Thursday, October 30, 2014

Taming Power

Taming Power - Selected Works 2001.
Early Morning Records. EMR Promo CD 002. CDR.

Taming Power - For Electric Guitar and Tape Recorders
Early Morning Records. EMR 10” - 009.
200 copies.

Taming Power - Meditations For Radio
Early Morning Records. EMR 10” - 012
220 copies.

Taming Power - Twenty One Pieces
Early Morning Records. EMR 2 X 12” - 018
329 copies.

It was earlier this year that Campbell thrust a copy of Taming Power’s ‘Selected Works 2001’ into my hands. With an evangelical zeal not seen since the Methodist came to town he then recounted of how there was this Norwegian guy called Askild Haugland who’s this total outsider who’s been releasing his work for years and nobody has bought it because nobody knows who he is and its like the finding the motherlode of totally out there noise and drone and its just like … fuck.

Since then word’s got around a little. Here in West Yorkshire there’s a Taming Power Fan Club brewing. The Bearded Wonder over at RFM got the proselytizing treatment too and wrote about the aftershock as well as the six page letter that Campbell sent him detailing how he came across Taming Power and about just how amazing these recordings really are. Read it and feel that proselytizing power.

So here’s this guy from Norway recording for his own amusement sounds he makes with electric guitars, shortwave radios, cassette recorders, tape recorders, field recordings, singing bowls and ritualistic Tibetan instruments. A steady trickle of releases, mainly 10” and 12”, once or twice a year to total indifference and he’s been doing it since around 1987. And even though some of his stuff’s been released in editions as little as a 100 its all still available. Uh?

In hindsight ‘Selected Works 2001’ wasn’t the best place to start for me. I have to admit to wondering what all the fuss was about. A slim line CD case, the mere sight of which is enough to bring back memories of horrid noise crap from the 90’s. With no sleeve notes to go on bar the track titles, these being the dates they were recorded [all Taming Power track titles are the dates they were recorded] I was left wondering how Askild had created … what? Turns out this is tape recorder feedback. Which to start with is a mundane throbbing noise. By track seven though, after you have adjusted your hearing and come to terms with it, it’s mutated in to a spacey, rolling, head swaying out of body journey, by track eight it’s a shamans blessing. It was around then that the Taming Power light bulb went off in my head. I emailed Askild asking him if he had any Taming Power vinyl for sale especially that Twenty-One Pieces that both Hayler and Campbell were raving about. To which the answer was of course, yes.

Which is where my journey really started. Twenty-One Pieces utilizes all of that above instrumentation creating feelings of desolation, melancholy and morphine like bliss. Everything is played at a funeral pace as guitar strings are randomly plucked and swooned upon, spacey motifs are played out on Casiotone’s, there’s dingsha’s [Tibetan cymbals], Drilbu’s [Tibetan hand bells], singing bowls, a harmonica, a handsaw and Haugland’s own voice in there. These he treats [I know not how] to create works that, it has to be said, are simply stunning in their simplicity and execution. The slow pace at which these four sides unfold and the  atmospheres Haugland creates is down entirely to his distaste for digital recording techniques and digital equipment. This is what gives Taming Power its ‘feel’. This being a feeling that everything was recorded at the side of a frozen lake under an overcast winter sky in Tromsø. In whatever permutation he chooses [there’s a detailed list of which instrument appeared on which track] you’ll find that same eerie, detached atmosphere.

Haugland titles his releases simply so that you know what you’re getting, hence: ‘For Electric Guitar and Tape Recorders’ and ‘Meditations For Radio’. Amongst his back catalogue you will find, ‘For Electric Guitar, Cassette Recorders and Tape Recorders’ amongst numerous ‘Selected Works’ that span all the way back to 1987. Some lucky people will have the seriously limited cassettes that he put out and where Early Morning Records took its first steps into the world. 

Of the rest I have here ‘Electric Guitar and Tape Recorders’ sounds not uncannily like TG’s slide guitar moments with added tape fudge. The atmosphere is one of Lynchian dark planet surfaces, thick, dirty landscapes where the playheads have been slowed to a virtual stop their content released as a primordial breakdown of analogue sludge.

Meditations For Radio is as equally otherworldly with shortwave static giving way to a babble of voices.

What makes Early Morning Record releases even more esoteric are the handmade covers, the handwritten sleeve notes and the hand drawn record labels and actual photographs as taken by the man stuck on the sleeves as cover art that nobody is buying because nobody knows about him. Which hopefully wont be for much longer.

earlymrecords [at]

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