Tagged: devices

Vinyl Sevens Muster – 1 of 3


Last heard from Trophy Wife with their eponymous EP from 2011…here they are now with Stella, My Star (PRIVATE LEISURE INDUSTRIES PLI-5), two songs which show this Tennessee all-girl band now reduced from a quartet to a trio and continuing their themes of haunted suburban angst which they deliver with lo-fi post-punkish guitars and synths and wispy washed-out vocals. Have to admit this is an improvement on the earlier EP which didn’t know where to put itself and wound up like a fakeified Goth-lite mish-mash of ideas, despite some spiky highlights in the playing. Here, the title track is a jumble of words which are hard to decipher, but it’s clear a sinister story is being unfurled and there’s no happy ending to it; matter of fact the song just stops dead abruptly with no formal warnings, leaving the listener a tad stunned. The disquieting tone of the instruments here, and the uncertain chord changes and key of the song, create the correct degree of unsettling paranoia. A dense and opaque nightmare in the daylight. B side ‘Frankie’s Song’ is certainly more limpid, and the dark nursery rhyme of the repeated lyric is incredibly basic, but the payoff to this “tale of childhood love gone wrong” feels as trite as a Hollywood teenage horror flick. I think this band have potential, but they gotta stop striking so many poses that don’t quite fit, and strive to be themselves a bit more. Arrived 10 April 2012.


Romvelope has a seven-incher Catomountain / Hodmandod (ADAADAT ADA0025). This is the electro-acoustic sound-artist Bjorn Hatleskog, a man with feet planted in both Norway and Scotland, who performs with handmade sound sculptures in what could be deemed a rather eccentric performance setup. He’s built an electric organ that can be played with a remote control, a guitar that strums itself, and an item called the “robotic bongo” which I take to be his personal rustic update on the drum machine, and hopefully a convoluted device that is far more complex and time-consuming than some facile piece of programmable machinery. Hatleskog also generates his own unique form of live electronic sound by processing and amplifying the otherwise inaudible buzz from fluorescent lights. This might be akin to the methods employed by Atsuhiro Ito and his optron, but I’m prepared to be corrected on that. It’s probably no surprise to learn that he’s done it in art galleries around the UK and mainland Europe; this kind of thing just begs to be seen in a confined space. Reading about his quirkoid inventions makes them appear rather brilliant, but as sound art, this record is tame and unadventurous, a dreary series of random clops and buzzes; the endearing “clunky” feel to the recording is the only factor that appeals to me, as though Romvelope were presiding over a workshop of charming wooden toys that are gradually coming to life. However, neither Pierre Bastien nor Bruce Lacey will be losing any sleep. Limited to 200 copies, arrived 8th July 2013.


MHFS is one of two items we received from the fine Emerald Cocoon label on 30 January 2013. This is Mark Sadgrove, a New Zealander based on Tokyo who is also an atomic physicist. The Grey Lynn Homeless Set (EMERALD COCOON EC006) was originally delivered in response to a commission from the label, who asked Sadgrove to perform a support set for Metal Rouge’s debut live show in 2006. He was too busy working on his thesis on quantum mechanics to attend, and instead turned in the recordings on this seven-incher, requesting that they be played over the PA. Well, I spun this item at home and have at first been massively underwhelmed by MHFS’s baffling outburst of arbitrary, meaningless noises. Now as I wrote this I find I can’t wait to hear it again. It’s short to the point of abruptness, the sounds generated are lazy, dull, and broken, and all the mistakes in the process – Sadgrove uses an incredibly primitive setup which can barely be called “musical” in any sense of the term – are exposed for all to hear, and indeed incorporated into the finished work. Apparently it’s all very deliberate; his selection of recording locations that allow for maximum leakage of environmental sounds onto the tape, his detuned and de-assembled acoustic guitar that has been strung with six low E strings, and a system of recording that is programmed, perhaps using mathematical methods, to deliver the certainty of randomness to a high degree. The other appealing element is that none of the above is “explained” on the recordings, which simply burst on stage and make their brief statements underscoring the absurdity of existence, before vanishing into the nearest wormhole. The A side of this item will be more “shocking” to those who crave form or structure, while the B side may win you over with its bizarrely distant voice elements and its additional textures, which contrast quite sharply with the stark minimalism of the A side. Marginal in extremis, the ultra-simple approach of MHFS calls into question more elaborate forms of sound art, making them appear labour-intensive and wasteful by comparison. This is #4 in the label’s “Alone Together” series.

