Sunday, June 30, 2013

Slavek Kwi/Artificial Memory Trace

Artificial Memory Trace - Yellow Varvara & 3 Chants of Constructivism
Tentacles of Perception Recordings
3” CDR

Simon Whetham & Slavek Kwi - Exchanges Across A Dinner Table.
Tentacles of Perception Recordings. 2X3”CDR.
2X3” CDR

Linda O’Keefe & Slavek Kwi - Collaboration 2009-2012
Tentacles of Perception Recordings
3” CDR. 100 Copies.

The last time we crossed paths with Slavek Kwi was with the mighty ‘Ultrealith’ release. Here the sounds of insects, birds and John Cage talking [amongst lots of other elements too] were mixed and composed to produce what Kwi likes to call ‘electroacoustic sound paintings’. Kwi’s gift lies in the way he brings these field recordings together with electroacoustic sounds producing some genuinely ear-popping creations along the way - think gentle drips speeding up and resonating into the distance as the jungle canopy chirrups and tweets in the  the background. Its a love of sound and ‘sounds’, the ‘phenomena of perception as the fundamental determinant of relations with reality’ that drives Kwi endlessly forward.

Kwi was born in former Czechoslovakia and now finds himself living and working in Ireland. His work includes installations, film, radio and the helping of autistic children and children with learning disabilities via the medium of experimental sound. His collaboration with Eric La Casa won a major French prize in 2002.

‘Ultrealith’ appeared under Kwi’s Artificial Memory Trace moniker, its one that has shared releases with the artists as diverse as Brume and M.S.B.R. and is responsible for over 40+ albums. After 27 years of recording and releasing material there’s a lot to catch up on.

But first these lovely little three inch CDR’s that come on vividly printed postcard sized prints via Kwi’s own Tentacles of Perception Recordings.
The collaborations with Linda O’Keefe and Simon Whetham are long gestation affairs with each artist swapping work with Kwi numerous times over a three and five year period. With O’Keefe this began with each artist creating a 30 second piece that was then given to the other artist which was then extended to 10 minutes. This 10 minutes found its way into a 30 minute piece which then found itself transformed into the two tracks we have on ‘Collaborations 2009-12’ with each artists ‘finalzing’ their own pieces. O’Keefe’s finished composition contains baby gurgles, the strum of a stringed instrument, sci-fi elevators disappearing into a star lit sky, bicycle bells, slowed down and speeded up chatter played over each other with a reversed vocal layered over the top of that [or something like that anyway], glass tubes played underwater [sub aqueous recordings being much favoured by Kwi] and the soft pulse and throb of eddying electronic tides. Kwi’s take is much more playful with the crack of a jack socket ripping from nowhere acting as a defibrillator through to a babies ‘oh’ at the sound of a box of table tennis balls hitting a wooden floor. There’s also distant shotgun blasts, party whistles, owls and the chatter of a social gathering as background murmur. There are corresponding references of course, each piece is a wonderfully laid back immersive experience but the delight to be had here is in hearing how each artist has transformed a thirty second piece into something much fuller and of their own.

The collaboration with Whethem took even longer. For five years they swapped files until we arrive at ‘Simslao’ and ‘Slaosim’. With ‘Simslao’ the sounds are more heavily disguised, a more brooding atmosphere of metal detector sweeps, rubbed fabric rhythms, bees and flies before heading off into ambient territories where surfaces are scratched and rain falls into a galvanized bucket. ‘Slaosim’ develops into a deep glitch-a-thon fest where whats going on [whatever it is] appears to be have been given the skipping CD treatment to the point that all's that left are the bare bones of a track, a series of stuttering glitches. Whether this is by design or fault I know not but around the halfway mark the thing began to loop in my CD player, a sound that for according to the CD player clock was looping but actually sounded like it was developing. Weird.

