Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Resource Centre - Low Fantasy EP (The Geography Trip)

Electronica imbued with the outdoors; tunes structured like a lattice of bare branches; clicks, beats, ticks, all settling in place like rain on a pond, a sympathetic clash of complex ripples, a chaotic natural order; ‘Low Fantasy EP’ by The Resource Centre is a masterpiece.

Opening song ‘Low Fantasy’ introduces this EP perfectly; spooky frosted folkish synth meandering bathed in the soft hiss of breeze through leaves; the song eventually flowing back on itself in a lush icy Möbius strip, tape whispers flickering at the edges like lens-flare.  ‘The Hour Angle (The Sun, It Rises Everywhere)’ loops spoken vocals, the words entwined in unfolding melodies made from small drops of tiny dulcimer beats, falling like dew from a bird’s shivered motion.  ‘High Fantasy’ wraps lushly bowed cello around itself, knotted with rushes of reversed pipe-wheeze, a dream-like miniature fugue. 
The centrepiece of ‘Low Fantasy’, ‘Round (Music)’ is heart-achingly beautiful, a work of intricately ringing clockwork majesty to rival Aphex Twin’s ‘Nannou’.  It effortlessly gains direct access to your nervous system, every ping and sharply tuned clash loaded with wonder; increasing in complexity through several subtle incremental cranks of an unseen handle, bass reverberations adding weight, preventing it from becoming pure drifting vapour.  This is minimal process-music washed in soft early-evening light, an audio magic-hour; the sort of song you feel something should happen during, something amazing, so the two would be forever indelibly joined.
‘Low Fantasy’ is an astonishingly good work from The Resource Centre.  A record that stains you; no one will see it, but you’ll know it’s there, etched on your soul; a work of magic, no sleight of hand here however, but real mysterious ineffable magic.  Trying to write a review that does it justice was an enjoyably pointless exercise.
Purchase 'Low Fantasy' here.  More information on The Geography Trip here.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

N.E.W. - Motion (Dancing Wayang)

The psychic communion of bassist John Edward and Steve Noble has been commented on many a time, but here it reaches a level of near absurdity; ‘Betting On Now’, the first piece on this explosive slab of vinyl, has a section so completely locked-in that your brain tells you it must be rehearsed were it not for the staggering almost-chaos of its non-structure. This ably displays what makes N.E.W. not only an incredible band, but one of the best improvising groups currently in existence. They collide rock, free-jazz, and improv, in an atom-smashing tight-rope-in-a-hurricane high-energy power-trio; Alex Ward on guitar completing the ensemble. Their live performances are remarkable for their ferocity and fully-committed racket; however, they are never merely a noise splatter; they combine moments of stillness and light winding interplay with sections of careening downhill no-hands-on-the-wheel madness.

The recording of ‘Motion’ captures this all beautifully; you could be in the room with them. It ranges from the already mentioned punkish squall of ‘Betting On Now’ to the austere scraping gong-filled percussive miniature of ‘How It Is’; from the intricately unfolding rhythmic construction of ‘4th & Three’ to the head-smashing instrument destruction at the end of the title track.

N.E.W. are never less than an essential live proposition and ‘Motion’, as brilliant as previous releases ‘Newtoons’ and ‘Deadeye Tricksters’ are, is the album that captures them most accurately; the sort of music that, once heard, I couldn’t imagine not existing. ‘Motion’ is a wonderful document of a band that shouldn’t be taken for granted; see them again and again, and listen to this amazing album with the same attitude. Dancing Wayang has bottled lightning with this one.

More info on N.E.W. and Dancing Wayang

Monday, 24 February 2014

C. Reider - I'd've (self released)

C. Reider created this excellent solo album in 2003 while in the group Drone Forest; it finally emerges as a self-released project after an inexplicable disinterest from various labels.  It recalls KTL with its glassy cold synths wrapping around the scrape of metal and the buried subterranean roar of guitars.  ‘Strings’ sounds like great endless buzzing wires, vibrating in a wind.  ‘Menos’ has a haunted fridge ambience, abandoned and long forgotten, but still somehow rattling with electricity.  ‘At the Monolith’ fizzes with what may be processed voices lost among a humming drizzled pall of hum. ‘Blade of water’ pulses with life, a mottled sickly reptile skin throbbing in lurid close-up.  ‘Movaerea’ is comparatively serene, a diaphanous shimmer, expansive, soft and beautiful.
These pieces tunnel through different textures and examine varying approaches to the summoning of drone: sometimes aqueous, often rusted and malevolent.  Soaked in an atmosphere of implacable dread, but never merely a schlocky horror-fest, the sound rumbles and whispers from an unseen location, like the weird carved symbol hidden behind the bathroom mirror in Ben Wheatley’s Kill List.
A captivating album of drift and patient subtle noise construction, ‘I’d’ve’ has languished far too long unheard.  Allow it into your ears; let it settle behind the wallpaper of your mind as if its always been there, glowing with unobserved peripheral mischief.
Get hold of a copy here.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Howie Reeve - Friendly Demons (self released)

