of this Norwegian loon for many years now, and can recommend anything he’s done for the Drid Machine and Skussmaal labels. He brought his electric guitar and voice to these Povstrechal sessions. With a line-up like that, I feel I have a right to expect some serious fireworks, which is why I felt gypped by this damp squib. With the possible exception of ‘Osa’, the opening track, the tape is a lacklustre set of pointless studio noodling, half-formed ideas trailing away, and occasional absurdist vocal dribble. One waits in vain for a single idea to catch fire or take off into the stratosphere. The band had a lot of sociable fun on the day (hint: that’s code for they all got drunk) – the press write-up seems to indicate as much – but that doesn’t justify the release of this self-indulgent nonsense.

Towards Enlightenment

Herewith three cassettes from Eric Kinny’s label Santé Loisirs in Belgium, all boasting the attractive woodblock printing covers which Eric makes himself. We last noted the label in January. Package arrived 7th December 2016.

Pont à Mousson sings 13 wistful songs of love, loss and self-doubt on Rock With Pont à Mousson (SL07). His forte is introverted, self-regarding songs, tinged with longing and regret; when he attempts more upbeat rock or pop songs, the results are rather weedy. There’s a certain charm in his relaxed, conversational style of singing which does connect with the listener, but he’s not a particularly strong vocalist. I like the brevity of the songs though, and the spare arrangements – guitar, piano, drum machine – do smack of honesty and economy. The cover art is drawn by Nicolas Guine, showing Pont à Mousson surrounded by flying devils who are not especially threatening.

Hablemos del Alma has just four songs on his self-titled cassette (SL06). This is the solo turn of Angelo Santa Cruz from Chile, and it’s performed with synths, twangy guitars, drum machines, and low-key vocals, adding up to a personal take on the synth-pop genre (though not quite unsettling enough to be labelled Cold-Wave or Dark-Wave or whatever the term is). Weirdly, he describes his creations as “New Age” music, a connection which I don’t get at all. At least there’s a smidgen more tension in his songs than the wispy Pont à Mousson, and there’s a certain opacity about his motives I like. Only once or twice does he lapse into rather tasteful chords that transform him into a DIY cabaret singer. He does it with old-school synths, ARPs, organs, and Diana Menino, Micaela Skoknic and Manu Guevara assisted with the vocals.

Final item is a real oddity by McCloud Zicmuse, a vagabond musician who we encountered a couple years ago with his Version D’un Ouvrage Traduit album on a record credited to Le Ton Mite. Today’s cassette, Het Slechtgetemperde Klavier en Zwakke Blokfluiten (SL08), is performed using harpsichords, flutes and recorders, striving hard to project a medieval, renaissance or Baroque period feel. In the end it delivers the sensations of a lost European movie soundtrack, with its very short cues (most of the tracks are under a minute in length) and vaguely “historical” atmosphere; you can practically see the wenches, knights and jesters cavorting in front of an old castle photographed in Eastmancolour. This might not quite be the whimsical pastiche I’m making it out to be, and there’s a certain strange mystique lurking behind these elliptical, half-finished musical statements; and Zicmuse performs everything with strength and conviction. At 23 tracks it may seem to be stretching a single idea a little too far, but the album is brief overall. Recorded in London and Belgium.

Ghost in the Shell

The Slate Pipe Banjo Draggers is one of the UK’s best kept secrets…one-man band Andy Rowe has been turning in these slightly deranged and consistently witty productions for a few years now, occasionally sending us such home-released gems as Prime Bolus Music and Peeled Up For The Sake Of Fruit Music. With his latest cassette Sedimenters, he may have surpassed himself…it’s a surreal and queasy series of klonking rhythms, in places achieving the divine trancey dementia of those early records by the original Amon Düül (my usual touchstone for primitive beat and chanting music). As is customary, each muddy production is enriched with layers of samples, including voices taken out of context to create bizarre juxtapositions, creating unusual dialogues or solo recits that are both hilarious and unsettling. He somehow manages to combine elements of krautrock, trip-hop, dub reggae, sampling and noise music into his own sludgy mix-fests, and never once stumbles over his own feet. Only the most ungenerous listener could ever accuse him of going too far or going on too long; I think the lengthier sprawls here into 8-minute territory are just what he needs to unleash the full power of his imagination. At one time these flights of fancy would have been pressed into a four-track EP on 12-inch vinyl, and John Peel would have played it every weeknight. Superb stuff…I see from the press release Rowe’s been busy in 2016, with a number of live performances and collaborative projects, including working with Lord Mongo in Manchester. Limited edition cassette, 50 copies, from 1st December 2016.

