Seasonal Jumble

We received two cassette tapes from Ross Scott-Buccleuch in Wigan released on his Steep Gloss label. We previously heard Ross performing as Diurnal Burdens on Manchmal Auch Nicht for the More Mars label, and must deem him a good musical egg.

Joan La Babbleuh is the second time I’ve heard a band name referring to a prominent American musical modernist in a slightly parodic way; the other one was the French band La Morte Young. Joan La Babbleuh in this instance happens to be a duo of Ben Presto from Italy and Angela Sawyer from the USA. Sawyer won us over with her On The Pedestrian Side for Feeding Tube – impossible to categorise the exploits of this highly creative individual, and sound art like we hear on Waiting in the waiting room with a waiter and a waitress (STEEP GLOSS SG47) represents just one side to her personality. As to Signor Presto, he made a cassette with Ezio Piermattei, my favourite Italian genius of eccentric tapes and improvised sounds, in 2020.

For this collaboration, we have an assemblage of multiple recordings made by the duo – who never once met up in the same place – across various times, and the porcine carcass has been subsequently boiled in a saucepan, carved into slices and served up with rare pesto sauce plucked from the hillside areas of Piedmont, mixed with pure maple syrup made of ground locusts from Idaho. It’s a good contemporary take on the jumbled-up play-everything approach which has been a feature of long-distance cassette collaborations for a number of years now in our chosen field, making liberal use of voices, instruments, and found sounds, and a general commitment to free and unfettered playing and lapses into gentle benign looning and episodes of loveable insanity. The added bonus with Joan La Babbleuh is how everything hangs together in this potentially incoherent and unstable mix, without descending into a formless murk of 15th-generation overdubs or aimless distorted sprawls. On the other hand, such volatility in the mixture also makes me think of nitro-glycerin, and I kept waiting for an explosive moment of mayhem and release which the tape doesn’t quite deliver on. No matter though, when such far-out and near-demented musical ramblings are printed on its magnetic pages, and we can all enjoy a ramble through this queasy dimension of impossible colours and shapes.

The Seasonal Bodies (STEEP GLOSS SG49) cassette all in green is credited to Rebecca Wilcox and Hannah Ellul. Both these talented artistes are based on Glasgow; Wilcox is a writer who works in audio and performance, making use of her own voice, while Ellul is a musician who also plays in Human Heads (with Ben Knight) and White Death. We heard Human Heads on their tape The Beauticinist in 2014 as part of a bundle from Singing Knives Records. Two long suites of fascinating sound art on this tape; made I think from a mix of found recordings, overheard snatches of people murmuring in the street, spoken word, concrete poetry recits, and minimal synthesiser doodles. What I like is the apparently intuitive approach being used here, somewhat insouciant and informed by a day-dreamy air, and embracing any mistakes made by human error or changes in timbre caused by the movements of bodies, and voices, in the air. “Getting in a mess”, is their own apt description. They also like to stress the mundanity of it, generating exciting and strange sound art from the most commonplace sources.

This may sound chaotic and pointless, but on the contrary it allows the players to open up new dimensions in experience, so that unexpected events and incidents may rush in. Certain tapes from the Rinus van Alebeek label have this rich magical-realism quality, as does much of the work of Aki Onda, the Japanese genius who finds wonder wherever he goes in the world and offers glimpses of it on his fragmented cassettes. One piece was performed for an online concert, the other one for a radio broadcast in Glasgow. The Seasonal Bodies has a real understated charm; the two creators here don’t seem to be trying as hard as Joan La Babbleuh above to disrupt common sense with their antics, and instead deliver the goods through their modest yet effective methods.

Both the above gemuloids from 16th March 2022.