Friday, April 12, 2013

LF Records Chalmers/Cooke/Bjerga

Seth Cooke - Pneuma
LF Records. CDR

Stuart Chalmers - Daydream Empire

LF Records. CDR

Sindre Bjerga - Black Paper Wings
LF Records. 3” CDR

You only have to look at the list of influences on Stuart Chalmers ‘Daydream Empire’ to know that you’ve backed a winner: Ghedalia Tazartes, Jeff Keen, Jean Dubuffet, Jorge Luis Borges and William Burroughs … er ... OK thats good enough for me now strap me in and lets see what this Chalmers does with a cassette uh?

So thats what you can do with a cassette uh? Create whole new worlds of sonic exploration, open up new vistas of ear tickling delight, joy for the ear drums, intelligent work-throughs of sounds that taken on their own seem mundane but when mixed into a whole bring on an entirely new meaning; 20’s dance music, gamelan, plucked bridge strings, radio news broadcasts, looped computer game rhythms, bowl rings, the striking of a match, native folk songs in tongues unknown, Apollo rockets taking off, self help meditation courses and Michael Winner complaining of a ‘mediocre haircut’ [for there is humour in here too]. And thats just the merest scratching of a surface to you sir.

Of the eleven tracks on here there’s is but not one second that I would describe as unwanted or in need of further editing. This is your sound explorers motherlode, a thirty five minute joyride that you can dip in to anywhere along its line to find aural gratification of the highest order.

Track six [Maya] kicks off with about four seconds of a fairground organ before layering on the gamelan, someone hitting sticks and a mouth making whooshing sounds. Add to that a rubbed piece of wood, some bottles being knocked over and a piece of string pulled taught and plucked and therein lies the best three minutes and fifty two seconds of musical nirvana to come through the speakers this year.

But lets not stop there. Lets talk about Chalmers gift for juxtaposing sounds; 1930’s ballroom crooners that live but for two second to be replaced by Nurse With Wound parp and the BBC news. ‘Thought Patterns’ wanders into Astral Social Club territory with a looping mini dance beat thats the Galaxian soundtrack smothered with baby gurgles and sped up cassette muck. ‘Moon and a Mask’ comes out of the ether with a looped spoken word sample and a trawl of the shortwave bands.

I could go on describing each track in detail and the numberless ways in which Chalmers has crafted this release but I want you to experience this release for yourself. I am still in awe as to how Chalmers has constructed such a thing of beauty. There was more than just plain old cassette tape involved of course, I suspect synths and radio’s and the odd electro-acoustic phenomena, either way, however way this is life affirming stuff.

A pity I missed the Chalmers and Durgan gig in Bristol recently. I suspect it would have been a classic. 

Back in Seth Cooke’s house we find him suffering at the hands of workmen with pneumatic drills at their disposal. After putting up with the annoyance for long enough Cooke did the only thing that a sound artist can do and recorded the disturbance with an eye [or an ear] to using it as soundsource for future work.

But this is no Einsturzende Neubauten gig. On the first track [both running to about thirty minutes] the drill sounds as if it was recorded at the deep end of a local swimming pool. The muffled sound of the vibrating drill works its way through a series of oscillating waves, each a drowsy somnabulance that probably describes Cooke’s wishful mind during the entire episode. During the second track [both untitled] the drilling becomes more prominent in places, mutated by Cooke’s dextrous hand into something else entirely. The drones slip into the background and passages of calm appear, the drill rears its ugly head again and again until you’re glad it wasn’t you that had to put up with this ongoing set of essential repairs.

As a work of experimental nature it works perfectly and is a fine example of turning a bad experience to your advantage. And then what did he do? He moved from Leeds to Bristol. At least it wasn’t that London.

As in the last review we find Sindre Bjerga jogging in last like a riderless horse in the National. With a semi-hard-on of a drone Bjerga adds radio traffic voices, voice manipulations and jolts of capstan abuse to a low hertz hum. Coming after these last two its a little like losing a tenner and finding a fiver. I’m certain that one day a Bjerga release will arrive at Idwal Towers chock full of ear popping electro-acoustic magnificence but until that day I’m playing Daydream Empire until all the zero’s and ones fall off into the CD player.







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