Thursday, 30 January 2014

Sophie Cooper - Labyrinth (Exotic Pylon) & Split tape with Ignatz (Tor Press)

‘Labyrinth’ begins with ‘Hello Sophie’ – a series of answer machine excerpts, a babble of voices introducing the album, appropriate as the tape contains a wealth of ideas spliced with unravelling string.  What follows is a subtle and captivating series of songs.  ‘Separate Join Together’ is a haunted psychedelic swirl of guitar melody and gusts of electronic interference, the vocals buried and swathed in soft echo.  ‘Lady Lilac’ has smears of synth and clicking percussion, resembling a time-lapsed street lamp, its orange glow assaulted by besieging night-insects; it becomes towards the end, a still and lilting ballad, sustained by a melted organ drone, snoring contentedly.   ‘Sexy, Sexy, Sexy, George’ is full of tape gunk and giddy noise; a tale of the remote admiration of George at various gigs.  ‘The Man Who Doesn’t Smoke’ is a great unconventional love song praising a partner who “protects my lungs from poisons.” 

Throughout, the echo and distortions sound like Grouper without the ghosts, at one point there is an unaccompanied voice blasted around a large resonant space, or perhaps excavated from a slab of deep dust-scarred vinyl.  Songs segue and merge with each other; a shimmering fugue collection of often intricate song-craft that is frequently dashed onto rocks full of strange creatures.  Equal parts sweet and caustic, ‘Labyrinth’ is folk music dredged from fevered cheese-dreams; brilliant odd-pop, ramshackle and charming.

Sophie also recently released this brilliant split tape with Ignatz; now sold out, you’ll have to trust me on its excellence.  The Ignatz side is full of melancholy guitar instrumentals, folkish and reflective; clear rivulets of sound tossed and bounced around, the occasional violent stab interjecting.  The tunes are sparkling and engaging, often progressing through a winding circuitous method, like a long walk through wet woods, pleasingly meandering rather than snot-caked Blair Witch lost.  In some sections, a more sinister tone intrudes, like some of David Pajo’s Papa M material; high twanging oscillations and a subtly troubling dusty ambience.  This is a tape for fans of idiosyncratic guitar music, tunes for remote huts with pleasant verdant days and empty uncertain nights.

The other side continues the good work of ‘Lanyrinth’.  ‘Once My Heart Was Blind’ is one highlight; a wobbling hymnal treat, it drifts and floats on wandering currents.  The rest of the tape is slumberous and hypnotic; vocals and guitars carrying you away on gentle gusts of distortion.   

Sophie's Soundcloud
Tor Press here
Get yer copies of 'Labyrinth' from Bandcamp here

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Benedict Taylor - Striations (Subverten)

‘Striations’ consists of ten viola miniatures alive with incident and motion; Benedict Taylor’s usual explorative tunnelling and instantly reactive playing is here allied with an often punk-like flippancy; small locked circles of repetition are sliced and discarded in arcing, spark-shedding violence. 
On ‘Striations’ Taylor again evinces the total control of his art that previous releases have displayed; which isn’t to suggest his music is mannered or self-regarding, meaning instead a command of the possibilities of the viola is always clearly evident.  Each piece sounds like it could go anywhere: into explosions of ragged splinters; folkish woody finger-picking; gulfs of near-nothing; or scurrying movement. 
These improvisations are bright with wide horizons; brief in duration but with more than enough invention to sustain repeated listens.  Each gesture seems fuelled by the last but escapes linearity by a process of intuitive tangential darts. Short halting stabs may sustain a long bow which will collapse into buzzing rubble, the pieces picked over, tossed and juggled.  Brief straight lines become bent and smashed, an atomisation where each particle is spun, examined and further manipulated.  ‘Striations’ is a lesson in how to make constantly mutative and engagingly direct short-form improvisations.  Highly recommended.
Grab a copy of 'Striations' here.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Otomo Yoshihide - Piano Solo & Quintet/Sextet (OTOroku)

‘Piano Solo’ begins with a pure ringing feedback tone.  A buzzing metallic hum begins to intrude.  This, in turn, is buried in a corrugated rusty roar that vanishes as quickly as it arrives.  This is all somehow done with a piano.  Abandon hope all ye seeking any traditional piano signifiers; this is sculpted alien noise with a fascinating texture and fluid dynamics.  Large indistinct aural shadows loom large in a hissing fog of sound, snarling industrial beasts growling opaque threats.  The juddering scraping mass of noise is fierce and weather-like, resembling sudden torrential flurries of iron poles falling on a warehouse roof.

