You know that Jonny Mugwump guy? Man, what a git! I mean, he’s always soooo busy, doing this, releasing that, doing a radio show, or a special presentation, or a DJ gig, etc, etc, etc. He’s so busy doing that whole independent music malarkey that he never seems to have the time to speak to anyone, least of all me! He doesn’t answer his calls, and I’ve pretty much given up on him answering any of my e-mail! If all of this was somehow externalised into a physical form, then it would be Bob’s sense of heartbreak and rejection. Hey Jonny! Give us a call sometime will ya??
OK, I’m being a little bit cruel here, because Jonny is a very busy man for a good reason. As well as recently taking on a rather important position in his day job at Goldsmiths College in London, he also seems to be stretching himself to Reed Richards levels in his extra curricular activities. The radio show, the gigs, the occasional piece of music journalism., etc, etc
And that’s before we even get to his special baby, the EXOTIC PYLON label. Of course we at the farm have been raving about many of the releases from there since day one. And of course the brolove feeling are a little bit mutual, with Jonny asking yours truly to make one of those “special Stuff” mixes for his radio show.
It seems though that over the last couple of months, the Exotic Pylon releases have been mounting and it’s becoming clear that in keeping those fires of collaboration and community stoked, the label is slowly becoming one of the main support nodes for a new emerging scene of DIY collaboration in the UK that is coalescing round a venn diagram of various labels, club nights, blogs and assorted movers & shakers (More on that later).
Right now Exotic Pylon has not one, not two, or even three, but FIVE releases from the label over the last several weeks. Wait a minute, scratch that.There’s actually SIX releases , but for some reason I don’t have a copy of ‘Bucolica’ by The House in the Woods available (Not to worry though, the wonderful Forestpunk has a review of that album over at his site)
But we still have a huge pile of releases that need looking at, so let’s not wast time and right stuck in there shall we?
EP 26 – Sophie Cooper: Labyrinth
First up is a short but sweet blast from SOPHIE COOPER. A leading member of the DIY music scene in Stoke On Trent, but now living in West Yorkshire, this is her debut solo release. As mentioned in the accompanying Bio, the music in ‘Laybyrinth “inhabits a parallel sonic world universe to Pram,” which I would say is fairly much right on the money, although I would say that with her mix of lo-fi folk pop, warped tape recordings and found sounds, and busted electronics noise experiments would certainly be at home alongside Charalambides or Alastair Galbraith on the Siltbreeze label (or a UK equivalent) at some point in the ’90s, or on occasions, as the evil cousin to Múm.
As with most DIY music, ‘Labyrinth’ has a loose, ragged feel to the proceedings. Mics are located reeeeeally close up to both singer and the instruments, tape hiss abounds, and the subject matter of the songs are eerie and weird in their ordinariness (Being in love with non-smokers for example). In capturing that sense of quirkiness lurking underneath the drab occurrences in most suburban pop culture, Sophie has created an album that’s certainly playful, but not childish or naive. And unlike other DIY releases, which often mistakes amateurism with amateurishness, there is a sense of structure and depth going on here. Think of it as the soundtrack to a psychedelic kitchen sink drama.
EP 27 – John Cohen: Deaf Arena
Time for something different, as Brighton born/Berlin resident and one half of the band Dead Fader, JOHN COHEN assails us with a bedeviled mix of the hallowed gothic and wasteland sci-fi industrial, underpinned by steaming blocks of bass quarried from the mountains next to Silent Hill.
There’s an unholy sense of doomed woe seeping from ‘Deaf Arena,’ with junked downtempo electronics with rhythms that have a wet, yet acrid tang. Compare this to tracks such as “Promises,” “This Place 2” and “Long And Narrow” that contain a faded glamour for a Regency space dynasty that never was, with ships that announce themselves with elephantine noises that act like the voice of God and faded piano sounds that melt with the hum of the ships engines….
The heavy inertia creep going on with ‘Deaf Arena,’ is the sort that you would get with the likes of Massive Attack. Time just seems to slow down until it collects in a crusted pool in the corner of your basement. Even with the slightly upbeat “Human Distortion” that with it´s endless no-Tokyo skyline neon sounds, there is a sense of restlessness and anxiety, that something is not quite right with the world around you.
‘Deaf Arena’ is certainly an album that seems to mix the mutant noir-dubstep and Leyland Kirby style vastness/emptiness that pins you down until it’s all you can do to stop the hissing bass from crushing your skull.
