Monday, 28 April 2014

April Larson - The Second Throne (Soft Bodies)

Dry and husked, flakes of sound detaching and crumbling into nothing over sighing solar winds of drone; April Larson’s new album for Soft Bodies records is as excellent as her previous releases and may be her best work yet.  ‘The Second Throne’ is electronica tactile and roughly textured, ghostly and haunted like Leyland Kirby’s spectral ballrooms but divested of their aquatic time-choked melodies; April smears her music into long-exposure phantoms of harmony that slip into your consciousness and steal an hour.  Calm but poignant, as far from ‘chill out’ ambient territory as possible, this has a stillness enforced by a contemplation of enormity, of magnitude or aeons, of deep-space or deep-time, of grief or ecstasy.  The instruments here are cracks and pops, fungus and dust, decay and decrepitude; an album entropic in nature, sand seeping through a cracked and warped hour-glass.  ‘The Second Throne’ is beautiful, noise kipple bricolage written large in humming sphere-symphonies.
Buy the album here.  Info on Soft Bodies records here (make sure to read about and attend their Electric Dog Show night on May 7th at Power Lunches, Dalston, London).

Thursday, 24 April 2014

King Ayisoba / Zea / Howie Reeve – Wed 9th April – Café Oto, Dalston, London

King Ayisoba
A trio of solo performances united in their passion and brilliance, if not in style, illuminated the Café Oto for a memorable show.

Howie Reeve
Howie Reeve was an avuncular presence, opening with a joke about the Uncle Bonmee ghost-audience caused by the glare of spots–lights in his eyes.  His character seemed as fluid, warm and engaging as his wonderful music, playing acoustic-bass avant-folk infused with traces of Minutemen and Slint.  A river of humour ran through the set: a song with an intro “a bit like Cool for Cats”; lyrics about people playing “arpeggios with their willies”, and the beautiful line “your heart is like a sack of drowned puppies.”  This was music meandering and generous with its audience, open and bright, he mused that we must be accustomed to a higher instrumental proficiency at the Café Oto; certainly not a more shining imagination.  One highlight was a moment where the audience were invited to make a low guttural croak during a song about high scoring Scrabble tactics and living vivaciously.  There was an abundance of heart and soul in every string reverberation, revealing and illuminative, deviously circuitous.  Howie Reeve is on to something here, fuck knows what it is but you should allow him to lead you off Aguirre-style, adorned with monkeys, eyes brimming with whisky-soaked genius and lunacy. 

Zea is the solo alias of Arnold de Boers, vocalist in The Ex; using a minimal set-up of guitar and sampler, he created a maximal one-man polemical punk funk pop juggernaut.  Mechanistic but ramshackle with it, he deployed wobbling bass electronics, dub and scabrous guitar scrapings; the solemn but excitable lyrics evocative of prime Guy Picciotto confronto-barking.  There was sharp electro-punk poetry “taken to a field where donkeys grow” shouted with heart-lifting anger.  Zea fills the veins and lights-up brains without neglecting to move your feet.  He was joined by King Ayisoba for a rousing and thrilling rendition of Leadbelly’s ‘Bourgeois Blues’.

King Ayisoba appeared solo this evening due to problems with visas after full-band performances all over Europe; he conquered the venue in their absence.  The show was one of ultra-repetitive dance music, the audience invited to participate and urged to move and sing.  His two-string kologo guitar drilled skull-holes with endlessly bouncing riffs, shouted vocals about wicked leaders and love buttressing the bore, sluicing the mind with pure molten sweaty joy.  This was a commanding, infectious and magisterial set.  King Ayisoba ruled the Dalston night with his two eccentric lieutenants.

King Ayisoba and Zea performing Leadbelly's 'Bourgeois Blues'



Information on King Ayisoba, Howie Reeve, and Zea: here, here, and here.
Cafe Oto programme: here.

All photography by
© Dawid Laskowski

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Howlround - Secret Songs of Savalama (The Fog Signals)

This incredible audio excavation is the work of Howlround, a sextet comprising four machines and two masters of sonic séance.  The Spanish House, a ruined customs building on the banks of the river Sava in Belgrade became the site of a beautiful and eerie divination of lost activity and evacuated space; the degraded structure was coaxed into life; noise memories conjured with the manipulation of its frame; shouts and chants echoing around its walls; structural supports rung like sick dulcimers; passing freight trains causing weird bouncing laser-burst effects; voices crying out wordlessly.
No additional sounds were created other than those possible within the house and its surroundings, manifested by the people wandering with Howlround through its damp corridors.  The captured sonic ghosts were fed into tapes and looped, chopped and interrogated; the house mined for sound; its noise feeling lost and vapour-thin, intangible but insistent, its presence vague and difficult to substantiate, like an architectural EVP, a building slowly wrenched of its secrets.  The music resulting from these explorations is utterly burying in effect, completely mesmerising; like ‘Sings Reign Rebuilder’ by Set Fire to Flames with the instruments removed, the creaking floorboards all that remains. 
‘Secret Songs of Savalama’ is a masterpiece, unforgettable and hauntingly beautiful; a record that shivers and drips with shadows and mystery.  An incomprehensible question was asked of the Spanish House, this trio of secret songs is its unfathomable response.
Explore 'Secret Songs of Savalama' here.  Information on Howlround here.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Sikora / O’Hara / Lacey - Arbour (Fort Evil Fruit)

Cover art by James McCaul

This trio of Catherine Sikora (tenor sax), Colm O’Hara (trombone), and David Lacey (drums and percussion) have made a gripping piece of music with ‘Arbour’.  Its 39 minutes are deeply absorbing; the interaction between the instruments is heated and full of threat, each stalking the other, no player allowed to break away for too long before the other two lock tentacles again.  The sax strikes hot sparks off the flinty coarse trombone, the drums a constant drizzle of activity: intermingling cymbal washes, rapid machine-gun rattle, plunging tom hits; the sound wrestles with itself, like a building constructed from mad tangents in counter-intuitive thrusts, angled impossibly to the ground, somehow standing regardless.

