It’s a Saturday afternoon, and i’m feeling my age slightly. Since I became sober, I’ve found that I don’t go clubbing as often as I’d wish, mainly because there is a lack of intensity, from the “party people” who are very poor imitations of the disciples of the Bacchae, to the music which is often a continuous stream of weak beats to cry and masturbate to, and not forgetting the lack of intensity in the sound (there is no club space in Rvk 101 that has a proper club sound system). But last night I managed to put the old raving shoes on for Nina Kravitz, Blawan, Exos and Bjarki at Paloma Bar. Booming sound systems and hard bangers, the way it should be. Alas I can’t dance until dawn now (not without chemical or alcohol assistance and that’s out of the question), but the fleeting moments of delirium as I pumped my fist meant that it was worth the shooting pain in my left knee and the feeling like someone’s taken a wiffle bat to my skull.
So now it’s 2:30pm and I’m sitting indoors while there is a grey, clearing sky outside. I may venture out into the wind, but right now I’m giving R.O.C, second album by Saxon Roach, aka Loki aka IX TAB a blast on the stereo. It’s a truly scattered labyrinth of an album, full of arcane codes; sound signals; the incantations of fringe scientists, poets and magicians; pictures that shed a light on the mystical in the any-space-whatever – That disused industrial space at the edge of town. the undergrowth at the end of the garden, the dark corner of the garage that your Dad never told you to mess around. I recently described it on Twitter as “A modern folkteric cultronica for a fragmented Albion.”
There’s a reason why I said that. R.O.C. as an album is the latest, and one of the strongest manifestations, of the growing canon of albums coming from the UK underground electronic scene that take the idea of folk as a music of living history and apply it to a viewpoint of a modern Britain where instead of a blind fetishism to a lost conservative golden land that never existed, instead takes the material reality of our lives alongside the unreal historical aspects of Britain. It’s a place where RL Laing, Rave, Goth Rock from Northern England, 1970s TV aesthetics, brutalist mystic geometry, Secret Ministry of Defense bunkers and Jodrell Bank, JG Ballard, Coil, Derek Jarman, Julian Cope, Dounreay, the chemical works of the Essex coast, all mixed with our cultural history and strange menacing customs from times long forgotten, still practiced in rural parts of England and the outlying states of Wales and Scotland. As such R.O.C is full of shimmering and swirling electronic sounds, vocal and audio samples from the likes of William Burroughs, and relaxation/hypnosis tapes are subjected to being sliced, shredded and woven back in on itself. The effect is on of discombobulation, and an untethering of the senses from the world around you.
For me, it comes across as an uncanny recreation of that modern witching hour that grew out from the rave scene. It’s 5am in the early summer and the sky is growing brighter in the distance as you stumble out of the club/tent in a field. Apart from other stragglers trying to find their way home, the area is deserted; most “norms” are still asleep. Your brain synapses are spluttering and running on fumes thanks to the MDMA and other various psychotropics you’ve ingested, aided by several hours of frantic dancing. You’ve worked yourself into that delirium that enables your senses to weave themselves in with the environment, be they empty streets or a country lane. You see and hear things that you don’t normally come across. Perception is altered. you want to find out the secret of the universe in a field with some cows. Strange cognitive things happen during the trip back home. What a time to be alive….
But as well as the musical meanderings, R.O.C also comes with a handy booklet that contains compact and bijou missives on the nature of each track with accompanying photography. And it’s here, alongside the mentions of Ballard, Jonathan Meades, Alan Turing, and Maya Deren, is the mention of Robert Ogilvie Crombie, eminent Scots writer and scientist, who is the R.O.C. of the album’s title and whose calm but unnerving voice can be heard in the track “I M WH U MK OV M.” I’m sad to say but I never heard of this man until I read the notes of R.O.C., but searching this man’s history and some his story as a man of rationality and science, who left Edinburgh and moved to the country where he applied his knowledge to the world of nature, the occult and metaphysics is one that I am slowly becoming more attuned to.
As such R.O.C is the latest, and one of the strongest, manifestations in a growing canon of music that includes the likes of Kemper Norton, Hacker Farm, Richard Dawson, Daniel Patrick Quinn, Laura Cannell, Ship Canal, Grumbling Fur, The Outer Church, Sophie Cooper, Lutine, and the Broken 20 and Front and Follow labels. It can be hard sometimes to properly explain to some local bohemians up here in Iceland about this, where their ideas of mystical culture simply means rehashing bullshit ’60s counterculture witterings or mixing Ásatrú symbols with worn out psych rock “wear leather jackets and shades indoors” posturing. But for me, this music opens up to the ideas of transmissions and dreamscape from the layers and worlds hidden below the mundanity of market towns, street corners, and the normcore, often so easily dismissed by some as unglamorous and ugly.
You can buy R.O.C. from IX TAB’s website here….