Things are certainly calmer when we return to Kwi’s own AMT outings. ‘Yellow Varvava’ began life in Russia and pays homage to Russian Constructivism with three tracks; Faktura, Tektonika and Chronosion. Once again its a pleasure to don the headphones and immerse myself in Kwi’s work. The mixing of both the natural world and the man-made one gives rise to shuddering bass rumbles, taxi radios blaring local pop music, bird song, PA announcements, subway cars entering a station and throughout it all the bright song of his friends canary.

Its these mixing of the two worlds that makes me want to hear more of this kind of material. Its a world where you need time to contemplate and appreciate it all. A world away from the busy streets and roads and lives that a lot of us career through everyday. Taking time to listen to what these people are doing results in an all round better frame of mind. It does for me anyway. These releases should be made available on prescription for the health of us all. 


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Thuoom - Resonant

Textural Healing. THCD01
50 copies.

Having hastily ripped some of the most recent review material to the iPod for perusal during Greek week, I found myself in such a relaxed state of mind that the likes of Lasse-Marc Riek, Daniel Blinkhorn, Jase Williams, Yol, some nutters from the North East going by the name of Lobster Priest and Thuoom all sort of melded into one great big post prandial blob of unidentified sounds. Little did I know, but during my slumbers Thuoom was turning into one of the most serendipitous moments of the year.

Somewhere during one of those long hot afternoons the three tracks that make up Resonant must have passed through the back of my slightly sweated brow. Three short tracks, for this is a CD-EP take note, that would have passed through the grey matter leaving but a smattering of trace. A signal of some kind perhaps, a marker for the future brought to life when I heard Thruoom once more. Those 15 minutes of music must have passed through my shell likes leaving no more trace than that of a whiff of three star Metaxa coming in from off the balcony.

It is only now, whilst safely ensconced within 17’s towers that I realise what a treat I missed. Having just witnessed one of the best gigs of my life at the Wharf Chambers I now find myself listening to an act that could have quite easily sat in amongst the delights as offered by Sheepscar Light Industrial.

Thuoom is a Finn going by the name of Tuomo who after a short dalliance with ‘metal/alternative rock’ realised that his destiny laid within the more esoteric plains of experimental electroacoustic music land. Tuomo regards his music as ‘cut up poetry made of sounds … post psychedelic electronica’, ‘forestelektro’ he calls it. Having soaked up lots of Matmos he [he?] creates [mainly] short tracks with musical and non musical instruments. These are then processed, sometimes to the point of non recognition.

The three tracks on Resonant were created using an alarm clock, a bird cage and wine glasses. If ‘Yarn’ was the one recorded with an alarm clock I’m impressed, especially as its four minutes resemble a more spaced out mid 70’s Kraut noodler nodder. Think grooved out Tangerine Dream, Michael Bundt or a trippy Popol Vuh. ‘Caged’ is seven minutes fifty of brooding glacial blasts, presumably made from the bird cage, over which a glitchy rhythm comes and goes before turning into something almost quite gamelan in construct. ‘Glasses’ as you may imagine was made with the wine glasses. But not as with These Feathers Have Plumes rubbed and looped but gently struck in a manner that I know is called tintinnabulation, i/e the sound that a bell makes after it has been struck. The results are quite stunning. Using numerous glasses filled to various levels [I’m guessing] Tuomo manages to compose a multi ringing piece of music that has within its heart a dynamic shift that not only lifts this from the cute and touristy [think cheesy busker type crud] but to the levels as enjoyed by … well Matmos. I’m guessing [again] that the struck wine glasses are further processed and layered until you have a multitudinous ringing within which small beats and bleeps escape until the whole thing returns to its ringing beginning.

And this is only the beginning. Resonant is the first Thuoom release to be found in a tangible format. The Textural Healing website has links to Thuoom’s other twelve albums all of which are freely available for download. Yes, twelve. There are another twelve albums already available, all of them recorded within the last five years.