Rest from Breathing

The News from Neptune

Following in a haphazard American tradition of home-made instruments and objects that are half-sculptures are Neptune, who have been in existence for about 17 years and have over two dozen releases to their credit, yet Silent Partner (NORTHERN SPY NS013) is the first thing I ever heard from this highly inventive combo. What they play is a curious percussion-heavy brand of discombobulated and disjunctive music, decorated with crazy electronic music and held together by strong and stern bass guitar riffs. Sometimes this is done in the service of bizarre songs which are replete with symbolic imagery, such as ‘Canine’ with its obsessive repetitions of “we dogs in cages” painting a bleak portrait of contemporary mankind’s plight, and the image of the wildman running through the forest in ‘Cash Mattress’ is no less alarming. Then you’ve got ‘Collection Plate’ which is a lengthy instrumental allowing them to demonstrate many aspects of their unearthly sound, with demented oscillators, half-functioning circuit-bending devices, choppy rhythms, and multiple percussion effects, all evidence of sentient life crawling slowly out of a huge junkyard, as if a metallic zombie arising from an automobile graveyard. Jason Sandford is the main man behind this distinctive Boston combo, arriving in this musical milieu from a background as a sculptor; he built the chimera instruments, which according to the photographs look like a cross between Keith Rowe’s tabletop guitar, the Simeon, and an industrial sewing machine. Compared to Partch who took an interest in conventional decorative aesthetics for the finished state of his assorted microtonal instruments, Sandford clearly favours a more rugged and rough functional approach to his work, and for his engines and devices all the guts are clearly on display with no attempt to pretty things up with a cowling, a leather case, or a polished surface. The players Pearson, Micka and Ebrahimi lay into their work with a perfect combination of enthused gusto and mysterious poise, and though there have been other lineups of Neptune it’s clear these fellows are highly comfortable and conversant with the ungainly beasts which they must wrestle on a daily basis. In short, if you want an unclassifiable combination of strange gamelan music, post-punk jerky rhythms, experimental electronics with odd dynamics, semi-pagan lyrics and minimal no wave keyboards, all played in real time on unique hand-crafted instruments, this is your next purchase.

Step we gaily, on we go

The Slovakian electronics duo Jamka first came our way with a blistering LP in 2008, and continue to operate the Urbsounds Collective label to showcase their work and that of like-minded noise-punk techno beasts of Eastern Europe. Very encouraging to see they’ve got a release on the high-class Belgian label Sub Rosa as part of that label’s New Series Framework. Pari Passu (SUB ROSA SR333) is eight tracks of new work fashioned using their very intuitive, primitive and enthusiastic approach to working with synths and samplers, and each track occupies a twilight zone between tabletop noise music and whatever species of blackened techno dance music is played in underground nightclubs at 5AM in the seediest part of a pitiless urban zone, for the entertainment of futuristic vacant-eyed outcasts. Jamka have dazzled us before with their speedy and off-kiltre rhythms, but what I like so far about Pari Passu is its general slowness, many tracks emerging as a turgid electronic dirge and stumbling out of the tarpits like a new-born sabretooth tiger with tusks made of lava and whose rear end happens to be that of a young woolly mammoth. The title’s meaning, helpfully translated on the back cover, is “with an equal step”, and although Monika Subrtova and Daniel Korda are totally in step with each other as musicians, successfully anticipating each other’s every thought and move, what emerges is something that you or I would struggle to engage with at a walking pace, let alone when wearing our dancing shoes. One personal favourite here is the six-minute ‘Sland’, a grisly excursion from one end of an oil can to the other, punctuated with a deliciously clunky and racketty metal-drum beat that barely passes muster as a backbeat. You may also enjoy ‘Zyren’ where the dense and thick rhythm tracks form a tasty counterpoint to the more subtle toplines, which veer from wispy atmospheres to the drones of soaring helicopters on the attack. ‘Dashla’ shows the duo have lost none of their élan when it comes to piling up renegade elements on the mixing desk of chaos until the situation is on the verge of teetering out of control, and there’s even some melodic piano patches and synth tones drifting through the final track ‘Elma’, but even with this attempt at a John Carpenter soundtrack the album’s overall caste of gloom and anxiety is not dissipated by one iota. As cover photo demonstrates, this is an album that can induce a howl of anguish while at the same time it delivers a punch as solidly as Monika’s fist.