‘Piano Solo’ is grinding in intensity; its quieter sections still harsh and sandpaper-rough.  There is an interesting ebb and flow, the noise swells brilliantly, each eruption preceded by a natural congealing ascent.  The bellowing plateaux are numbing and violent.  The piano itself seems to be screaming, its wires taut and tortured, every microscopic distress amplified greatly.

A punishing but fascinating study in oblique approaches to instruments; the piano, in this case, barely glimpsed beneath the abstraction.

‘Quintet/Sextet’ comprises two long group improvisations from Otomo Yoshihide, Sachiko M, Tony Marsh, John Edwards, Evan Parker, and John Butcher.  Side A is dense and tumultuous from the start; guitar, saxophone, bass, and drums all tightly meshed together before unknotting in a section of complete calm, a snowfall of cymbal-wash from Marsh blanketing the sound-field; Butcher’s sax fluttering at the periphery.  There is a sense of cold stasis throughout, a mass accumulating through shivering nebulous action, Parker often snaking cracking fissures through the frost.  Side B is full of croaking, groaning, and rumbling; the glacial surface tested by internal tectonic stress.  Any warmth created in the full-ensemble passages is always dissipated into slow heat-death.  ‘Quintet/Sextet’ is an effective exercise in contrasting action and stillness, beautifully balanced.

More information on OTOroku releases can be found here.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Trio Riot - s/t (Efpi Records)

This self-titled debut from Trio Riot on Efpi Records is instantly engaging, launching into a halting, fumbling, rattling skronker. Its tight flurries of motion collapse into kit-troubling drum-explorations, moving into a punkish squall from the halfway point; the beats a hardcore oompah assault for the saxophones to writhe and boil over; the tone brazen and harsh, often piercing. This great introduction to the trio of Sam Andreae (tenor sax), Mette Rasmussen (alto sax), and David Meier (drums) isn’t squandered; ‘Lala-lala’ has a sweeter more placid nature, a melodious duo-exchange. The album never wilts from there.

Trio Riot are a band making music of great fun and exuberance, combined with a command of complex structure and capable of sheer joyful noise-making for its own sake. Their songs collapse and expand often without warning, their paths only seeming in any way linear after several listens. Often comprising small discrete tune-fragments bracketed with silence, these boxes spill over as the songs progress, material spilling and comingling, walls collapsing into twisting solos, clicking percussive seizures and heated buzzing, before the main thrust of melody regains a semblance of control. A mad proliferation of ideas are delivered at a furious pace, no track stretches much beyond five minutes; a punkish sensibility keeps the album racing towards the end. All of the songs demand repeated visits; they expand into subtle improvised sections, screaming fire-solos, tight riffing; this is a band as comfortable in a rock setting as they are on the outer limits of avant-honking. This method comes together in a brilliant cover of ‘Disorder’ by Joy Division; that band’s frantic immediacy, fluidity of movement, and intelligence, making them the perfect muse for Trio Riot.

It is great to hear a band so deftly combine tunefulness, passionately fierce noise, and exploratory moments of tranquillity and near-silence: tiny pops, quacks, and rattles sometimes the only sign that the microphone is still on. Their frequently tumultuous racket is valiantly marshalled by Meier into a speeding juggernaut before the wheels inevitably fall off and the whole thing smashes itself to pieces. What distinguishes Trio Riot is that it’s just as enjoyable picking through the smoking rubble as it is witnessing their skill at keeping it on the road in the first place.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Sarah Neufeld - Hero Brother (Constellation)

Beginning with a soft rumble, like wind over a microphone, Sarah Neufeld coos and shivers her violin to life, seemingly an intrinsic part of herself, coaxed into sound. This gentle awakening changes direction into the more purposeful title track; a creaking frantic, twisting beauty of a song; encompassing taut tension and a stomping beat, its circling melodic figures stretched to near-destruction.