‘Friendly Demons’ is a collection of 12 impressively wide-ranging compositions for solo acoustic-bass guitar by Howie Reeve, former member of Tattie Toes.  His songs wander down snaking multifarious paths, taking the listener through several stylistic contortions that never jar or appear forced into place.  The songs lithely wind flamenco-like knots into smooth post-rock grooves; sudden scribbles of punk riffing interrupt folkish meandering; ambient textural passages become embroiled in bursts of dissonant noise.  This is all achieved remarkably intuitively, an eclecticism that feels entirely natural and uncontrived, as if all these elements have always existed within each other.  The looser explorative sections are never far from a captivatingly beautiful melody, tunes that will run around your mind for hours; these are often elaborated into fine filigreed intricacy or steadily whittled away to nothing over several iterations.  Recalling at various points, and often within the same song, Papa M, Mike Watt, Arab Strap, and Derek Bailey, Howie Reeves nonetheless marks out his own territory, mapping an inner cartography of constantly shifting shorelines and sudden unexpected inlets.  ‘Friendly Demons’ possesses an unassuming and subtle power that will hold you spellbound.
Buy Friendly Demons here.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Colin Webster and Graham Dunning - Estigate (Linear Obsessional)

‘Estigate’ is the first release in a planned series of improvised duos from the Linear Obsessional label.  This album pairs Colin Webster playing tenor and baritone saxophones, with Graham Dunning who employs turntables, mixer, and dubplates, occasionally manipulated with brushes, dentistry tools, and pencils.  The music they create is fascinating, the sound is fibrous and often timid; coaxed into being, as if from a hiding place, brought into unaccustomed exposure.  Sighs, pops, and short darting flurries from Webster are tossed into Dunning’s drifting net of soft threads; he conjures rough tapping scrapes, hissing crackle, and undulating moans, all bedded in a surreal fumbling clickscape.
‘Estigate’ seems austere at first; a minimum of sounds and movements combined in communication; but a closer examination reveals a profusion of activity, albeit within a minimal framework.  Both instruments are explored intimately and expansively, micro-gestures magnified until they appear divorced from their source, the individual contributions of each artist disguised in a closely knotted dusty melee.  The two artists entwine in tentacular fashion, sounds curling together in a perpetually collapsing helix.
Linear Obsessional has a large catalogue of idiosyncratic creations, a gallery of the bizarre that deserves a deep dive; a singular label releasing regularly amazing music with an accessible ‘pay what you like’ download policy and a commitment to producing high-quality physical editions.  ‘Estigate’ is another imaginative entry into this already distinguished warehouse of brilliant avant-weirdness.
Purchase a copy of 'Estigate' here.
Explore Linear Obsessional here.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Henry Blacker - Hungry Dogs Will Eat Dirty Puddings (Riot Season)

Featuring two members of one of the finest rock bands in existence, Hey Colossus, this debut album by Henry Blacker promised much but delivers in great greased granite slabs.  Songs like ‘A Bone and a Thistle’, ‘Scumblood’, and ‘Pullin’ Like a Dray’ combine the unhinged bloodshot glare and loping lupine stalk of Jesus Lizard with the heat-blurred sand-blasted riffing of Goatsnake.  The slower moments are no less engaging, with basslines like an eel ruffling through the bones of shipwrecked sailors. 

There is something captivatingly wrong about Henry Blacker, they seem to have plumbed the depths to dredge up this set of barnacle-encrusted horror-rock.  It’s the combination of heads-down instrumental grind and horrified howling that sets this apart, not that this hasn’t been done before, just perhaps not very often completed with such savage vigour; the singer screams like he’s hallucinating broken-legged arachno-unicorns vomiting hairy diamonds into his eyes.
‘Hungry Dogs Will Eat Dirty Puddings’ is a brilliant collection of intense head-crackers; mud-metal of great distinction.  It is enormously and unreservedly recommended.
Get the album here.
More info on Henry Blacker here.

