Sunday, 29 September 2013

Otomo Yoshihide Residency (1st Night) with John Butcher, Mark Sanders, Guillaume Viltard, and Mats Gustafsson - Cafe Oto, Dalston, London, 20th September

This first night of the Otomo Yoshihide residency at the Café Oto was, for me, a revelatory introduction to the artist, a night of amazing music.
The evening began with a trio of Otomo Yoshihide (guitar), Mark Sanders (drums), and Guillaume Viltard (double bass).  A soft spectral opening built to a tense edge of sculpted guitar feedback, Viltard’s wipes and squeaks and Sander’s tumbled percussive bricks.  A brilliant storm-gathering section saw rapid bass bowing, thick scalding chords from Yoshihide, and a rolling thunder of drums; Yoshihide making snaking, quivering runs up and down the neck of the guitar; occasionally leaking single ringing notes that smeared with Viltard’s creaky harmonics, creating a spidery concoction.  The three locked into a close union; occupying the same space and constructing a tangled textural mass that congealed and pooled rather than racing off in any linear direction.  That mass yielded some great noise – whistling feedback tones amidst a profusion of scrapes and tussled, sharp guitar dissonance; drums that coalesced around quick bass trills and a rattling solo: Viltard’s buzz and burr a vital undercurrent.  A set like the broiling underside of a clouded weather system; something spatially still but internally in constant creative and destructive turmoil.
The next set was a duo performance from Mats Gustafsson and John Butcher.  Opening with shrill bird-like phonics from Butcher, Gustafsson provided a glottal counterpoint, offering smacking full-stops on Butcher’s increasingly strident runs; a bubbling sulphurous gargle.  They created a real dialogue with hesitations, interruptions, confusions and a halting, teasing silence resolved in pops and a sustained fog-horn duo blast, frayed and picked apart into spiralling airborne glowing embers; a performance at once subtle and blaringly fierce.  Like two friends having a heated but productive discussion.
The highlight of the evening was a full quintet performance of staggering power.  Limpid pools of knife edged feedback gathered around Viltard’s menacing bass drones.  A pressurised atmosphere began to hang over the venue, close and stifling.  Yoshihide’s guitar was a violent and fluctuating presence, full of short stabs and screaming whispers.  The band together was a thick concentration: Sanders’ clustered beats; Gustafsson’s bellowing was a crane lifting the ensemble aloft, buttressed by Viltard’s rickety scrabble.   A solid chromatic blur, the set was incredible at its peaks; a coruscating noise union, never lacking individual details; a fierce but nuanced attack, a sophistication of violence. No individual player crowded out the others, no mean feat given the presence of Gustafsson’s molten roar.  The total sound was never just a blare, its quieter moments revealed a fascinating group dynamic: the pointillism of Sanders and Yoshihide; the bubbling percolating froth of Butcher; Viltard’s plucking and scraping sending ripples through the sound space; Yoshihide a coiled presence, his lunge when it comes is savage, smashed strings and sudden pin-sharp, white-light bursts of killer noise.  A late blast in the set inspired the others to ecstatic heights, Butcher adding a ripping high-end to an expanding all-encompassing morass of gripping, furious music.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Label Interview: Rano Records

Ears for Eyes will be embarking on a series of interviews and profiles of labels, artists, and organisers of club nights; people who have created and released amazing music or found a space and audience for its live performance.  For this inaugural entry, we contacted the mighty Rano Records.  Rano have released some great music this year: the haunting piano compositions of Russel M. Harmon, the propulsive atmospheric electronica of Laica, and the disturbingly weird recent release of 'Hot Jone' by Maurice's Hotel Death.  Here, they kindly answer a few questions:

