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Why do people keep giving me stuff?? Stop It you Bastards! Trawling through my pile of music gifts….

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It’s always the way when you start a career in writing about music, that while you will almost certainly get paid fuck all (That is if you get paid at all!), you will find that people, from musicians, to their managers and PR guys,  will just happen to message you to “give” you stuff, even if you don’t ask for it. This is what i often call Hey-check-us-out-itis. It’s a fairly standard ailment, along the lines of tooth decay, or gout, and it’s something you inevitably will need to get used to.

Despite doing this for what seems to be like years, I’ve always felt slightly ambivalent when people just give you music “with no strings attached.” This is not to cast aspersions on the people giving you stuff. some of them are indeed very nice people. But I’ve always felt that such an transaction/encounter comes with a certain quid pro quo attached to it, that I find myself in the position of being compelled to say something about the music as a form of thank you, which has always made me feel uneasy (hark at old prolier than thou here!)

Over the past few months though, the amount of records, CDs and digital files have grown into a slightly large pile near the record player and on my desktop. and despite my best efforts, I can’t ignore them any longer, as the compulsion to play and write about them growing stronger by the day.

So with that in mind, Iet’s have a look at some of the stuff that has come my way from the UK in the past couple of months, And before you ask, an Icelandic version will be following in the next week or so…

OK first up are a couple of tracks that were sent to me by the lovely Sophie Cooper, who you may remember (probably not) being featured as part of an Exotik Pylon label review way back when. Well she’s fast becoming a major linchpin in what is the most unlikely cultural hub in the UK. No, no Deptford or Dalston, but Toddmorden in West Yorkshire. A few months ago she sent me a few files for some music that was being released though her work with the bombshop arts collective, something that she said I might be interested in. The files have petrified on my desktop for weeks, but it’s only now that I’ve got around to giving them a proper listen!

The first act is the self titled release from MOSAIC OF TEETH. A motley band of improvisational musicians that include Justin Wiggan (Roadside Picnic), Nicholas Bullen (Napalm Death), Keith Moliné (Two Pale Boys / Pere Ubu), ILIOS (Mohammad/PAN), Anthony Donovan (Murmurists) and Antonio de Braga. According to the blurb, this collaboration came about due to the Eyjafjallajökul eruption in 2010. Wiggans finds himself stranded in Norway for a few days, so he spends his time getting a loads of crappy cassettes from the local fleamarkets. the tapes are then morphed, edited and passed around the cabal who warp and flail at the sounds with febrile glee. the result is a 40 minute sound sculpture mindfuck that sways and tilts all over the place, from poised, polished blocks of sound, to corroded shards of noise rock jazz jams, to bastardised Bond Soundtracks being passed through a grunge filter. After listening to it a few time, I have no idea what’s going on, but that’s all part of the fun of this collaboration – Defamiliarisation and Destabilisation is the name of the game. There are still copies to order, and physical copies come with a phial of volcanic ash! Hope they got a permit for that.

(Alas there’s no soundcloud link available, but you can here an excerpt HERE)

 

The next up is FUSE 004 by Petrels, the latest in the series of recordings from the FUSE multimedia art space in Bradford. It’s a live recording by noise artist and composer Petrels aka Oliver Barrett. Over tow long form tracks of densely layered harmonic compositions, we hear two components at play. On the one hand you are gently assaulted aurally by overloading, sometimes jarring electronic textures and waveforms, but at the same time they adhere to the core harmonic principles that lay down a lot of raga infused folk musics. the result is music that is both harsh and melodic, stinging walls of pure sound a colour that trigger a painful delirium of the ears. I can only hope that there was a light show that came with it that blew out the eyes as well. If you fancy something that’s along the lines of Fuck Buttons or Oneohtrix Point Never at their harshest, then i think you’d be interested in this.

 

Now I turn to a bunch of releases from the only and only Andy Cooke from JUNIOR ASPIRIN records in London, a repository label for some frankly weird and disturbing music that should come with a govt warning. Simple story this – I got an e-mail from Andy a few months ago thanking me for using a track from the band The God In Hackney in one of my Nordic Interstitial Thresholds mixes. He then goes. “Would you like me to send you some music?” to which I reply “Sure, why not?” Now what I was expecting was for Andy to send a a CD of 12″ or two. Imagine my shock when a week or so later, I received a rather hefty package (well it was more like a box) from the mail courier. opening it, I see not one, or two, but TEN albums (See the pic at the top), pretty much the entire discography of Junior Aspirin records! I won’t be going into some of the records he gave me, such as the releases from Skill 7 Stamina 12, and The Rebel, but instead point you towards the following 3 groups.

Fist up is Big Legs and their self titled debut album. Two Englishmen stuck in NYC who have decided to make some decidedly off-kilter pop ditties in an attempt to articulate their lives in their adopted hometown. the result is one of wibbly and contorted home studio beats electronics and samples, woodwind sintruments, surrealist spoken word mumblings and vocal cutups that are of a decidedly English monotone bent. The album’s highlight is a cover of ABBA’s “The Winner Takes It All” that descends into a loopy, haunting intermission. Pop music for people who don’t like people.

 

Next up is Cave Moderne, by The God In Hackney. A four piece that contains Label owner Andy, the album is meant to be a concept album that imagines the Flintstones for real, a contemporary neolithic period where avant pop/rock sounds are performed “with chants, drums, guitars, synths, shells, earth, teeth, bits of tree and crap music apps.” the result is an bricolage album of songs as sound assemblages, held together by dinosaur gut twine and duct tape. Looping and clattering drum rhythms mix with deadpan vocals, churning keyboards drones and broken guitar riffs. An alternative album title for this could have been Prehistoric Modern Life Is Rubbish.

 

Finally we have Further Conclusions Against an Italian Version (BAT) by the wonderfully named Socrates That Practiçes Music. Another band that contains label owner Andy Cooke and his mate Alex Ellerington, they call their music METAGOTH, which if anything is at least one of the best ideas for a band name I can think of. And like Big Legs, STPM are a band that take a simple base structure/genre of music (in this case goth and post-punk) and smashes it around the room with an English approach to DIY music and songwriting. this sort of approach has a long lineage from The Fall, The Fates, Cleaner From Venus, and The Nightinggales, all the way to Grumbling Fur, Officer! and Daniel Patrick Quinn. A track like “Mrs Hammersmith” for example reminded me a little bit of  the early music that the likes of The Young knives were putting out years ago. Despite the obviously avant-pop structures and the woozy use of samples and gothic atmosphere, there is definitely a strong, decidedly grounded, pop sensibility that shines through the tracks. It’s suburban garden/kitchen sink goth music, where the magic comes from performing divining rituals on utility bills and clairvoyance using Tetley tea bags. Recommended.

that’s your lot for now. I’m back off to work!!

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2015 in music, Uncategorized

 

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Atomised Albion: The Annual EXOTIC PYLON Bumper Winter Annual Review!!

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!!!!

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2013 in music

 

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