Monday, 17 February 2014

A.R.C. Soundtracks - Archive: Volume One (Little Crackd Rabbit)

This A.R.C. Soundtracks album, ‘Archive: Volume One’, is the second release for Little Crackd Rabbit, a Manchester label that is becoming an essential dot in the avant music firmament. 
‘Archive: Volume One’ is full of mournful desert sunset moans; these are songs that shiver into being, percussion like a bird settling its feathers into order.  Guitars scrape, roar, and low like immense metal-throated cattle calling to each other; organs drone; drums boom like slammed doors; voices emerge from the noise, words looped and cropped, their meaning obscure; expansive psych-twisting melodic threads unravel unresolved.  A sound lushly tactile; monolithic and parched; tense and storm-threatening; like staring into the gloom of a darkening plain, distant bursts of thunder echoing off the baked ground.  The pace is generally creeping and exhausted; a broken-legged limp towards a horizon on fire; like a doomed and blistered Labradford collapsing with hunger in an empty river bed; the sonic equivalent of a Cormac McCarthy character wandering a blasted deadscape of roasted tree stumps and ash-filled lakes.
A.R.C. Soundtracks have made a fiercely evocative album of hot and menacingly still night-music; a fire in the dark, wolves circling in the solid black, a long way from morning.
More info on A.R.C. Soundtracks here.
Little Crackd Rabbit label website here.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Maurice's Hotel Death - And The Way Out EP (self-release)

Pouring a tape by Maurice’s Hotel Death into your head is a sure way to lose yourself; continuing from the fantastic ‘Hot Jone’ album on Rano, this EP finds Larry Crywater exploring a hard-to-place feeling of dread-filled poignancy.  The first side has desperately plaintive piano melodies resounding forlornly in an abandoned rusted hulk; drones and scraping clanks echoing down dripping corridors.  Like ‘Hot Jone’ this release follows its own narrative logic, never merely a splatter of noise, it groans and throbs on the peripheries of structure and sense but resolutely refuses to move in a linear direction; music that invites exploration and contemplation.  There is also room for rhythm and motion, ‘Night Memory (Larry Crywater mix)’ has a clattering degraded dust-cluttered techno framework, but one that appears strained and struggling to restrain the chaotic unease at its core. 

‘And The Way Out’ is another brilliant page fallen from the dubiously stained notebook of Maurice’s Hotel Death, a page containing symbols that appear inscrutable but nonetheless naggingly insistent, instructions for dark festivities that have gone unmarked, and should perhaps remain ever so.

Get a copy here.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Viv Corringham - Gum + Butts (Linear Obsessional)

Viv Corringham wanders the streets of London in this fascinating set of field recordings, capturing her improvised vocal interaction with the ambient sounds of the city.  In six locations - Borough Market, the Thames east from Queenhythe, St Paul’s Cathedral, a Moorgate construction site, Kings Cross Station, and Tate Modern – she haunts the areas, leaving momentary sonic imprints.  Corringham offers spitting pants in response to the swirl of water; when faced with the conversational static of the market, she answers with her own confused babble; clear snatches of the talk of passers-by are cut-through with a wasp-like drone; all these gestures and many more closely, if briefly, meld her with her surroundings.  The recording is excellent, capturing stamps of feet, the clatter of roadworks, the buzz of an over-passing airplane; Corringham is often entirely absent, happy to let the space she is in speak for itself, only contributing a duet at some personally intuitive moment, acting as our ears on her path.  The voice sounds disembodied, drifting free around its environment, alighting here and there to interrogate specific aspects of the soundscape. 
The chaotic jumble of noise that encompasses the collected noise of a city both welcomes and buries, at times Corringham is lifted above the general clamour and at others completely subsumed.  ‘Gum + Butts’ is captivating, oddly intimate, feeling like an invitation to an eavesdropping; a contemplative ramble through spaces not usually paused in, and appreciated for their accidental but nonetheless beautiful music.
Purchase 'Gum + Butts' from Bandcamp here.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Bass Clef - Acid Tracts e.p. (Magic + Dreams)