So I listen to  ‘Aava’ [which is credited to ‘Thuuoom’ and ‘[Cycles of Sleep]’ which begins with a musical box having its whimsical tune processed into something that Morricone never imagined. Here we find a 4-string acoustic guitar, algorithms, balalaika, bottles, human voice, midi, music box, recorder, whistle. On ‘Aava’ ...  algorithms, copper paper, electric guitar, Excel, human voice, midi, music box. Right now I’m listening to the track ’43cave’ and it sounds like a fluttering Penguin Cafe Orchestra uke strum over which Thuoom hums a guttural throat warmed moan into the mic.

I’m looking forward to the vocal only album, the one he did with a digital camera, the gig and the one where he processed some tracks from his previous incarnations metal band into some noise/drone muck.

I feel as if I’ve discovered a rich seam, a mother-lode perhaps and I may be here some time.

 [Comes in a minimalist hand made folded card sleeve which only adds to the aesthetic]


Sunday, June 23, 2013

An evening of Sheepscar Light Industrial-ness

The Compass Points North

Wharf Chambers, Leeds, 22nd June 2013

Aqua Dentata
These Feathers Have Plumes
Hagman [sort of]

With old age comes many things; fading memory, creaking joints, wheezing lungs, diminishing eyesight, varicose veins, deafness and the inability to consume huge amounts of alcohol without incurring a hangover that last two days. Outside of the physical there’s the realisation that you don’t need to know whats in the charts anymore, or the fact that you don’t need half the shit that's cluttering up your house, the importance of relationships becomes more acute as do thoughts of going to the grave with good memories rather than a series of missed opportunities.

Of all the above it was the memory that failed me two days before my 50th birthday. We were in The Duncan having abandoned the Friends of Ham due to becoming shuffling obstacles with drinks in our hands. The Duncan was its usual Bacchanalian self: behind the bar an A4 poster reminding regulars that the prize for winning the quiz would be a ‘gallon of beer [8 pints]’, then there was the seven CCTV cameras, the drunken regulars who all look like they came from casting central, the bickering bar-staff ‘she’s pissed off cos she cant go to her 98th birthday party’, the quality and very reasonably priced Sam Smiths, the aging tattooed Teddy Boy [who kindly vacated his seat so that we could all sit together]. It was here that I got introduced to a couple of people one of whom was called Sophie and the other a chap called something with a ‘k’ in it. You see I have this way of remembering peoples names in drunken situations that revolves around allocating them a single letter. So Sophie got an ‘S’ because thats easy but the chap who was with her got a ‘K’ and when I met him about six hours later, in the gents of the WC, having consumed way too much Sam Smiths Organic Cherry Ale, the name that popped into my head was ‘Keiron’, or was it ‘Kevin?’, ‘Frank?’, ‘Kenny?’ I went with Keiron only to be told that the name I was looking for was ‘Jake’. I think it was Jake. Its not a perfect system by any means and its not one I’d recommend.

I took Big Joe with me and he immediately warmed to the WC’s charms. After the hustle and bustle of the Friends of Ham, the drunken revelry of The Duncan and the bare boards of the Duck and Drake the WC opened it arms and gave us a big hug before shoving two bottles of Sam Smiths into our eager hands. The atmosphere lends itself to the communal appreciation of whats on offer [beer, music, literature, food], a relaxed, candle lit, open and friendly place where you can mingle with the many and good.

One of whom is Daniel Thomas whose night of Sheepscar Light Industrial-ism I hijacked as part of my 50th birthday celebrations. Of course I’d had far too much beer to recollect much of it in any detail but Daniel is such a professional and eager label cheese that by noon the following day he’d uploaded mp3’s of each performance for my hungover perusal.

