Trouble Tracer - Autofhart
Crow Versus Crow. CVC019. Cassette/DL
Cahn Ingold Prelog - Accelerate
Crow Versus Crow. CVC018. Cassette/DL
Cody Brant - Found Cassettes. Volume 1
Aum Shinrikyo - From Russia With Love 93
Could we maybe just a little bit perhaps like skip Christmas altogether? A few people might get upset but think of the positives; no having to watch Toy Story 3 on Christmas Day afternoon while feeling slightly nauseous after being on the Emva Cream since ten o’clock and having just eaten twice the weight of your head in food, no fretting about whether the turkey will be big enough and will Uncle Arthur be coming this year, after all his legs aren’t what they used to be and we’re going to have to borrow some chairs from next door because if they all turn up there won’t be enough room and if your brother starts like he did last year I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep my temper, maybe we’ll do two sittings and don’t tell me Aldi are out of turkey trays as it’ll never fit in what we’ve got and why did you buy such a big one, I hope you like turkey curry and don’t get granny started on the creme de menthe you know she cant handle it, your mother’s never forgiven us. Could we just go straight to New Years Eve and Jools Holland’s Hootingnanny and off to bed to wake up in the morning no longer able to move freely between those countries that we once used to move freely between? Please.
Those of an artistic bent seemed to have faired better than most this year. Deprived of an outside world to explore and work in they’ve burrowed down into their inner selves and made the best of a bad job. Cahn Ingold Prelog is such a person. That person being Simon Proffitt who finding himself trapped within his four walls sent off for a sensitive piezoelectric accelerometer with which to record the insides of said walls. Said piezoelectric accelerometer allowing him to capture frequencies at the edges of the human hearing range so if he were to rest it on the top of his fridge he’d have instant fridge hum [or fridgecore as I’ve seen it recently termed, a term I’m happy to endorse] and if he put it in a drawer that he happened to be searching around in for a council tax bill he’d have the track ‘Unsuccessful Search For A Council Tax Bill’. Tracks like ‘Central Heating Song’, ‘Fruitless Hunt For Clean Fork’ and ‘Freezer [Main Compartment]’ thus become self explanatory. The results lie somewhere between the first TNB album and the electro-acoustic workouts of any decent electro-acoustic sound artist you care to mention. It also shows that there are plenty of people out there still getting a kick out of fridge hum and the sounds of everyday life.
Did Mark Vernon and Fritz Welch meet up during the lockdown that wasn’t a lockdown to record Autofahrt? No, they recorded this in free to go where ever you want without dying 2019, in the days before ‘bubbles’ and ‘will we be having Christmas this year?’ discussions. Vernon is described as a sound artist who works with found tapes and ‘acousmatic presence’, Welch as drummer, percussionist and vocalist. Together they have created twenty one tracks of huffing, puffing, rattling, shaking, frotting, grumbling noises which merge in to one big huffing, puffing, rattling, shaking, frotting, grumbling Blood Stereo-esque blob. There is also plenty of gob hum, flapping lips, tuneless whistling, moans a-plenty and some kind of cross-checked list on the j-card that involves something to do with engines that makes absolutely no sense to me at all. Shut your eyes and imagine you’re at a Phil Minton improv gig where he’s joined by people making noises on bits of pipe and junk, this is where we are. And full marks once again to Crow Versus Crow for going above and beyond in the cassette department. These things of beauty are what makes this job all the more worthwhile. I’m sure there are people out there collecting them all. Having all the CVC tapes stacked on a visible shelf with the confines of ones locked down abode gives you a pretty good idea as to whats going on at the fringes of UK experimentalism. Its no bad place to be.
Also at the forefront of cheering me up in lockdown are Research Laboratories whose defiance of all things digital has me warming to them like few others. That and their penchant for releasing truly mind warping sounds. Cassettes is all you get though. Their editions may be small, tiny even but this matters me not for that which is worth reissuing usually finds a new home somewhere down the line. In the meantime let us soak up some found cassette tape action courtesy of Cody Brandt and Aum Shinrikyo both of whom approach the found cassette with keen ears but from different continents. Thus Brandt’s tape is a collection of found Americana from an age where families would record Christmas messages to absent relatives [they knew what they were doing] ‘say a few words Betty’ ‘gee ... I don’t know what to say Frank’. These longer homespun homilies are in contrast to whats found on the first side which is a barrage of ephemera that includes; very bad karaoke, drunk women falling out with their husbands, tv recordings, children reciting stories, country music, news items about cough medicine and the dangers of kids getting high on them, raucous laughing, farting noises, speaking in tongues, telephone conversations, kitchen sinks etc. A world now gone, replaced by messaging services on mobile phones and whatever else you use to record stuff on to your phone with.
With no information to go bar the badly xeroxed cover I’ll assume that ‘From Russia With Love 93’ is a straight copy of a found tape as recovered from a shoebox under someones bed in Japan, or a street market in Shibuya where the sale of old cassettes with handwritten track listings are all of a sudden very fashionable. Here be the Japanese version of one of those cassettes I used to make myself where a favoured C90 was permanently queued in a radio/cassette player, ready to record greatness as played by the likes of Peel and Tommy Vance [TV on the radio], the tape slowly filling up over the weeks and with it the j-card insert with your scrawl and doodles. Some tapes were better than others and prized tapes you carried through your life until the internet and recordable CD’s came along and changed everything. Here be programme theme tunes, buddhist ceremonies replete with tinkling bells, dialogue, traditional tunes sung in warbly voices, schmaltzy pop tunes, forthcoming features voiced by squeaky voiced ladies and all of it degraded to such an extent that it sounds like it came in on a distant shortwave station. At times the tape was so badly decayed and worn that I didn’t know if it was the actual tape that was ruined or the recording of a recording of the original tape that was ruined, the sound reaching my ears reduced to oscillating wobbles and flutter and with it absolute tape joy.
I listened to both Research Lab releases the other night while flat on my back, shagged out after a hard days squawk and the trip was like no other I’ve experienced in recent months. You have no idea whats coming next, you’re listening to dead folks and radio shows that probably only exist on these tape, worlds and people gone forever. Outsider works par excellence.