So begins an album that frequently returns to stillness and near-silence, some songs segue into one another on the back of a tranquil hissing breeze; on her website, Sarah describes yoga and meditation as part of her musical practice, knotting the music into herself. ‘Dirt’ has a spider-web-thin delicacy which gives way to a tune of soft bass notes and pinning curls of higher-register bowing; a beautiful stridency, plucked and frayed, worried at; its central structure indelibly stamped on its wandering progression, returned to with ease. This is typical of ‘Hero Brother’; a dense tangle of styles and influences that never feels forced or overcooked. Raucous bar-room dances, sharp shards of avant-dissonance, contemporary chamber rumble, cool minimalist repetition, groaning bluesy laments. An awesome technique is wedded to a flair for romantic, involving composition, and a fiercely committed songfulness. Filigreed baroque complexity clashes with a direct slicing way with a tune and a deep focus on the sound of the instrument: its buzz, burr, whispers, growls, and shrieks. The recording, engineering, and production are excellent (from Nils Frahm and Neufeld), every flutter, scrape, and sigh is captured in close-up.

There is an ineffable magic to music like this, her live performance at the Islington pub in London last year held the audience under a spell for its full duration.

Monday, 20 January 2014

BLK w/BEAR – The Final Mapping of New Constellations (Little Crackd Rabbit Records)

‘The Final Mapping of New Constellations’ by BLK w/BEAR was grown from a request to make a version of ‘The Stars Look Down’ by Lost Harbour. Rather than limit their output to one track, the band have made an album-length radical interpretation of the source material; in the process creating something quietly amazing, in this debut release for Little Crackd Rabbit.

Working with prepared vinyl and looped manipulated cello and bass guitar, BLK w/BEAR have conjured a sound choked with age and a sense of awe-struck frightened wonder. Opening with the celestial hum and struck piano of ‘Pang Pang’, a threatened rave epiphany shifts into dopplered drift and cold space; almost synonymous of the album as a whole: a void of bliss, comfort found in echoing isolation rather than social communion. The whole album continues much like this; the noise is close and attention-capturing: the scraping dissonance of distressed metal, droning strings, the rumble of irradiated electronic fire, sparse rattles of percussion, rusted pulsing wheezes, pysch-blurs of scorched guitars. The pace is often funereal; a lost and weary trudge across sodden fields, boots heavy and mud-caked. ‘Realif’ makes a gesture in the direction of melody in its final moments which drifts away unresolved. ‘Grand Order of the Eastern Star’ is one of the highlights; a scraped roar, wind-honed and elemental, like a coarse gale sweeping down a scree-rubbled valley, abandoned huts trumpeting the gusts through empty doors and windows.

This is music to be foraged through and sifted, sense-impressions escaping your fingers like sand. A disquieting triumph, the album unsettles with a mysterious broken grace; a forbidding and confrontational beauty; subtle in execution but quite profound in affect. The constellations it maps seem dangerous, a star-soaked sky where you slowly realise the pricks of light are countless eyes, regarding you unblinkingly.

Label info here.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Boat-Ting: N.E.W. + Kay Grant/Matt Chilton + YND + Jazzman John - 6th January, Bar & Co, Temple, London