So I spend the last day I’ll be 49 in a happy fug of recollection and warm memories of the night previous; the sight of Rob Hayler in contemplative nod mood during Petals moody drone set, the shout out and the dedication to me at the start of his own Midwich set [and the point at which I nearly threw myself prostate before him in mock supplication shouting ‘I AM NOT WORTHY’ into the WC’s floor tiles], Paul Watson’s BBBlood energetic party noise that ended the night on a high, the singing, droning, looping, oversized rubbed wine glasses of These Feathers Have Plumes, Aqua Dentata’s exquisitely delicate drones, Dan who had to go it alone when the other half of Hagman couldn’t make it, Campbell’s enthusiastic chatter, Eddie Nutall’s dapper appearance. All a delight.

Going in to detail right now would be a test of my stamina and besides my 49 years are almost up.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Idwal Fisher 50th Birthday Party C90 Mix Tape

I had an idea but too late in the day for it to take affect. Given the time I would have made 50 mix tapes all with different tracks on them, hand written inlay cards, small drawings, bits of newspaper cut outs, designed as penned by my own fair hand, you know the deal. These would then be dished out to whoever was passing in Leeds on the 22nd of June when two days before my 50th birthday I will probably end up blind drunk in a gutter outside the Wharf Chambers.

This will have to do instead. As recorded last night on what I now realise is a dying turntable. All the tracks are from seven inch singles which I've picked up along the way. Some came from the chazza some from when I was but a teenager, some from Mrs Fisher. These were then put on to the PC with one of those cassette to digital things which has never worked properly and from which you will hear a constant throb during the quieter moments.

Two sides of a C90 that you have to download and then burn onto a CD that you then have to record onto a cassette.

See you all Friends of Ham around 4pm.



Sunday, June 09, 2013

The Piss Superstition - Vocal Learning

The Piss Superstition - Vocal Learning
Kirkstall Dark Matter. CDR
49 Copies + download.

Back in Leeds already? But why not? What’s not to celebrate about this fine northern city with its wide ranging shopping attractions, multifarious social mix and viscous football hooligans? In my last offering I think I only but scratched the surface of who’s wandering around Leeds plucking and prodding these days and whilst I’m here lets not forget that you don’t have to go that far out of the city centre to find further hotspots of Yorkshire activity; think Huddersfield, Mirfield, Sheffield and Bradford, Elland, Mirfield, Sheepscar, Gomersal and of course Kirkstall.

Julian Bradley is one of the quieter Leeds figures. Where Campbell bounces about with all the enthusiasm of ten Tiggers on speed, Bradley comes across as if he’s just spent a bright and sunny afternoon in the library soaking up Hegel and Nietzsche. Or maybe thats just me. Definitely the Ying to Campbell’s Yang with whom he has collaborated and with whom he played a part in the Vibracathedral Orchestra.

The Piss Superstition is Bradley and [here anyway] Paul Steere each conjuring an incomparable sound thats as un-generable as fellow Leeds dabbler Ocelocelot. Maybe what we’re getting here is a multi cross pollinated many faceted pollution of sounds. Sounds that can only emerge after spending an entire lifetime soaking up the juxtaposed outpourings of composers and bands such as Burt Bacharach, Whitehouse, Post Punk, American Hardcore, Motown, English Folk, 90’s pop, Greek Rabetika, African funk, Charlamagne Palestine, Pain Jerk, Sun Ra, the list is pretty much endless. There’s certainly no way you could give someone whatever it is that they’re using to make this racket [noise gadgets, keyboard, guitars?] and get them to create what it is I’m hearing now.

For some it would be plain noise but there’s a sense of discordance here that points to structuring. ‘Dilating Pupil’ is on one level a subharmonic skree-fest whilst on the other the dying eruptions of a discharging synth. Two note riffs as played on a cheap keyboard are as complex as it gets here - cartoon doodles flaying around in a track of wheezy noise. ‘Bleeding Heart’ is a shrub shredder that flays and phases, a helicopter ride at dangerous decibels. ‘Fucking Nerve’ is a slower trawl through scouring Hater like scuzz above which a totally destroyed electric guitar [maybe an electric guitar, maybe something that hasn’t got a name yet] gets reversed, stood on, swung around and generally abused.