A quiet segment seethes almost silently, the space briefly emptied except for a few sonic twigs blowing across the dusty street of a town, depopulated in advance of a battle.  Flailing sax, bells, low moans and scorching parps recombine in a metallic tussle; the moving parts of the music acting like an agricultural machine threshing piles of small gongs. 
‘Arbour’ is a chaotic clatter of sound that possesses great soul and fury, small pockets of pregnant calm forcing brief respites in between passages of rushing tumult.  An excellent album you should hear without delay.

Download 'Arbour' here.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Dirty Knobs - I Want to Live Inside the Sun (Xero Music)

‘I Want to Live Inside the Sun’ is an album made in reaction to the extreme cold of Minnesota in the early months of this year; it contemplates the immensity and creative violence of our nearest star; Zac Bentz (a.k.a. Dirty Knobs) imagined himself floating within touching distance, somehow unconsumed.
This sound of this roaring synth set is large and grandiose, resembling an enormous neo-gothic church organ blasting a congregation of skeletons, flayed clean by sheer volume.  The first part is an unceasing assault of drone, a constant swell of molten fury.  Part two provides a contrast, a post-supernova frozen void evoked in ambient hum and a desolate buried melody, irradiating fuzz clicking subtly but lethally in the margins.
‘I Want to Live Inside the Sun’ is an album about heat and its negative, a flesh-burning frost that flickers the embers of the album to a close.
Buy the album from Bandcamp here.  Dirty Knobs Facebook and Twitter here and here.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

OH/EX/OH - New Horizon (no label)

A deep-space probe beams back the latest OH/EX/OH album from the Oort Cloud.  The extreme distance entails a lengthy downloading time of several decades.  In the intervening years between its initial arrival and its sonic tail crashing into the hard-drives of the automated laboratory equipment absorbing its weak signal, wars, droughts, and political upheavals have come and gone; the blue progress bar proceeding without care. 
The lab is now empty and unused.  Thick dust coats every surface, the windows empty of glass.  No one is present to see one of the few unbroken screens burp into life.  A speaker crackles, startling a squirrel tearing the stuffing from an over-turned office chair.  Its ears not equal to the task of comprehending the mysterious voices, lush drones, and beautiful drifting curtains of sound that resound within the room.  A wall-mounted cabinet rattles in sympathy with a particularly loud rumble of bass; the vibrations causing some forgotten tool to fall through half-opened doors, clattering against cracked tiles, rolling into a patch of vines that descend from ceiling to floor, choking a coat-stand.  The sharp pings, static, hiss and crackle would have confused anyone present; is this the music for which the equipment has been waiting so long, or some file corruption from the background hum of the cosmos?  Does it even matter?  A van speeds past in the distance, the soft whoosh and whine of its passage briefly disturbing the fifth track ‘Signals’; the sad drone complementing the vehicles fading disturbance.  Short, melodic interlude ‘No Way Home’ fills the space with slow resigned grace.  Shortly after, the skipping tech-dub rhythmic diversion of ‘The Kessel Run’ swirls dust particles into the air.  The sound settles once again into an unhurried swaying glide; beautiful metallic tones and buzzing murmurs interweave, at one point resembling an endlessly burring cello.  ‘New Horizon’ eventually begins to draw to a close with synthesised breath and an aching melancholy tune.
Someone enters the room, the music stops.
Download 'New Horizon' here.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Raining Leaf / Wizards Tell Lies - Fallen (Chapel Yard)

The Chapel Yard label’s most recent release is ‘Fallen’, a 25 minute single-track collaboration between Raining Leaf and Wizards Tell Lies.  It awakes with tenuous sonar traces, like a musical substance hunted and pursued, a submarine sweeping an oceanic trench, stumbling upon a whistling tone of unnatural beauty.  Echoing guitar lines are cut through with degraded electronic filters.  A drone encroaches and recedes.  Soft high-notes ascend like bubbles vented from air tanks.  The signal is later lost in drift and ambient hum, as if the sound became aware of its audience and retreated into silence, replaced with the mysterious sonic violence of a teeming alien reef.  Simple rhythmic patterns return and lend some solidity to the swirling noise; ultimately fruitless, but poignantly so.  Structure often arrives in the form of melodic fragments, frantic barrel-struck beats, or closely looped murk, before disappearing back into formlessness. 
Raining Leaf’s Warpish art-rock eclecticism finds the perfect foil here with the crumbling noise of Wizards Tell Lies.  The scraping roar of distorted guitars combine with the turbulence of acidic computer processing, a sound sorted, sifted and then blown into current-dragged motes. 
This release is one to explore deeply, it is as enticing as it is forbidding, entrancingly opaque and subtly sinister for much of its duration.  Despite the drift, it is expertly composed, its frame becoming clearer over time, the drone and rotor-spun aural mud of its first half giving way to a bright and hypnotically repetitive coda, cymbals struck over a gently revolving clock-melody of chimes.  Emerging into warm sunlight, it evaporates as if it had never existed at all.
Purchase 'Fallen' here.