YND: Tom Jackson & Stephen Crowe
The first Boat-Ting of the year convened at its usual berth of improvised goodness, a warmth in the post-Christmas January gloom.  Moving from its fortnightly slot to the first Monday of each month, the reduction in frequency has done nothing to diminish its place as one of the best regular improv nights in London.
Poet Jazzman John began the evening, accompanied by Ricky Edwards on clarinet and saxophone, with a Beat-infused tour of the less salubrious but infinitely more interesting corners of London.  Tales of brewers droop in Soho were met with the atmospheric jazz-noir soaked saxophone additions providing counterpoint, full stops, and sharp scribbles; whipping the Jazzman’s words off into rain-streaked ellipses. 
N.E.W. (Steve Noble, John Edwards, Alex Ward) and its variations have been raved about within this blog on a few occasions, in order to avoid repetition I will only say that they were full of their usual fire and passion.  Their rattling, collapsing, and exploded instant punk constructions are gripping, an unmissable group in any context they find themselves in.
Kay Grant and Matt Chilton were a fascinating pairing comprising Kay’s manipulated vocals and Matt’s live electronic processing.  The set was deeply textural and undulating; full of grain, static, fizz ‘n’ hiss, collapsed throat gargles, and sudden wipes of strafing heat from gushed noise-particles.  The sound was ghostly: lost sighs, echoes, the shifting of boxes in faraway tunnels, the clank of chains.  Vocal samples garbled “pounds” repeatedly behind radio interference and long whale moans, atoms of sliced babble twirled in the air.  A nonsense of perfect clarity.
YND played a duo set (Benedict Taylor was unable to join).  Tom Jackson (clarinet) and Stephen Crowe (electric guitar) began quietly with shivering tentative gestures from Stephen, later tangling in Beefheart-like twanging knots; Tom buzzed and moaned, trailing delicate curls and circles.  The guitar playing was fascinating: rapid strobes and sudden stretched abstracted chords, melted and bright.  This was a playful performance that scuttled about like a reptile, near inactivity would be transformed into off-kilter stalking movement.  The sound they created was inventively weird and aquatic with the occasional strange morse-code nursery rhyme tapped out in piercing needles.  A madly jumbled colourful set.
As ever, music nights as wonderfully odd as this need an audience to continue, so if you’re curious, don’t miss the next one.  Keep the boat afloat!
Boat-Ting listings and info: here.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Kammer Klang - 26th November - Cafe Oto, Dalston, London

This November edition of the Kammer Klang new music series was full of variety and interesting sounds.  Firstly, Johannes Kreidler’s ‘Money’ was performed in its UK premiere.  Opening with plunderphonic samples of cheesy corporate exposition on money over bent guitar wobble, the piece opened up with glitched cd-snatches of generic pounding pop-techno and discordant lumpy piano.  The rest of the ensemble added a rapid clutter, a whooping oscillating whole.  The performance was blockaded by buzzing interference from electronics at harsh pre-sets, in opposition to the folkish naivety of the guitar and violin.  Frequent shouts and claps from the musicians made this absurdist, fun, and playful.

The second performance on the programme, Newton Armstrong’s ‘Nature Pieces’, was in complete contrast. Suffused with a whispering delicate Arvo Pärt wheeze, it also recalled Richard Skelton’s squealing windswept bleakness.  Space and silence resounded with a beautiful subtle sparseness.  The plucking, shivers, and bowed sighs from the violin and cello were wrapped around clusters of ringing piano notes.  Meditative and calm, this first section conjured an unhurried sleep-state.  The second section contained longer sustained tones and more strident piano interventions; electronics were also added: a feedback-like hum, a voice counting a number sequence with obscure intent.  ‘Nature Pieces’ evoked a soft mist, a horizon swallowed in a glowing grey haze, the sea meeting the sky. 

Another UK premiere was on next: Bernhard Lang’s ‘DW23… Loops for Dr. X’.  The arrangement revolved around jarring incongruous loops, gleefully chaotic and busy.  Cinematic keyboard melodies emitted snatches of 80's horror tropes combined with guitar chatter that occasionally flipped into almost funk-rock licks; manipulated violin hiss rumbled away with a percolating burble; film samples; punk racket-scrabble; and an atmosphere of Glenn Branca’s boiling menace, meant there was a constant procession of noise and activity.  Disney xylophone tumbles and squalling free-jazz freak-outs created a confused drama.  The intrusion of thundering metal riffery added a note of irony.  ‘DW23… Loops for Dr. X’ was very arch - a combination of intellectual rigour and splattered prank-fest.  The musicians looped and incrementally stacked, shuffled around like indecisive sampling, a ragged Steve Reich phasing evident throughout, edges frayed, torn, and burnt.