Your Bandcamp page mentions your aim being to be sought after, not saturated.  What made you prefer this approach to the "release every single sound we've ever made" approach of some other net-labels and bands? 
It seems like when there's an overabundance of something, people tend to take it for granted. The motto itself is directed more towards the quantity of each release being more limited in nature. I guess it just kind of worked out that we don't release music very frequently too.
Your physical releases have been limited so far to cassette format.  What makes this specific format the most suitable for your label?
Tapes are affordable, they're durable, they come in a variety of colours and lengths, and they are easy to produce at any given quantity. We don't have to buy them by the hundreds like vinyl. Our releases are also available to purchase or stream in digital format, to make it enjoyable for individuals who may not like tapes.
What are your thoughts on the recent cassette store day?
CSD is not really something I see our label ever being outwardly involved in. I'm all for the love of music and supporting local vendors, but the idea of dedicating a day to a particular format just seems silly to me.
Does the label have a particular philosophy or ethos other than a case(ette)-by-case(ette) consideration of different artists?
Our number one goal with all this shit is to have fun. We never want it to become like work, and we try not to put too much pressure on the artists we work with. More importantly, we want artists to feel creative freedom. We work closely together to ensure our finished product reflects the heart & soul of their concept while maintaining an aesthetic that keeps some continuity across the label.
Another goal of Rano is to put out music we enjoy. We love all kinds of music and we've definitely built a catalog that encompasses many of our tastes. I believe our eclectic blend of styles has been pivotal in earning us a unique and diverse fan base. I'm surprised at the number of fans who have purchased everything we've made so far. It's nice to know your label can be adventurous in choosing different styles of music it produces and still have that level of love and support from fans. We love our fans and always want to be connected with them as much as we can.
The internet, and specifically Bandcamp, is an incredibly prolific area in which to seek out music as a listener, speaking personally I find Twitter invaluable for recommendations and have no idea how I would find things without it.  Do you encounter similar problems when finding artists to work with?
We love Bandcamp for finding new music and the fan pages are great because we can see what other interests our fans have. Twitter is my personal favorite way to connect with artists and fans. It's our #1 promotional tool to help us generate sales, and it's helped us to find several artists we work with.  It's nice because we can see more of an artist's personality on a site like Twitter, as opposed to Bandcamp or Soundcloud.
When it comes to the social media thing and music, my biggest let down this year was the revamp of Soundcloud. I'm not a fan of their new interface. Really hope it changes into something more like it was.

Are there any plans for the future that you would like to share?
Currently we have Maurice's Hotel Death 'Hot Jone' (C70) available for purchase, and  MICROFLVRSCNCE 'III' is in the works. We also have several other artists committed, but I don't want to take the focus off of the two I just mentioned. Our future will reveal itself in due time.

Rano Headquarters
Discover Rano for yourselves on Bandcamp and Twitter

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Maurice's Hotel Death - Hot Jone (Rano)

All albums should consider beginning like ‘Hot Jone’ by Maurice’s Hotel Death: with buzzing insect night chatter, microphone fuzz, and the wet clicking mandibles of unthinkable things; the occasional bass rumble like something large and winged passing overhead.  The whole track is like a field recording of a slanted and cracked version of reality, or an ultra zoomed-in portion of garden lawn, full of blown-up horror.  Patiently horrific and creepy, it builds an atmosphere of alien oddness over its 8 minute duration that is difficult to shake after it finishes.  Despite the involvement of synths, samples and obviously artificially derived sound, everything seems disturbingly organic, every flutter, scream, moan, and drone, emitted from a living pulsating, no-doubt be-fanged, creature.
The rest of the album carries on in a similarly frightening fashion. ‘Jone’ has a frequently malfunctiong rhythm interrupted by gusting solar winds, crunching noise and garbled aether-voices.  ‘Beef Bird’ contains a percolating echo chamber of hiss and crumbling rust;  a spindly nail tapping a dusty platter of melted vinyl, over watched by a computer leaking oddly hued viscera.  ‘Pubs, Clubs, and Cruise Ships’ pans across several wobbling branes of audio, luridly coloured and fluctuating between deep grumbling tones and  thin plastic rattles.  ‘Not Enough Heat To Get Things Going’ sounds like a deconstructed Oneohtrix Point Never take on the Terminator soundtrack, the humming synth tones overlaid with a faltering but insistent beat, full of static and menace.
A fascinating stew of drone, noise, musique concrete, diseased tape howl, and field recordings from hell; ‘Hot Jone’ is deeply and vexingly surreal, a universe on tape, a universe that recalls Wolf Eyes with its creeping insidious construction, and Yellow Swans in their ‘Psychic Secession’ era with its sudden percussive bangs and rusted textures.
Something weird this way comes.
Buy it here.