We Are Glass

We have a lot of time for Richard Kamerman, the New York sound artist who operates the great label Copy For Your Records to release slabs and snippets of unusual noise of great power and mysterious charm. I see it’s been a while since we received anything from that label, but it may be because postage from the USA to the rest of the world is now so ridiculously high. His last solo album heard by us was None For The Money in 2012, though since then he has duetted with Anne Guthrie and as one third of Delicate Sen with Guthrie and Billy Gomberg. Very pleased to receive this cassette tape Music For Glassblower’s Studio and Broken Toy Piano (ORGANIZED MUSIC FROM THESSALONIKI t33), which arrives with a powerful “furnace” cover and two sides elegantly titled in ways that are typical of Kamerman’s minimal sentence construction and clever use of punctuation to subvert meaning. At first you may think this is just going to be a “normal” field recording type thing with its documents of the interesting sounds of a glassblower at work, but in fact it’s layered and dotted with all manner of unusual details – weird faraway echoes of unidentifiable sounds, distorted speaking voices, creaky drones, and even small portions of tentative melodies. Apparently it’s a blend of “site-specific recordings and performance”, suggesting that it’s valid to read the whole tape as a record of a piece of performance art. Natch, the purpose and meaning of all these invisible actions is completely opaque, yet it’s a highly compelling listen, a wonderfully textured and rewarding slab of mystery noise broadcast directly from the imagination. I would compare this one to the work of Jim Haynes, only less slow and wispy, with noisier elements and not quite so overtly mystical…100 copies made, released in July 2016, arrived here 5th December 2016.

Blank Cassette

The latest enigma in the form of a cassette tape arrived from Rinus Van Alebeek on 13th October 2016. As usual the first task facing me – or anyone who purchases these hand-made works of art – is to unwrap the package and try and get to the tape. In this instance, you also have to remove strips of masking tape if you actually want to play the tape, since they’re placed so as to cover up openings that allow the machine to engage with the tape reels. Whenever I do this with one of Rinus’ releases (which are extremely limited), I always feel like I’m damaging the artwork in some way. I don’t see a way around this, however, since I do want to hear the sounds. How many owners of the first Velvet Underground LP actually have an unpeeled banana in their possession, and if they do, does it make the record any better?

Two sides…two suites which may or may not be related. With “Side White”, which is called “Done Before”, we’ve got a very episodic stream of consciousness, segments of long spoken-word affairs mixed up with the strange sound art which layers music, noise, field recordings and voices into tasty collage-pieces. There is an enclosed typewritten note inside the release, advising us “This tape has spoken word parts on it,” followed by allusions to details of the content, friends, fading memories, which leads into a slightly melancholic contemplation or reminisce of some kind. I sense that the artist is going through the attic and finding old letters, diaries, photos and other fragments of the past, and wondering what it all means. The only difference is that Rinus does his diary work using cassette tapes, rather than the notebook or the camera. “The other me that I heard on the recordings was at a long distance of the actual me”, is his puzzling conclusion. “The other me is almost a stranger”. I think we’ve all felt like this at some point in our lives…when I periodically clear out my desk at work, I look at notes I scribbled down months ago and don’t have the slightest idea what they refer to, or what I was thinking about.

“I could have faked the found tape idea,” the artist tells us. That triggered a reference in my own mental library…it’s possible that with “Done Before”, Rinus Van Alebeek has come close to realising his own take on Krapp’s Last Tape, that bleak vision of futility as penned by Samuel Beckett and featuring an old man playing back his old tape recordings, laughing at the folly and delusions of his younger self. But Beckett saw the universe as absurd and meaningless, and the whole play might be a metaphor for how we can end up alienated from our own past lives. “Done Before”, I would like to think, is far less pessimistic about the value and the meaning of memory; the creator is genuinely puzzled by it all, and would like to find out more. Perhaps the process of assembling this work is his way of addressing the issue.

Incidentally this side also includes contributions from the excellent Zan Hoffman who made Zanstones Fur Berlin on this label, and Tim Ruth, and portions of it may date back to 2001 and a visit to Louisville in Kentucky. Already the shifting time-travel aspects of this work present many interesting opaque layers for the ear and mind to traverse.