Leafcutter John closed the evening with 3 shorter electronic pieces.  'Peck' was based on a dream where Leafcutter John was a giant bird nesting a clutch of tiny eggs, one making a sound when pecked, this was an attempt at replicating that moment.  The second had a tempo determined by the price of gold during the period 1957-2013.  The third, had a working title on the laptop screen, left unsaid because of some personal embarrassment, the audience were invited to look for themselves what it was. The sound throughout was of rustling digital leaves; fierce metallic clatter; clicking trills like a rainfall of coins, strafed by laser-fire; ragged 'ardkore thump; popping, ticking Monolake beats; all manipulated live.  One particular innovation was the light sensitive pad that LJ swooped over with white and red torches; this created a thermin-like operation but with a more varied range of tone.  At times the music resembled a melted version of Colleen’s first album ‘Everyone Alive Wants Answers’: woody and moist but subject to plunging alien diversions. A fascinating and fruitful set of sound experiments.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Luke Younger / Some Truths / Paul Clipson - 25th November - Cafe Oto, Dalston, London

This amazing evening at Café Oto combined Paul Clipson’s improvised super8 projections with two of the best electronic music artists currently in operation; a show stunning in both concept and execution.

Luke Younger with Paul Clipson projection
Some Truths appeared first; his modular synths instantly engaging; the sharp pops became a mesh of furred clicks and bangs looking for a beat, a path.  This was music that coalesces, orbiting parts clashing, a central mass gathering weight and impetus, dub chasms yawning at unexpected moments.  The rhythms are conjured and coaxed, persuaded into life, prodded with sudden percussive booms; illuminated by honeycombs of light and green grids, washing in and out of focus, a haze; a wonderful synthesis of sound and image.  The performance began to resemble a techno seance, the windows rattling with bass.  The images were startling, like snatches of neon captured momentarily from a speeding car snaking through empty city streets, wet pavements streaked with lurid reflections.  It all climaxed in a blaze of stuttering and convulsing beats; shuddering to a halt, exhausted.


Some Truths
Luke Younger’s set was remarkable.  His drone emerged like a building looming from fog; the film backdrop casting a confusion of sunset and leaves, dappled sunlight on water, sliced into shivering vertical rectangles.  Younger adding harshly ringing gongs as time passed.  The auditory and visual elements blurred together - the splash-hiss of hot metal in cold water, sparkling arcs of sound-droplets; a rumbling surge, a rising tide of resonating metal and disruptive clang.  The elements became a perfect synesthetic blend, like a roaring Tetsuo bio-mechanical melt; audio and image stitching together intimately.  One sequence was particularly beautiful; a series of zooms onto various surfaces, their textures explored until abstract: tree bark, concrete, skin, wool, lips, sea foam; a dream fugue, haunting and hypnotic; not nightmarish, just weird and dislocated.  The music throughout was just as absorbing, resembling a sudden wind dancing through a field of suspended chains, their links ascending and lost in a humming low grey cloud, condensation dripping from the rusted lengths into rotting brass bowls.

An amazing and inspiring evening of noise and light.


Friday, 3 January 2014

Paulo Chagas on Splatter's 'Cloud Seeding' (originally published at

'Cloud seeding’ seems a strange notion to be connected to something as fragile and enjoyable as the brand new album from Splatter, a London quartet headed by Noel Taylor and Anna Kaluza. In this work, entitled ‘cloudseed’, the band’s original rhythm section has been replaced by Portuguese guitarist, Pedro Velasco and Tom Greenhalgh on drums.  Also joining them as a special guest is the Polish bassist, Rafal Mazur. This is their third album to be released on Citystream, the personal label of British clarinetist Noel Taylor, who recently visited us at the MIA Festival.

When I listen to ‘cloudseed’ I am visited by pictures of past and present sounds from different places. The 13 tracks of this album seem to call out, urging us to be alive to the wishes of the forests, banishing the tumult of absurd and fiery noise through a self-contained industrial (digital) universe that balances and regulates itself. Blessed are those who live so completely in the now that they are able to live again within the disorder of an ageless innocence, free of dogma.