Where all this is going I have no idea but I’m of the opinion that anything you cant pigeonhole is of worth and so we have worth here. Plain old noise to some but the sound of sonic plates shifting to others. In Leeds too don’t forget.


The Piss Superstition

Kirkstall Dark Matter

Monday, June 03, 2013

Knurr & Spell / Ashtray Navigations

Ashtray Navigations - Cloud Come Cadaver.
Memoirs Of An Aesthete. CD

Knurr & Spell - Being Psychedelic Sounds From Yorkshire
Memoirs of an Aesthete / Research Center for Definition of Happiness [West Yorkshire Branch]. Split Release. CDR

When in Dusseldorf play spot the millionaire. They’re easy to find in their gold brocaded skippers caps, red slacks and deck shoes, a last desperate attempt at trying to capture that Warren Beatty mid 70's look before gravity takes a hold of their nether regions. Watch them finger the price tags of luxury goods in designer shops on the K√∂nigstrasse, price tags designed to induce reflex wincing amongst those with lesser means. Pale blue cotton jackets costing €1800 and watches that you could swap for three bedroom semis. Writing down the price of that cotton jacket in my notebook I realised that for the same amount of money I could get a 1000 glasses of Altbeer in any of Dusseldorf fine ale houses or, if I was so inclined, the above two releases and €1780 change.

The Alt was, as ever, worth the trip. A bitter, hoppy, top fermented brew served in 25CL glasses thats brought to your table by a team of constantly busy beer waiters. Each glass is ceremoniously dumped on your beermat and then marked off with a stubby pencil which the beer waiters keep nonchalantly tucked behind one ear. Monies are collected at your table at the sessions end when all your ticks are counted up and the total written on your now soggy beermat. Everybody drinks the same beer, everybody goes home happy. My favourite watering hole and the place to go to experience the full on Alt experience is the Zum Eurige - here the beer is poured straight from a keg thats tapped on the floor and lifted into place by three hefty beer waiters. Glasses are constantly poured and then held aloft on silver trays through its many rooms and on a busy Saturday night, where the Champions League Final consisted of two German teams, they were changing a barrel about every fifteen minutes whilst serving what I reckoned to be about a thousand customers. The atmosphere is one of social hospitality where consideration for the drinker is the prime objective, food is sold until about ten at night and bar snacks are offered by food waiters doing the rounds [just don’t try the Mettbroetchen  - thats seasoned raw minced pork on a teacake with onions on top - never again]. Compare this with trying to get served in a busy Spoons on a Friday night where the overworked and underpaid staff do their best amidst groups of arseholed blokey blokes whose over enjoyment of shite lager makes you wish Tasers were legal.

Its only an hour an ten minutes to Dusseldorf from Leeds Bradford Airport which would give you just enough time to squeeze in ‘Being Psychedelic Sounds From Yorkshire’. Whilst debating the intricacies of Knurr & Spell with your neighbour and passing on the three small cans of Carlsberg Export for ten pounds offer that Jet2 think is good value, you can sit back and bask in the knowledge that something stirs in the Leeds environs.

Knurr and Spell is a now virtually extinct game peculiar to Yorkshire. The game was played on the tops of moors by men in clogs and flat caps and is often described as a poor mans golf. Equipment was basic and the rules were simple, a wooden rod with a square lump of wood on the end [the Spell] with which you hit a small porcelain ball [the Knurr] as far and has hard as you possibly could. At one time it was incredibly popular and large numbers of people would tramp up to the top of bleak and windy moors to watch grown men hit a small pellet of porcelain 400 yards. Bets were placed, competition was fierce and then they invented colour television.