Ralph Cumbers returns with his Bass Clef alter ego on 'Acid Tracts', an e.p. of fine echo-chamber bloop transmissions.  The e.p. tag is a little misleading as this contains enough invention to sustain several full-length albums by less imaginative producers.  The tracks writhe and squirm, tick and click, blooming into great liquid-bass-soaked sonic flowers; ones you would willingly plunge your head into, despite the quite obvious teeth.  ‘Acid Tracts’ is hypnotically electrified, the sound of hissing wires and machines throbbing in a loose bind, rhythms slipping in an out of phase, beats clapping and bursting at unexpected moments.  This is electro that has woken up in a hedge; rather than being coldly and efficiently propulsive, it meanders and takes the path less travelled; dropping into dub chasms and halting cul-de-sacs. 
‘Acid Tracts’ is wonderfully human, clear evidence of a mind exists behind everything, wrestling with the equipment;  sounding brilliantly jury-rigged, you can almost detect the thought process behind each track, the method of placing this noise over here and that sound over there, making the whole endearingly ragged while still being intricately arranged.  This is lab-cultured electronic music, but certainly not a dry exercise in experimental formalism, more a joyful unblinkered tinkering; Professor Cumbers as Doc Brown, bellowing “1.21 Raveawatts” in a chaotic Hackney lock-up, as his synth smashes through the space-time continuum, leaving strobing neon track-marks scorched into the cable-strewn floor.
Get yer Acid Tracts here.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014


‘III’ by MICROFL▼RSCNCE  is a crumbling edifice of sound; flakes of noise falling from a forbidding cliff wall of crackle, writhing rusted electronics and jumbled voices.  The music swirls in a thick psych-broth, individually recognisable elements bubbling to the surface occasionally before dissipating into the murk: snatches of Bollywood strings, stamping fireworks, tape hiss, thick chords of organ rumble.  Everything is soaked in a lushly beautiful wobbling drone, drifting serenely unmoored from any obvious structures.  The second side is just as becalmed, stabs of echoing guitar pulse into a shimmering mist.  The addition of a skipping techno thump adds forward thrust without constraining any of the evocative sampling; alien bird calls, shrieking whoops, and the clatter of woody percussion stretch and test the boundaries loosely placed by the steady beat.

Like Rano’s last tape, the excellent ‘Hot Jone’ by Maurice’s Hotel Death, ‘III’ is effortlessly weird; a drone remix of field recordings lost within a dusty suitcase in a crashed and forgotten space craft, resting in a vine-choked jungle canopy.  Another great Rano release.
Purchase a downloadable copy here.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Dead Neanderthals / Dead Days Beyond Help with Alan Wilkinson - 3rd February - The Vortex, Dalston, London

Two contrasting approaches to ecstatic noise were on display in a stunning double-bill at The Vortex; the venue name entirely appropriate for the relentless churning fury of the two groups. Alex Ward (guitar) and Jem Doulton (drums) of Dead Days Beyond Help were tonight reinforced by Alan Wilkinson (saxophones). Their set was full of racing grinding riffs, the drums winding lithely around the falling sparks created by the butting metallic heads of Ward and Wilkinson, who loudly roared and whooped in the stormier passages. A marauding free-rock monster, Dead Days Beyond Help offer the sort of all-encompassing open-minded avant-blasting that is often required to keep yourself sane.

Dead Neanderthals summoned their amazing music through sheer force of will. Two baritone saxophonists (Colin Webster and Otto Kokke) and a drummer (Rene Aquarius) unleashed music of such molten fury that it should have gripped the attention of even the most leather-eared and jaded volume-junky. Those who have heard their excellent album for Raw Tonk, ‘…And It Ended Badly’, will be familiar with the band’s capacity for screaming intensity; this, however, still left me vulnerable to what was a performance of such passion and fire that I became concerned at points that we might not all make it out the other side. After being illuminated by three harsh glaring spot lights, Webster and Kokke immediately set about constructing a tower of honking the likes of which I have rarely witnessed, the drums a rattling machine gun accompaniment. They unrelentingly delivered a torrent of sound that suggested the missing link between John Coltrane’s ‘Ascension’ and the experience of pulping your head in a blender. Passing through several boundaries: flinching discomfort at the volume and aggression, building to excitement as the noise took full-hold, and then over the event horizon into a sort of bludgeoned zen-calm as it finally ate what was left of my mind and my last coherent thought disappeared into its gaping razored maw.

A willing, if shell-shocked, supplicant to a blaring sacrifice, I wobbled out into the night with smoking ears and a head full of static and slowly cooling rubble; a bus transporting me home in a daze.

Find out more about Dead Neanderthals here, and vist their Bandcamp page here.  Listen to Dead Days Beyond Help here.