What Splatter give us is free improvisation which approaches jazz (and free jazz), rock and contemporary music, without being any of these things. It is almost as if, suddenly, the Rock in Opposition movement of the Canterbury Sound met with the impressionism of the Mediterranean, along with the neo-classical. This collective offers us a combination of sounds where we might stumble on the work of Théodore Dubois just as readily as those of Manuel de Falla, yet at the same time we can hear echoes of the dark American contemporary jazz personified by the likes of Curtis Hasselbring or Brad Shepik.

Don’t, however, think of this as merely a patchwork collection of wide ranging references, but rather as a thorough and conscious process of copious impregnation, as if drinking in influences from here and there were as vital and natural as breathing. The glory of the music made by some of the greatest and least pretentious creators possess this same prodigious quality : an appeal to an entire memory of previously seen (heard) pearls shining somewhere in time.

Appreciate and enjoy this interesting album as if you were flipping through an album of old family photographs, guaranteed to give true music lovers a generous helping of happiness.

Taylor’s sound is crystalline and delicate, always keeping a certain amount of sweetness in the clarinets, especially the soprano, even during the most daring passages. When he switches to the bass it is like the steady swing of a pendulum. The alto saxophone of Berliner, Anna Kaluza, interpolates something of the fuller quality of the language of modern European jazz. The guitar of our fellow countryman, Pedro Velasco, fills every corner of the album with a filigree ambience that superficially appears understated, but is truly assertive. Mazur proves equal to the task, providing an exceptional bass that is always more melodic than rhythmic.  The drums of Greenhalgh work as a sort of ‘boomerang’, switching the rhythm almost short of and almost beyond the pulsing time. All this movement of sound combined together is brilliantly paradoxical, taking us as close as possible as it gets to daydreaming.

Contrary to what some prophets of doom claim regarding an alleged crisis of musical creativity, we did find evidence here of an inexhaustible source of innovation, combined with great taste and excellent production quality. Rather than imitate, these musicians tried to recycle and reinvent old processes, thus presenting us with an inevitable evolution of forms. This has always been the highest virtue of the greatest artists throughout time.

Paulo Chagas, translated from the Portuguese and first published at

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Calling Time on Reality: an interview with Jessica Peace and Rory McCormick of 6&8

Rory McCormick and Jessica Peace (image from Xylem records website)
6&8 are a duo of poet/vocalist Jessica Peace and sound designer Rory McCormick.  They made some of the best music of last year, particularly the excellent 'City Plaintive'.  Their latest release is 'Ma Propre Fable, un Dimanche', a collaboration with Day Before Us on the Auditory Field Theory label.  Here, they discuss some of the ideas behind their music.

EfE: Are there any literary influences in your work?

J: There MUST be but not that I was conscious of.

R: My personal influences are Kerouac, Burroughs, Gibson, and more recently, J.G Ballard, although I couldn't claim that anything 6&8 have released was consciously influenced by any literary work, figure or movement. I'd be more inclined to suggest film as a driving force. I know in the beginning David Lynch was mentioned repeatedly - he fascinates. Similarly David Cronenburg has remained burned on to my retinas ever since I stumbled across Videodrome. I think of Ridley Scott's 'visual stimulus' in Dr. Tyrell's office, Stanley Kubrick's symmetry, and wonder how I can transliterate these abstractions into what we do. More generally though, visual and auditory cuts between scenes, environments and characters spark inspiration. I envy vignettes. Typically, music fades and film cuts – an instantaneous change of circumstances. I fade things in and out all the time though, and always feel a slight prang of guilt when I do. Fade to black.

Dr. Tyrell's office

EfE: Specifically, Is there a J.G Ballard influence in your work?  The anatomical descriptions on ‘Brutalism’ merging with the architecture brought him to mind.

J: So funny you have brought this comparison? Rory has just begun reading him and I took 'Crash' out of the library today. I watched the film adaptation when I lived with Rory about 8 years ago but that is my only connection to Ballard.

R: I found this question particularly interesting, because I only discovered Ballard last month! After re-watching Cronenburg's Crash, I felt compelled to read the original but was completely unprepared for the Andalou-esque sense-attack I found within its pages – I flinched and squirmed, my pulse raced and I read with one eye closed. It was an assault, plain and simple. His repeated references to geometry in the confluence of the human body and other technological forms and abstractions was gin in my tonic.