EP28 – Canonbury – The Knock of the Shoe
Now if Jonny can be thought of a major support node for this growing DIY scene, then someone else who can be though of as another nerve center would have to be Joseph Stannard, the human conduit and catalyst for the esoteric and downright strange Brighton club night known as THE OUTER CHURCH. But as well as being a cultural agitator, he also makes music under the guise of CANONBURY. ‘The Knock Of The Shoe,’ a collection of tracks made during 2006-07 can be classed as truly “British” noise music. Mossy, muddy low-end gnarls and drones oscillate and modulate, while haunted harpsichord style notes and Government warnings drift in and out of ear shot. Track titles such as “Bodmin Fence,” “Rabies Of The Manor” and “Lamb Crunch,” evoke a very similar world to that of the likes of Hacker Farm or Slomo. The biting wind in exposed hills, the lashing of rain and tearing of tree branches, and bizarre happenings to livestock near that classified RAF base that doesn’t show on local maps.
As well as original tracks, there are a swathe of remix/reworking for fellow acolytes such as the aforementioned Hacker Farm, Anna Meredith, Ship Canal, and Old Apparatus, who does the best mix of the lot, taking the low-end of “Lamb Crunch” and releasing the bass pressure that’s locked within.
EP30 – Kemper Norton: Carn
Ah, the inimitable KEMPER NORTON. Many of the songs on this, his debut full length, are already known to me, as I bought them when he released these tracks as separate EPs. But it’s good to hear them again in their complete form.
And it’s a mighty interesting tales he’s weaving with his music right now. Inspired by events in Cornwall (Where he was born), and East Sussex (Where he now lives), Kemper is carrying on that wonderful “tradition” of mixing modern approaches and thinking to timeless music styles that, out of all the releases mentioned in this post, is most closely connected to the land and his surroundings. Blending together field recordings, ambient rave electronics, and whispers of half remembered old folk songs, a sense of the uncanny pervades ‘Carn,’ all full of ancient folklore, burial mounds, pylons messing with lay line energy, and chill out raves by the sea shore.Tracks such as “Dorcus” and “Windswept” create a similar feel to the spooky folk wandering that were made by Mick Harris and Martyn Bates made with their ‘Murder Ballads’ series of songs.
‘Carn’ should be seen as folk music for our interconnected, electrified 21st century landscape, where time and space are fluid and our sense of reality is gossamer thin at best.
EP31 – Dolly Dolly: Antimacassar
Now I have to admit that when I saw the album to ‘Antimacassar,’ the debut album from Exotic Pylon acolyte Dolly Dolly (aka David Yates), my first impression was that I didn’t like it. In fact, I fucking hated it. That mix of gormless gurn, school tie and sense of ’60s stunted Englishness , the first impression that came across was Al Murray’s dim-witted brother does karaoke renditions of his favourite TV theme tunes from yesteryear (Read Bullseye, Morecambe & Wise, and It Ain’t Half Hot Mum).
OH but when I played it, how wrong I was!!! As well as being a spoken word artist, poet and playwright, Dolly Dolly is also active as a poster to hauntology/ephemeral blogs such as Found Objects and Mounds & Circles, as well as his own blog. Using the flotsam & jetsam of 20th century British culture as brain fuel, Dolly Dolly dregs from his shiny cranium a bizarre blend of the surreal, the queasy, the seedy and the mundane. the opening track “Wattle And Daub” is a proclamation to “England my England,” with “Hallways that are flat-footed and wasp-bitten, ” with “Half Strangled Uncles stuffed with crisps and puddles of Sooty & Sweep.”
The music is informed by hauntological markers that will be familiar to many, with guest appearances from the likes of Position Normal. Moon Wiring Club & Ekoplekz, their slightly broken, tumbling music acting as a foil to Dolly’s sonorous tones (Sometimes he come across as relaxed and bloke-y, others like a stern Malcolm McDowell). But underneath the whimsical, dreamlike nature of the lyrics lies a dark, morbid underbelly. “Corptoepose” contains a gruesome yet matter-of-fact description of an autopsy, that is so deadpan in its delivery it comes across as more hardcore in its impact that most “extreme” industrial noise releases. ‘Antimacassar’ is a release that was surprising and revealing in more ways than one.
So… there you go. Now that’s a LOT of music for you to be going through there. If you find that this post has tickled you fancy, then head on over the Exotic Pylon’s SITE and get that credit card out of that dusty wallet!
DO IT!!! NOW!!!!