Passing Judgement: Album Review: “Various – The Outer Church”

11 Aug

Ever since mankind has sought to explore and explain the expanses and mysteries of their surroundings, there has been the need for cartographers to map out and provide a narrative to these newly explored areas for the masses. Where there would have been a blank space with the words “here be Dragons!”, the cartographer would flesh out and make real the sights and endeavors of the fearless explorer. Shores and boundaries would be mapped out, mountainous regions and great plains would be committed to paper in detail and these new worlds would fire the imaginations of future generations.

As we journeyed through 20th the century (Segueing into the digitised 21st century), the role of the cartographer of modern culture would take root in the form of the curated music compilation. For many, the compilation has been an essential tool in opening up mysterious and impenetrable worlds, while expanding the minds of curious seekers of musical knowledge. Such examples include the Nuggets compilation series of ’60s garage rock, the Brian Eno curated No New York album detailing the NYC music scene of the late ’70s/early ’80s, and the Artificial Intelligence series by Warp Records that helped to define electronic music in the 1990s. One favourite personal example of the compilation as a new strategy to understanding the world around you is an entry in the 14 Tracks series curated by Boomkat. Titled “From Thanet To Jodrell Bank,” it’s an evocative collection of modern British electronica that acts as an imaginary soundtrack to a night drive from South East England up to the North. It brings to life a parallel world rarely seen by the average person, where the night skies would burn in the distance with the phosphor lighting of cities, satanic industrial refineries would belch out noise and fire during the night shift, motorway services stations acts as oases of late night activity, before it all ended with the rising of the sun over the eastern sky to mark a new day. 

It´s this melding of music and imagery that comes to mind when hearing THE OUTER CHURCH, a new double CD compilation from the Front and Follow label that takes its name from the mysterious Brighton club night that has been running since 2009. Through the flesh conduit of organiser and music writer Joseph Stannard, the premise of The Outer Church has been to seek out and act as a cracked portal to music that draws its energy and inspiration from a hauntological ideal where music, magic, history and art all intersect with each other in ways that provide revelation and instruction to a land that’s elusive and slightly out of sync to the standardised narrative of modern Britain. This is a hidden Britain full of esoteric, mossy, almost imperceptible forces and signifiers. It is the land where the words, ideas, and sights of JG Ballard, Ian Sinclair, Richard Mabey, Chris Petit, and Nick Papadimitriou are made flesh. It´s a place where you are likely to find Alan Moore sharing a pint with John Constantine in the Slaughtered Lamb pub, discussing hypersigils and the new birth of the new lizard baby heir to the Royal family.

As with any map, THE OUTER CHURCH has numerous detailed, layered zones and areas, deep with information and knowledge that you can explore and lose yourself to your heart’s delight. Many of the artists (Who have all played at the Outer Church) and song titles in this compilation themselves are resonant with references to places or geography (“Outercountry,” “Roehampton By Night”, “On A Beach,” “Crystal Sea,” “Tomorrow In New York City”), natural phenomena (“Time Itself,” “Black Mist,” “An End To Drought”) or uncanny incidences (“The Burned Wretch,” “Unnatural History,” “Thrones of Nitre”) which only the sense of the uncanny that this compilation seems to exude.

For the listener the journey begins at a cold, damp, fog banked estuary in the south where the hooded Embla Quickbeam chime in the dawn. From here we come across a varied cast of characters and rogues. There’s the pagan poachers in Grumbling Fur, casting a rhythmic drone in the village pub. There is the pop of suburban twitching-curtain ennui from Hong Kong In the ’60s and Paper Dollhouse. We have the post-rave field recordings of deserted warehouses from Angkor Wat, Pye Corner Audio, and Broken Three. Baron Mordant, Ekoplekz, Silver Pyre, and Hacker Farm detail the CCTV-manned control rooms than oversee the industrial refineries, hellmouth foundries and automated machines that keep this land running while we sleep. The chilling, minimal sounds from The Wyrding Module and These Feathers Have Plumes answer the question to what would happen if the members of Coil managed to take over a village council and mould the area to their whims and wishes. And finally, out in the frozen hinterlands at the end of our journey, the inhuman sounds from Black Mountain Transmitter and Robin The Fog drift from the distance, the sources of such sounds acting as a warning not to venture any further beyond the source wall.

Over the course of two time-stretched hours, THE OUTER CHURCH is a compilation that draws you in, goads you to fill in the gaps in the pictures and imagery created by the music with your own imagination, to provide your own détournement to the proceedings. As a piece detailing the current state of underground slurrtronica in the British Isles and beyond, it provides the listener with a wide variety of enlightening sounds and moods that show that far from grinding to a halt, modern music is teeming with life underfoot, seething with occult energy that is there for people to mainline into and take inspiration for themselves, if only we took the time to stop and feel it.

There are still a few copies of THE OUTER CHURCH available to buy, but they are going fast. More details on where to buy a copy can be found HERE. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

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Posted by on August 11, 2013 in music


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