The “Side not so white” of the cassette is called “Historie d’un Pomme de Terre” (HPT). Voices on here too, I think…I’m not sure because things are somewhat more distorted here. At least on “Done Before” we can make out some snatches of spoken word (in English) which are intelligible, and indeed make us feel like we’re eavesdropping on a private conversation or a solitary reminisce, and create the effect which Van Alebeek anticipates when he speaks of “a…listener who will try to deduce a story”. On HPT however, the emphasis is more on the recording process itself, especially machines like Walkmans and their “inbuilt speakers”, and what ends up on the tape is a captured moment that’s as much a record of its own creation as it is a document of some slice of reality. The creator is evidently more interested in artefacts and faults, surface noise, tape hiss and distortion, relishing their unpredictable sonic textures, than he is interested in presenting an accurate record of the spoken word. We’ve heard this approach to the materiality of tape many times with Rinus, but what always impresses me is how nuanced and subtle the results are, the delicacy and care with which he preserves these fragile, fleeting moments of sonic beauty.

This material is great to listen to on its own terms, if you enjoy this strange decontextualised and rather abstract sound. But it also has the effect of making us try and decode the voices, and understand what is being said…we turn from being eavesdroppers and start to become more like spies, listening with our CIA headphones from the other side of the hotel wall, hoping for a clue that will break the case. It’s the aural equivalent of straining your neck to see what’s going on through an obscure window, and perhaps an even more extreme version of the “try to deduce a story” effect noted above.

HPT also features “unidentifiable French songs and Bollywood songs” apparently, reminding us that for all his apparent conceptual severity Rinus still enjoys good popular songs. Yet when these elements appear in HPT, they’re like fading memories of music, washed-out photographs, wispy and dreamy.

Crude Cassettes

Herewith one large envelope of Miguel A. García-related material from 19th September 2016.

The cassette tape Harigams (CUT#35) comes to us from the Polish label Wounded Knife. The story of it is that Miguel A. García was touring Europe with the French saxophonist Sébastien Branche, and during the Warsaw leg of the trip they recorded a studio set with the drummer Wojtek Kurek from the experimental duo Paper Cuts, and Mateusz Wysocki (sometimes called Fischerle), armed with his laptop of sound samples and field recordings. On the A side, an understated but dense cloud of smeared, fizzy, electro-acoustic noise was the result, a rather subdued and slow drone where it’s hard to say where the saxophone leaves off and the electronic elements begin. The musicians seem to be hampered by uncertainty, but at least their efforts create a fairly pleasing trance. At length, a more restless note creeps into the day’s work, and attempts are made to coarsen the surface with harsh electronic whines and bubbly, crackly emissions from the bell of Branche’s sax. Things improve somewhat on the B side, where the abrasive textures continue and the general flow of the music is subject to more ebb and flow. There’s a nice sample of some vocal music thrown in by someone, but it’s done tentatively, and you wish it could last for longer. The noises are generally pretty good, but the performers are not organising themselves. There’s a general lack of spirit and courage that prevents this music from really catching fire.

Another cassette tape Crudo (NYAPSTER 019) was recorded by García with Carlos Valverde. García and Valverde have performed and recorded together as Cooloola Monster, and their Canciones Del Diablo is an all-time classic in the blasphemous / supernatural noise stakes. On this occasion (as far back as 2011) the harsh pair locked their noisy antlers together and recorded a piece at Radio Bronka in Barcelona, under the general rubric of “Fuck The Bastards” – not sure if this refers to a regular broadcast on that station or a music festival or what, but it’s a good piece of anti-social hate-mongering, not unlike the sort of slogans employed by Crass and Flux Of Pink Indians in the 1980s, except they did it in an anarchist context. The word Crudo is of course entirely apt for this burst of coarse filth, and for about 23 minutes you’ll wallow in scads of black feedback and ugly electronic scabrousness. That sense of nagging insistence, like being attacked by a remorseless sewing machine or other torture implement, is one of García’s strongest characteristics, and in Carlos Valverde he has clearly found a kindred spirit who shares his sadistic tendencies. The cover art – a single word written in black – is spray painted on through a stencil, and the cassette is issued in a Poly-Frosty-Flexi case.