EfE: To continue to talk (sorry) about Ballard - Rory, you are interested in the 'confluence of the human body' with geometry.  In 'The Overloaded Man' the protagonist removes physical objects of their context and associations, reducing them to something like their platonic source, I've seen this referred to as "the death of affect" - this struck another parallel - Jessica, your repetition of words and phrases occasionally feels like an attempt at this - a mantra like reduction of words to their essence as pure sounds?

J: Ahhh yes sometimes more than others. I worked with the artist Gabo Guzzo a few years ago and had to perform his poetry in this vein- no emphasis/ emotion on the word. It was incredibly frustrating but it has become my integral, as you say mantra. The death of the author/The death of the actress.

R: I've yet to read that story but your description of it is intriguing, it's like calling time on reality. We've all heard the reality we perceive being described in one way or another as being only a construct of the mind, with nothing to prove that our experiences are anything other than electrical signals in the brain – so what is it? And how can we trust it? Etc. Well, here we go: it's just a load of colour swatches and sense-dramas and ceramic penguins pointing the wrong way, and here's my art to prove it. Your question prompted me to search for the name given to the feeling of having repeated a word so many times it loses its meaning, and becomes foreign somehow, causing you to ask yourself if you are even pronouncing it correctly. It's called 'semantic satiation' and you might be interested to know that the last time it happened to me the word in question was 'sofa'.

EfE: It's interesting you bring up Lynch, do you have a similar aim of making the familiar strange? Some of your music sounds a little like Lynch's lucid dream method, like a normal scene that is subtly but gradually buried in weirdness.
R: This resonates with me, certainly the use of field recordings and samples of choirs and washing machines and multi-storey car parks is an attempt to place them out of context. My natural environment is a great stimulus for me and often when I'm out I'm hearing my own 4'33'' I try to take those sparks and weave them subtly into the sonic palette, via the arrangement, or perhaps embellishing other sounds with bird tweets and such in order to suggest a scene. Other times I've taken blocks of recordings made of this or that and just play them start to finish with little or no processing or attempt to amalgamate them with more traditional musical elements. To me it feels like dropping in short video clips for the ears.

EfE: Are there any plans to work any of your recorded material into a live show?

R: Upon reading this we both said: “That's the dream”. Ideally, we would be making music for live performance. I think the way I compose would need to change, for example audio samples would need to be prepared for use with software devices that lend themselves to live interaction and improvisation. There would need to be dedicated real-time processing for Jessica and control over her parameters. Up until now my methods have been like painting on a cave wall, scrawling found sounds, waveforms and poetry together with myriad software tools over a period of days and weeks and ending up with a picture of loads of people spearing a water buffalo up the guts. A performance might require things to come together in a more preordained and organised manner. I'd want to develop some more efficient techniques, hone a dedicated and concise tool set. All of these things would impact the structures of music developed for live performance and listening. We'd need to rehearse! I don't feel I use appropriate hardware for what we do now let alone for a live set of sexy collage-beats and spoken word microphone-drones. I hope 2014 will herald the next stage in our evolution. Long live the new flesh.

  EfE: You mention the influence of film making on your music.  Have you ever considered working with visual artists?

J: Yes. I think it may happen soon.

R: I would like to incorporate a visual element in the future. An electronic music performance often seems lonely without one and I think our project would lend itself to this medium. It's about audience appreciation of your interactions with your tools. Playing the guitar, I'm physically interacting with the strings, they resonate as I alter their vibrating lengths with my hands, my body is moving as I exert the effort needed to do this. But with a laptop I may be just be banging the pads of a MIDI controller and watching the screen for visual feedback and performance markers to aid me in navigating through the piece. My eyes don't find looking at someone guffing at a laptop or plugging a load of patch cables into small boxes a particularly stimulating sense experience, with or without someone fronting the performance by standing behind a microphone with their mouth. If I'm visible on stage, I want visuals, if I'm in a darkened corner and it's all about the feeling – let them dance at their shoes. It still feels like an experiment with 6&8 though, neither of us know what to expect next. I mean, this may sound incredulous, but I've never even heard our music played through speakers. Slowly slowly catchy monkey. I must admit to not having been out to much live music recently, so forgive me if my opinions seem narrow.

