Leaves From Off The Tree (BO’WEAVIL RECORDINGS WEAVIL16CD) is another shining example of contemporary folk music from the very fine UK singer Sharron Kraus, here part of a trio with friends American songstress Meg Baird and the avant cellist Helena Espvall. Together they recorded a selection of nine favourite folk songs and ballads (effortlessly completing the entire album in one afternoon), a mixture of English and American traditions, with short anecdotes in the gatefold about where they learned each song – sometimes from records, sometimes from meeting older folk singers, and in one instance finding a version online. The combination of stringed instruments (guitars, dulcimer, cello) is divine enough, but the tripartite harmonies of their singing voices are simply exquisite. A beautiful and delicate record.
American enthusiast from Maryland Gary Young sent us a coupla copies of his nifty single recorded under his alias Music From The Film and pressed in clear orange vinyl which spins at 45rpm but could also be heard at 33 and comes with a home-made adapter to generate eccentric revolutions. For Bit c/w Crushface, he recorded layers of instrumentation and electronics to produce some seven minutes of cheery looping and lolloping insanity, clearly having an enormous amount of fun while doing so (a spirit of playfulness is often lacking I find from many of the sober and serious records that are sent to this magazine). His use of the banjo is particularly frolicsome. Using the adapter to play the record produces a rather queasy and slightly idiotic effect (he calls it the “Swimmier” mix) and sends the record players tone-arm out for a long and bizarre walk, and less adventurous music fans may just enjoy playing this record “straight”. This was first broadcast on The Garden Of Earthly Delights radio show in Milton Keynes; Young is an active supporter of “free form” radio and his press kit comes with a huge list of international radio stations (mostly American it must be said) providing the sort of unique aural creativity that satisfies him. I am honoured to find that TSP Radio is on his list. 500 numbered copies only.
Mark Wastell has sent a sumptuous white vinyl 12-incher by Oceans Of Silver & Blood (NOSORDO NSRD010), his tam-tam duo project which features the great Joachim Nordwall with his Roland Modular synth. Moody, atmospheric low-frequency monotony pours off this sullen beast as you rotate it in the darkened dungeon of your mind, yet the overall shape has much density and detail, packed into each fretful moment by these skilled players who resemble 19th-century craftsmen working with Portland cement to produce the heaviest building bricks the world has ever known. Much as I like my old Thomas Köner CDs, Wastell’s powerful use of the gong’s surface makes him look pretty pallid in comparison. Also from Wastell, some new items from his Confront Collectors Series imprint, two of them packed in these new ReSleeve recycled card wallets instead of his usual clamshell cases. Keith Rowe & Mark Wastell were recorded in 2006 in Dublin for live at i-and-e (CCS 12), producing nine and twenty minutes of low-key rustling and snorey buzzes on what comes across as a slightly muffled and cramped recording. On Hydriotaphia (CCS 11), Wastell does the tam tam and synth thing again, this time partnering up with Jonathan McHugh setting the controls for the heart of the sun on his ARP 2600 to produce an intense 45 minutes of absolute minimal zero-ness. McHugh’s ultra-subtle use of the mixing desk really saves the day on these 2009 studio recordings. The Sealed Knot is a trio with Rhodri Davies, Wastell and Burkhard Beins, and on the repress of 2004’s Unwanted Object (CCS1) we have four tracks of charged explorations made with strings, percussion and various small resonant sounds, which for all its deliberate ambiguity in the sound exhibits the clarity and precision of performance we have come to associate with this great group.
From Release The Bats in Sweden we received three excellent slices of vinyl which can be used to weigh the chill hand of oppression on your enemies, while simultaneously uplifting the spirits of the pure and the good. Källarbarnen (NATTMARAN 01) is not actually on the RTB label, but this self-titled 12-incher is a harrowing episode of ramshackle, wasted, rock noise made with a drum kit of biscuit tins and some screaming noise-production device which could be a heroin-addicted guitar or a strung-out feedback heavy synth, or both. The shadow-faced and gaunt duo who made this powerful recording of withdrawal can rest easy on their rusty camp-beds tonight, secure in the knowledge they have made a lasting and unforgettable contribution to underground culture. I played this at the wrong speed on the radio, but Mr Bats emailed me to point out my crass mistake, and I find now that played at 45 the record makes total sense to me. 275 copies only. Very high recommendation for this distraught howler of a disc!
You’ll also receive quite a lasting sensation of wintry desolation and deathritude from Altar Of Flies, currently emerging as quite a righteous talent in the area of chill-zone ambient horror noise, and whose work for me just gets better with each release. This Förruttnelsen (RELEASE THE BATS #57) album is his first full-length after various anthologised tracks and split releases, and it’s got a punchy precision and starkness that you may have missed on his earlier, noised-out affairs. Paying close attention to dynamics and evolving ideas, he lays out one ghastly buffet and blast after another, doing so with a stately slowness and icy calm, exhibiting a restraint which some of your hotly-pumping promiscuous table noise crowd could learn from, as they rush to ejaculate their slippery discharges of electronic jiz. What’s impressive is that most of this material was recorded direct to tape. Since the UK has been undergoing one of the coldest May months on record, this particular helping of stern, cold gravy fits in perfectly with our mood of grey and deathly oppression. Only 270 copies were pressed.
Blessure Grave arrive with what I suppose is an attempt at an entertaining “rock” record, by which I mean the Californian duo of Graves and Kay perform short and discernible songs in the Royal Trux mode instead of lengthy abstract noise bursts which melt into each other on the vinyl. On Judged By 12, Carried By 6 (RELEASE THE BATS #53), the Blessure-Graveniks perform tremendous instrumental bedroom-styled backdrops heavily in debt to all the great post-punk records of the 1970s and 1980s, using all the trademarks we love so well – skeletal drumming, chilly electronics, muffled bass guitars and jangly, shrill lead guitars that can shred a cabbage at twenty pages. On top of this, they intone haunted lyrics in voices so emptied-out and wracked by pain that you’ll be looking up their address so you can send them a relief Red Cross parcel full of vitamins and fresh fruit, just to cheer them up a little. The title of the album (and many of their song titles) indicate something of their morbid and fatalistic outlook on life, strongly suggesting that all of us must face judgement for our deeds and then everything ends in the grave. Despite the occasional whiff of the “gothic” which we find from this duo, this is a fine example of cathartic music to help you exorcise those alienated sensations of being buried alive and overwhelmed by the crushing forces of everyday life. This album also exists in CD form on Alien8 Recordings with some extra tracks, but this vinyl edition is limited and has a better cover too.