The split tape on Rypistellyt Levyt (RL-016) is not exclusively a Miguel A. García item, but he’s on the B side. At time of writing, this small Helsinki label only offers three releases on its Bandcamp page, but it’s been active since 2009 or earlier, starting out with CDRs but then specialising in cassettes, and has been home to such Finnish obscurities as Neue Haas Grotesk, Supermasters, and the jazz group Horst Quartet. The A side was recorded in Helsinki in 2015, and features our good friend Ilia Belorukov, the ubiquitous Russian, wielding his sax and electronic setup in the company of Lauri Hyvärinen, the Finnish improvising guitarist. The label describe this noise as “slowly unravelling acoustic and electric sounds”, and point out that it was recorded in a concrete bunker, as if that really made any difference. It’s a dud in any case; the duo’s attenuated electric whines and clattering junkyard scrabbles completely fail to cohere for me, but it sounds as though Lauri Hyvärinen has a unique approach to playing the guitar.

On the B side, Miguel A. García is doing it live in Mexico with Héctor Rey, about a week after the Helsinki gig took place. Rey from Bilbao is not unknown in these quarters as he runs the Nueni Records label, which every so often sends us a CDR missive containing obscure and challenging minimal / improvised music. We haven’t heard much of his own work, but his Myxini from 2012 (on the comp Radical Demos #4) impressed us, because of the utter seriousness with which he approached the problem of simply plucking a string. It was as though his very life depended on him sounding the right note. On this Live At Umbral set he’s playing violin and percussion while García supplies electronics, and it’s an extremely subdued set punctuated with much silence and hesitancy. There’s that same sense of deliberation (some might call it paralysis) that I recall from Myxini. When the duo do manage to make a noise together, it’s as if they’re looking at each other with doubtful expressions, asking each other “is this okay?”, as though they were questioning their very right to make improvised music before an audience at all. The duo “work on their sound from a sculptural perspective” according to the label blurb, which may be their way of trying to express in words the deliberation of this stilted approach to playing, likening the musician to a sculptor carefully chipping away at a large slab of marble. They manage to stretch this shilly-shallying out for 17 uneventful minutes, and you’ll need a lot of patience to get to the end of it. Limited edition of 50 copies was released in March 2016, and has already sold out.

The tape Absquatulate Azimuth (BC023) is an old one from 2015, and long sold out. Bicephalic Records is an American tape label and many of the releases feature cover drawings by the owner, August Traeger, who also appears on this split. On the A side, García turns in three variations on a theme he calls Stripes (For Windowpane)…probably one of the most unsettling and confusing sets I’ve heard from the man. It’s got the familiar sense of obsessiveness and the determination to explore an unknown area, but he’s really pushing against the limits, particularly on the spooky third part. Feels like something that members of Nurse With Wound would’ve welcomed in the late 1970s…a real creepster. Apparently the work is derived from “original raw sound sources by window pane”, if that means anything to you.

August Traeger is a new name to me, but he’s a video artist as well as a musician, and also trades under the name Somnaphon. His two contributions are no less creepy than the A side, and ‘Eating Borrowed People’ has a spooked cinematic vibe which I attribute to the sound effects of echoing footsteps and suspenseful chords in the background. But the footsteps are irregular and troubling; no human has ever trod the pavements of the world and created such an unnatural rhythm. I preferred this contribution to ‘Logistic Maps (Subset 2)’, a rather routine bit of glitch and scrambled low-key techno which barely hangs together, but even so Traeger has a nice line in producing synth tunes in the background which make the flesh creep with their queasy, off-centred nature.

Fields Of Debris

Source: http://farpointrecordings.com/mcs/fergus-kelly–shot-to-shreds/

Welcome return of Fergus Kelly, the Dublin-based sound artist, with his new cassette Shot To Shreds (FP057) on the lovely Farpoint Recordings label. Last heard him in 2012 with his album A Congregation Of Vapours, noted as a fairly noisy and raucous entry in the electro-acoustic arena, and we’re pleased to say his interest in ugly electronic crunchery, nasty feedback, semi-industrial gruntings and lumps of metal continues on this tape. The A side is a suite of seven abstract bursts under the heading Debris Field, a title which instantly conjures visions of a junkyard, a trash pile being remade into art in some way. Even the collage cover art, with its daubs of paint smeared over newsprint sheets, could be read as the sort of thing we’d find pasted to the hoardings near this imaginary junkyard, or scraps stuck forlornly on the corrugated iron walls around the compound. The label describe this side as “a tactile and disintegrating landscape of fractured spaces and skewed geographies”, implying strongly that Kelly continues to layer field recordings into his work. On this occasion it’s a glorious maximal bash, one that both celebrates and decries the grime and grit of urban concrete hell that continues to blight parts of the UK (and Ireland, evidently), hemming us in with its unfinished building projects, broken walkways, and unkempt roads. It’d be cool to think of Kelly as a subversive lover of the “derive”, but he doesn’t wander around these scapes like some French intellectual, and instead he takes them for what they are, producing sprawling noise with no clear beginning and end, much like the piles of trash that clearly inspire him.