Isnaj Dui - Abstracts on Solitude (Hibernate Records)

 Isnaj Dui (aka Katie English) is an artist making chamber electronic music with loops, home-made dulcimer and flutes.  Fresh from her stunning recent live performance with Dollboy and having heard her work on Front & Follow's 'Collision/Detection' series where she provided an outstanding contribution; I listened to this 2012 release with high expectations which were met and greatly exceeded.
'Abstracts on Solitude' is suffused throughout with aural "magic hour" light, English, then, a musical Terrance Malick; a composer of impressionistic beauty.  ‘What Lies Inside’ puts struggling loops over dusty rusted collapsing tape heads and spectral flute harmonies; the two elements colliding, scattering and curling like wisps of mist.  ‘Quarter Wave’ has a woody pulse like a tapped bowl approaching and receding.  ‘Nature of Light’ is soft and verdant; simple melodies glide alongside out of phase counterparts in tonal gauze, soothing and tender.  ‘Peripheral Motion’ pairs delicate plucked strings, like thumb-pianos, with a taut humming wire of sighs.  ‘The Last Will Become a Darker Grey’ sounds like unseen, forlornly lowing whales, fog-bound and lost, their song a resigned threnody.
Isnaj Dui’s music is at once immediately engaging and artfully obscured.  Like a seemingly thin and pretty veil, it parts onto mysterious and dimly perceived spaces: spooky, beautifully desolate, and achingly still, as if recently abandoned.
Buy 'Abstracts On Solitude' here.

Boat-Ting - Jan Hendrickse + Vivienne Corringham / Benedict Taylor + Tom Jackson / Steve Beresford + Orphy Robinson / Ronnie McGrath - Bar & Co, Temple, London, 16th September

Another great Boat-Ting with a fine mixture of artists.
Poet, Ronnie McGrath was like a jazz inflected mind-meld of Burroughs and Pynchon, mouthing sax and trumpet vocalisations and referencing Sun Ra.  His rapid, fiery stanzas ran together into surreal streams of consciousness and cyberpunk mantras.  McGrath is an entirely absorbing performer, intelligent, humorous and impassioned.
Steve Beresford (electronics) and Orphy Robinson (steel pan) were an interesting pairing; a wide range of sounds emitted by the duo: crackling gongs, sighing metal feedback, arcing high-register squiggles, throbbing synth pulses.  Beresford’s equipment hissed and interfered with the subtle diffuse patterns of Robinson’s pan manipulation giving the playing a “lost broadcast” atmosphere, like a forgotten martial broadcast from soldiers who hadn’t realised that World War 7 had ended, still pumping out sweaty military music from the insanity of a rusting Thames Navy vessel.
Benedict Taylor (viola) and Tom Jackson (clarinet) began their set with soft static holding patterns, before graceful curves of clarinet and sharp scribbles from the viola frayed the edges of the calm.  An atonal scurrying commenced around Jackson’s burred fuzz and Taylor’s atomised note slices.  The pair inhabited the upper registers like creatures native to the space, the ringing heights their home.
Final act of the evening, Jan Hendrickse (flutes) and Vivienne Corringham (voice) was a challenging proposition.  Corringham babbled, fluttered, and ululated like someone auctioning a portaloo full of assorted minced animals, completely unhinged and soaked in Dada-like madness.  Hendrickse performed in a supporting role, often underlining the vocals with sustained screaming tones and blunt counterpoint.  Often fierce, the duo complemented each others' gestures closely, neither stepping back from an uncompromising shared stance.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Dollboy with Isnaj Dui – live performance of ‘Ghost Stations/Geisterbahnöfe’ – Thames Tunnel Shaft, Rotherhithe, London, 5th Sept

On a hot early autumn’s night, 50 feet beneath the teeming surface of London, a place of total calm was sanctified with some remarkable and affecting music.  The Thames Tunnel Shaft as a music venue is ideal, a decaying chapel of decrepitude; walking down a light-entangled scaffold structure, the audience enters a beautiful lichen soaked cylinder.

Isnaj Dui (aka Katie English) performed first.  Her compositions consisted of flute and softly looping electronics, nearby subterranean tube lines provided peripheral bass rumbles.  Her music resonated around the space, filling it with her eerie beautiful loops.  Like many Outer Church/Front & Follow aligned artists, English’s work exists outside genre in a liminal envelope of inviting weirdness.  She employed a subtlety of gesture and sound, sparse and delicate; the manipulation of an electrified zither contradicted the violence and weight of the chamber it was conjured within.  The acoustic properties of the space became its own instrument: the clink of shifting chains and percussive cracks of shuffled audience chairs created a random accompaniment.  The aching, yearning, long bass sighs coaxed harmony from the mud, concrete and centuries of decay; a faded entropic journey; a tapping of musical ley lines.  A remarkable performance.