Poor Cows

Surabhi (HYPNAGOGIA GO02) is a recent release by Merzbow which continues his ongoing animal welfare theme by concentrating on the plight of the hundreds of abandoned cows in Vrindavan. These hapless bovines are subject to disease and famine along with the danger of cattle rustlers intent on leading them to an illegal slaughterhouse, and the organisation Care For Cows (who provided the photos for this album) offer a range of ways for you to contribute financially to their cause, adopting a cow for life or just feeding it for one day, or undertaking a bull scholarship for $30. Is it me or is Merzbow getting more melodic and vaguely “kosmische” these days? The opening track ‘Vanamali and Shravan’ is a positive feast of layered electronic tones which, once you can hear your way through the stampede of digital hooves, is packed with one thousand beautiful melodies all exploding at once like fireworks of multiple colours. ‘Balaram’ is decidedly more subdued, and sumptuous glorpy Theremin-like lines shoot their way through an atmospheric pulsation zone along with the slightly more familiar bursts of Merzbow’s sandpapery rasps. ‘Yamuna Snan’ is even more complex, stereophonic explosions and ultra-processed digital water splashes all colliding in a glorious melange of unstoppable tidal-wave proportions. The merciless pounding rhythms and pulses which used to be one of Merzbow’s signature sounds has evolved into something much more ambiguous and benign, and results in music which is no less powerful but somehow more approachable and easier to listen to.

Gidgets, Gadgets, Nostrums (TSP radio show 21/05/04)

  1. Philip Jeck, ‘Vienna Faults’
    From Stoke, UNITED KINGDOM TOUCH#TO:56 CD (2002)
  2. Adam Bohman, ‘Metal Mushroom’
    From Music and Words, UNITED KINGDOM PARADIGM DISCS PD 09 CD (1999)
  3. O + A, ‘Spandau’
    From Box 30/70, GERMANY TOURETTE #TICK 7 CD (2001)
  4. Coelacanth, ‘Method of extricating a live wire’
    From The Chronograph, USA PARTITION P/1 CD (ND)
  5. Hugh Davies, ‘Solar Night’
    From Warming up with The Iceman, GERMANY GROB 324 CD (2001)
  6. Hugh Davies:
    a. ‘Chinese Fan’
    b. ‘Larchcone Clickers’
    c. ‘Envelope Buzzer’
    d. ‘Squeakbox’
    e. ‘Conference Instrument’
    From Sounds Heard, FMR RECORDS FMRCD104-0402 (2002)
  7. Leif Elggren, extract from Pluralis Majestatis, SWEDEN FIREWORK EDITION RECORDS FER 1010 CD (1999)
  8. Tore Honoré Boe, ‘Selvstey’
  9. Kymatik, extract from ‘tISEDNI’
    From Dar-As-Sulh Vol 1, UNITED KINGDOM PARADIGM DISCS PD 15 CD (2001)
  10. B.C. Gilbert, ‘radiator, plane, bang’
  11. Michael Prime, extract from ‘osculation’
  12. Gen Ken Montgomery:
    a ‘Keystone Model CC16′
    b. ‘Egnekn’s Fridge’
    c. ‘Laminator Model 2291′
    d. ‘Storage Devices’
    From Pondfloorsample, USE XI RECORDS XI 126 2 x CD (2002)
  13. Rehberg and Bauer, ‘spat-fridge (gar mix)’
  14. Philip Jeck, ‘Open’ From Stoke, op cit.

The Sound Projector radio show,
originally broadcast on Resonance 104.4 FM