The B side is more cerebral than the punk-rock inflected A side. Four diverse pieces, including ‘Impact Spatter’, ‘Discrete Oblique’, ‘Cored’ and ‘Closing The Circuit’ are more recognisable as collage and cut-up works, often using musical elements to make their ambiguous statements, and making judicious use of “time-stretching” to slow down certain layers. Taken at a sitting, this B side produces strong hallucinatory and dream-like states in short order. The cut-up voices on ‘Discrete Oblique’ border on nightmare, otherwise innocent and everyday remarks taking on a horrific tinge as they’re juxtaposed with absurdist fragments of musical snatches and chord ripped out of context. The lovely ‘Cored’, a personal favourite of mine, is dominated by a grinding heavyweight drone of metallic feedback that all but crushes the skull under its mighty weight. The “relentless sonic snowstorm”, as the press notes would have it, is a remorseless exercise in piling on an excess of noisy content, almost like Merzbow in slow motion. It includes a slowed-down sample from ‘I Want You (She’s So Heavy)’, one of The Beatles’ finest attempts at rendering the onset of the apocalypse in music. The grotesque noise of that 12/8 guitar figure, awash with white noise from George Harrison’s Moog synth, is to a noteworthy statement of sheer doom, better even than the end of ‘A Day In The Life’. Here, in among Kelly’s intense stew of digital violence, it has found a proper home. The programme of side B – it is a well-sequenced album, for sure – means that we end with ‘Closing The Circuit’, a seven-minute composition supposedly making use of “vacated spaces”, and intended to provide aural relief to the battered listener after the onslaught of the 13-minute ‘Cored’. But it doesn’t relieve us of the sense of foreboding or doubt, and we leave the world of Fergus Kelly freighted down with more sorrow and uncertainty than before.

Multiple methods and sources were used to create this fine record, including feedback, tapes, e-bowed strings, amplification, field recordings, electronic music, and music samples. From 29th September 2016.

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Working in the 1980s, A. K. Klosowski produced music and noise with his largely hand-operated methods of pressing buttons and depressing keys to get playback from a bank of eight Walkman cassette tape players. He also used a drum machine and some effects. “Intuitive and spontaneous control” are the operative words for this practice.

He hooked up with Kurt Dahle, a member of the Dusseldorf synth band Der Plan, a record appeared in 1985 called Hometaping Is Killing Music (Dahle appeared under his Pyrolator name). I never heard it, but the present LP A. K. Klosowski Plays The Kassetteninstrument (GAGARIN RECORDS gr2035) predates that session, and is done solo.

Reading about it may be more interesting than hearing it; it’s certainly a great way of working, and while the album contains an entertaining and inventive set of tunes, it doesn’t go much beyond a primitive sampling set-up with added noise and beats. A.K. doesn’t push it far enough; or the set-up itself is limited. Klosowski manipulates his device, and his sounds, like modelling clay. It results in lovely imperfections, rough edges, things not matching, which I like. I never liked that school of thought that spent ages crafting a “perfect” loop or sampled beat, an approach which kills spontaneity.

Other writers have picked up on the theme that this represents an early pre-digital approach to sampling, and invoked Cabaret Voltaire and The Art Of Noise. I like this better than Cabaret Voltaire (who were too arty, and trying to tell us something) and The Art Of Noise (who were too synthetic, too layered with intellectual pretensions.) Klosowski has a directness – his noise is noise – and it may start with tapes, but doesn’t end there. His actions are imprinted instantly onto the record without studio “diddling” before and after. It may even be closer to the “art” end of early sampling, for instance Steve Reich.

Not every track here is “abrasive disco”. ‘Lamento’ is a very nice use of strange loops, mostly voices and strings, and not too far away from Canaxis (‘Boat Woman Song’). And ‘R H 2’ is as close as he comes to producing chaotic industrial noise.

Let’s not forget cassette tapes are at the heart of this inventive noise. Label owner Felix Kubin doubtless approves; his love-affair with the cassette tape was wittily and passionately expressed on his Chromodioxgedächtnis box set, which we noted in 2015.

From 31st August 2016.