Dollboy (aka Olivier Cherer) with a small ensemble of musicians, including English, was on next, performing ‘Ghost Stations/Geisterbahnöfe’ in its entirety, shortly to be reissued by Second Language.  In the making of this album the artist travelled beneath London and Berlin to record the ambient sounds of abandoned stations.  Cherer commented that the sound of actual trains may “render samples irrelevant” but the opposite turned out to be true, the real and recorded sounds of ghostly transport mingled in evocative fashion.  Long sad trumpet calls mourned dead facilities; enhanced by the space and silence around the xylophone, keyboard, woodwind and percussion.  Smears of brass washed over cymbals and cyclic piano melodies.  The samples functioned in a similar fashion to how Constellation Records artists wrap chamber group compositions around environmental field recordings.  The performance was an elegy to lost endeavours: a psycho-geographical chamber ensemble; haunted and haunting.  The piano was like an industrial-spelunking Satie, and also often recalled Arvo Pärt, piano notes clustering in ringing pairs and stretching off into silence.  Occasionally a Ligeti-like dissonance crept in, a skittering menace stalking the tunnels.  Delicate melodic threads, a tracery of musical gestures, evoked the entangled transport lines we sat within.  Dollboy created an intensely pleasing feedback loop of sound, concept, and practice; beautifully performed and realised.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Boat-Ting - Steve Noble + Alex Ward / Steve Beresford + Mark Sanders / Smith, McPhail, Hayward, Lash / Alex Ward + Sybil Madrigal - Bar & Co, Temple, London, 2nd September

The mighty Boat-Ting returned from its summer break for an 11th anniversary gig with a brilliant line-up.  First on were two-thirds of N.E.W., the band only missing John Edwards; Alex Ward and Steve Noble more than compensated with a storming, violent set.  Ward peeled strips off the walls with blistering six-string attacks, interspersed with cools pools of calm, worrying the neck of the guitar in high pitched fluctuating whistles.  Noble displayed his usual telepathic abilities, rattling around the whole kit in perfect unison with Ward's playing; he utilised jazz breaks, rapid machine-gun rolls, and droning gongs to great effect.  Noble and Ward built patient constructions before dragging them downhill over reckless slaloming destruction.  Even without Edward's rumbling presence, this was an awesome exploded free-punk racket.

Steve Beresford and Mark Sanders were on next playing, respectively, electronics and drums.  Together they mined deep wells of weirdness.  Beresford engineered static, buzz, quacks, and jumbled voices from a table full of wires, pedals, and assorted noise-making tools.  Sanders was a lively partner, bowing cymbals, rolling marbles around the drum skins, and playing small bells mounted on a woodblock.  They made a fascinating mesh of sound; a shrieking resonant spider's web entangling a profusion of alien bells.

Following a wildly off-kilter singing of 'Happy Birthday' and the lighting of a cake; the third act began, consisting of Ian Smith (trumpet), Pete McPhail (saxophone), Charles Hayward (drums), and Dominic Lash (double bass).  They unleashed a two set monster of a performance.  The trumpet and sax locked in heated blurs, occasionally disentangling into separate bursts and flurries.  The rhythm section were electrifying; particularly in the second set where Hayward and Lash combined in an exhilarating tangle.  The group were absolutely brilliant; a thrilling, great quartet.

Closing the evening were Sybil Madrigal (poetry) and Alex Ward (clarinet); Madrigal's poetry as hilarious and engaging as usual, her every word delivered passionately, full of shrieks, sighs, shouting, and lusty cackles.  Ward underlined, provided italics, and generally spun intuitive curling lines around every deranged utterance.  A personal favourite, apart from the always brilliant 'I Love You So Much', was a poem about the ubiquity of toilet spies, accompanied by the swoop and buzz of the clarinet.

In the words of Sybil herself, "keep the boat afloat".  May Boat-Ting forever shore herself on sandbanks of deep improvised madness.