EfE: There is a collage-like balance between abstraction and structure in your music, is that intentional from the outset or do you record segments and throw them together, cut-up style?

J: That is how we work. I think a ‘collage’ is an apt description. There is a working tension between a necessary structure and the abstract sounds it holds.

R: Remove the word 'or' and the interrogative and you just might have an answer:
“There is a collage-like balance between abstraction and structure in our music that is intentional from the outset. We record segments and throw them together cut-up style.”  That works some of the time, not always. That method tends to favour the collage / the collage tends to favour that method. It stems from my interest in sound switching perspective and location as film does while progressing a story. When I start something I very rarely have a picture of what it will sound like, I usually discover that as I'm working on it. I'm always confident that the answers will present themselves if I'm patient and diligent and have eyes to see them.

EfE: What are your thoughts on psychogeography?  Was 'City Plaintive' seeking to drift off the usual paths of the cities where it was recorded?

J: I am certain the surrounding affects the psyche, it’s irresistible. Regarding 'City Plaintive', I'd moved back to a smaller city and only then did I understand and respect the bigger or more furious cities I’d been living in.

R: I'm a stranger to the subject, but locations and architecture make me grasp for sonic methodologies just out of reach.

EfE: In some of the lyrics there is a focus on the body and its place in its surroundings.  Is this a particular theme that interests you?

J: It is. I am very interested in the body and the differences in human form. It is rarely regarded as a vessel that protects and provides for us. Nor are individual aesthetics celebrated, I think this ignorance is not only tragic but dangerous.

R: From a musical standpoint, I'm interested in environments and how sound propagates within them, how I perceive sound is influenced by my immediate surroundings, and even the position of my head. I often find myself intently listening to the distant horns and approaching rumble of trains as heard from within a local nature reserve. I spent some time a few months back repeatedly visiting a viaduct so I could stand beneath it and record footsteps passing through it, I loved how the reflections suddenly changed. I've gone on quite a bit about esoteric sound appreciation; I feel I need to provide balance by saying I also like synthesisers jizzing off diatonic melodies.

EfE: Jessica, you talk about the celebration of individual aesthetics.  A desire for homogeneity seems to be the norm, is that the danger you mention?  The creation of an ideal that can't (shouldn't) be attained (sought), and the unnecessary pressures this places people under.  Is your collage approach a reaction to this?  A dada jumble of lips, thighs, legs, arms, contusions.

J: I think ‘Exercises in Beauty’ certainly was in part. That's why I mentioned my own fat, birth marks, blood spots, breasts. Perhaps the collage approach does relate to this, on a broader scale at least it does. The work has just been at the mercy of Rory and I, we have license to ignore the restrictions of an anticipated order- this is a rare freedom.
EfE: Jessica, are your voices on the albums from multiple viewpoints?  In 'City Plaintive' are they from the city itself?

J: 'City Plaintive'- there were probably about four cities I focused on/ or from. There have been many voices available and used, as the concepts we work with have been more of an essence or strain within the work.

EfE: Rory, the rumble of trains is particularly striking to me, living in London, as they are omnipresent, the veins of the city, to return to the body/city meld.  The Victoria line announcement featuring on ‘City Plaintive’ stays with me as it's such a familiar sound, if you're a regular user of it.

R: Sounds associated with movement and the movement of sound. I'm not currently a resident of London, but have friends in Tottenham so have frequented the Vicky many a time. The sonic lexicon of rail journeys fascinates me. Track rumble, distant horns, Doppler shift, the scream of the Underground, automated doors, recorded announcements, low mutter. Maybe the gloomy quiet of British trains allows me to focus on these sounds with little distraction, maybe I focus on them out of need to ignore the roaring silence – if so, thank you repressed citizens, thank you personal space crimes. I used to live in Cambodia and Nepal – let me tell you, you don't have the opportunity to appreciate the sonic subtleties of local transport in these counties and use them as a bridge to inspiration unless you work solely within the field of extreme noise.


Explore the sounds of 6&8 here:
Xylem Records
Auditory Field Theory