In case you were unaware there’s an emergent psychedelic noise drone experimental kind of thing ongoing in Yorkshire [and Leeds in particular]. Under gloomy skies and with the aid of flat vowels and whippets people have been making psychedelic noise drone experimental sounds for some years now. In their own quiet way Phil Todd and Mel Delaney have been the unsung heroes of this continuing ‘scene’. Aided and abetted by the likes of Midwich, Astral Social Club, Piss Superstition, noisy buggers like Foldhead and Half an Abortion, labels likes Sheepscar Light Industrial, Fencing Flatworm and the wonderfully named Kirkstall Dark Matter things have been getting spacier for some time now. Striate Cortex got the ball rolling with their benchmark release ‘Victorian Electronics - A Leeds Assemblage’ a four-way three inch CDR jobbie that disappeared quicker than a pint on a Friday tea time and if I may be so bold there’s my own humble effort ‘The Feeding of the 2,079,211 - A Compilation of West Yorkshire Residents’, a various artist cassette that came out a few years ago and which I still have a few copies left should anyone care for one.

On ‘Knurr & Spell’ you will find Ocelocelot, Moral Holiday, Foldhead and Shemboid who turns out to be a chap going by the name of Alan Sharples. With each track running at around the twenty minute mark theres enough time for you to light a joss-stick, switch on the lava lamp and put the tripe in the oven before really getting into the groove with your own personal finger cymbals and GV roll up. Shemboid’s contribution begins with a blistering ripple of processed guitar that eventually settles out into a blissful dream-like coda of down strummed heavy chord-ness and harmonic delight. Mel’s Ocelocelot is a cow horn blast of detuned synth muck, a warped buzz of dying bees, a Theremin gone mad, perhaps the Mekon’s corporate anthem. As ever Ocelocelot is an entirely unfathomable, un-genreable, un-pigeonholeable slice of otherness.  Foldhead blitz the zero and ones with a sizzling blast of box abuse skree. Aptly titled ‘Taser Delerium’ its flat out noise, a noise enlivened by a shifting disorientation, a flicker book eye blinking mass of loose live wires and androids gone berserk. But my pick of the bunch goes to Moral Holiday. Moral Holiday being the Toddmeister on his day out in Dario Argento country. ‘No Forks’ is a cheap slasher movie soundtrack that has a doom-laden two chord left hand synth repeat backbone on which we get echoey downward spiraling motes of Moogblather, a spacey phasered PE like vocal and a sumptuous frazzled guitar solo at its end. Its remit is to transport you from Boar Lane to Alpha Centuri via Tangerine Dream territory with nothing simpler than a CD with pictures of rhubarb, blackberries and tripe on it. One to savour.

And then you play Cloud Come Cadaver and you realise that Ashtray Navigations are still one of the best, if not thee best bands in Leeds. Phil and Mel soak up so much freaked out psyched out spazz that they’ve now begun to sound like one of the best bonged out ensembles that never made it out of mid 70’s Deustchland. Play me this blindfolded and I’ve have told you that it was prime German muck played by people with long hair, longer beards and a roomful of analogue synths, bongoes and electric guitars. Last track ‘The Final Hit’ is just that Ralph Hutter on a trippy trip with floating motes of flutes, synth dabs, distant bongo slaps and a synth solo played somewhere in the middle section of the keyboard for the duration. We begin with a languorous top end guitar solo workout thats played out over some choppy keyboard stabs and a cicada like backbone rhythm. ‘Granite Phalli’ is like a more austere Harmonia with wobbly analogue rhythms acting as foil to some seriously heavy psych chord riffage. ‘Like 12 Xmas Dinners Stacked On Top Of Each Other’ is an off his tits Keith Emerson chucking black puddings and pork pies at his Moog from 50 yards away, spaced out one finger keyboard pokes that escape like steam out of a steam trap as bubbling analogue bubbles squiggle about beneath. Can all this really be happening in Yorkshire in 2013? It certainly can.


Memoirs of An Aesthete/Ashtray Navigations

Research Center for Definition of Happiness