Thursday, January 29, 2015

DinahBird - A Box of 78's

DinahBird - A Box of 78’s
Gruenrekorder LP. Gruen 148.
300 copies.

'This is the story of a box …

A leather box containing over fifty 78rpm records of opera and classical music that belonged to DinahBird’s grandmother. Who was born in British Columbia in 1910 and grew up on a small island off its west coast, a place called Salt Spring. When she moved from Salt Spring to various other homes during her life she took the box with her until her death in 2000 whereupon the box became Birds.

Bird decided to take the box of records back to Salt Spring and using her great grandfathers diary and daily weather notes as a guide she played them on a portable gramophone player in the places where her grandmother and her family would have picnics or played tennis or danced. Bird recorded the results, mixing in conversations with a whispering distant relative, old friends of the family and people she came across. Extracts from the diary are read out, wind chimes and crunchy footsteps are heard as are the scratchy impossibly high wavering falsetto of long forgotten opera singers.

The results are a gentle account of a life now passed, an island, its people, the outdoors, the sea and a pile of old 78’s but the projects raison d’etre reveals itself when a stranger, upon finding Bird playing her records and hearing her story, tells her that she’s gone to all this trouble to hear these records as her grandmother would. 

The flip contains 12 locked grooves that are short loops of some of the sounds heard on the ‘Trackside’, these being pieces of wood being knocked together, a ships horn, water being poured, a musical box and various other hard to define oddities together with samples of some of those 78’s. The last loop recounts Bird talking about the man she met who added an ‘s’ to the word ‘always’ and thus ends the record with the word ‘always’s’ looping into infinity.  

Bird takes the concept a step further by sending an LP of radio sounds [pressed by Gruenrekorder] on what she calls a ‘Radio Relay’, in which radio station A [this being KunstRadio in Vienna] plays the record and then passes it on to radio station B until after 22 radio stations down the line Bird gets back a presumably dog eared, worn and hopefully scratched record [and seeing as how there are two radio stations in England on the list I’m sure the Royal Mail will do its bit in helping the process along]. You are encouraged to do the same thing with your own copy should you wish and a ‘Listening Log’ is provided for those wishing to participate, though how many people will be willing to part with such a delightful record is hard to tell.

What we need now is for the the project to continue with A Box of 78’s being played on Salt Spring by further generations of the Bird family, thus ensuring that Bird’s grandmother and her favourite records are never to be forgotten.      


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Andy Tom-Fox

Andy Tom-Fox - Copulation Music [2003]

Andy Tom-Fox - Vessels for the Infinite [2003]

These two Andy Tom-Fox releases were found over ten years ago by a Finnish cartoonist in a skip round the back of a record shop in Finland. Being an inquisitive type he looked in the skip and there lay boxes, yes boxes, of Andy Tom-Fox CD’s all of them unsold, unloved and awaiting the day they went to landfill.

He sent me them to me because he knows I like the quirky and the strange and the unclassifiable which are three attributes all applicable to Andy Tom-Fox. You could also add sex obsessed, bonkers and surreal. I played them, thought them suitably strange in a ‘he can’t even sing’ kind of way and put them on a shelf where for the last ten years they have laid undisturbed.

And then last week I dug them out again. I have no idea why. Perhaps my curiosity was peaked by seeing them once more. The first time I heard them I don’t remember them having any particular effect on me other than for the fact that Tom-Fox’s singing voice wasn’t really a singing voice, more of a singing/talking voice that came across like John Lydon channeling Dot Wiggins from The Shaggs and that some of the track titles were a little odd, ‘Jesus Wants to Know the Women’, ‘Date Rape Pill’, ‘Hymen and the Scanty Panty’. And that he seemed to be obsessed with sex. Did I mention the sex?

My interest once again piqued I played Copulation Music and while it was playing I decided to visit his website fully expecting to see a ‘not found' error message which is where things started to get weird. To my utter amazement Andy Tom-Fox’s website is alive and kicking but only in a very basic way. The only thing it shows is his latest January 2014 release ‘Soulmating’ [with the ‘O’ being made up of the medical symbols used for distinguishing the sexes] and that's it barring five images of Andy Tom-Fox, four of which are similar to what you see above and one of which is a blurry image of him in a shower cap holding a cat with a guitar on his lap. No contact info, no back catalogue, no links to Bandcamp, Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud, nothing. All we have is each of the five pages showing an image of his new album which you cant even get because theres no contact info.
So I Googled Andy Tom-Fox and I got two returns, one which is his website and one which is a youtube video showing the sleeve for ‘Vessels of the Infinite’ as the last track from the album ‘The Fifth Apostol’ [sic] plays, a video that has had but seven plays since being posted in November 2014. There is a Facebook page for the musician Andy Tom-Fox but it’s absolutely dead apart from one like and no Discogs entries. Go figure.
So far so weird. But what makes it really, really, really weird is the music itself. His band can certainly play, of that there is no doubt, think Devo, The Desperate Bicycles and run of the mill commercial radio pop and rock all jumbled up in to a generic mush, a mish-mash of styles all played competently but over everything, stamped with the words AWFUL is Tom-Fox’s caterwauling out of tune, painful to the ears vocals.

His voice is strained. Its more than strained. He sounds like he’s dying. Play this to your mum and she’s tell you that this man simply can not sing but then some people lay that on Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen and it hasn’t done their careers any harm. No, Andy Tom-Fox really cant sing. His voice is flat and tuneless, he holds notes for too long until they waver and ultimately grate. When he’s half singing, half talking he gets away with it but when he opens up its painful and after a while its nothing less than terrible and unlistenable.

And then there’s the lyrics which for the most part are sex obsessed and surreal. There’s no lyric sheet for Copulation Music which is a pity as its the best album of the two but here’s a sample of what you can expect on Vessels for the Infinite [all spelling mistakes left as is]:

Will Y be a last one of the only one? Y will turn back time full nine years turn them into nine hours on compact discs [Full Nine Years],

Others have some of that coce, some of that speed,
But these girls, they are stranger, they grow much taller,
Very much bolder. They are the getamine girls,
Get me some, get me some, get me some, get me some,
Get me some getamine girls,
And they landed on my face like a true atomic race.
If Y don’t get me some fast, the shakes’ll tahe all over, Oh yesh! [Getamine Girls]

And Jesus sais: Fanny desperate pink hole like steaming hot jungle under the eyes portraiting watercolour paintings, breathes salmon and seachells with coconut coating. Seven sigarettes and a modest dring; your sex organs float in the air, lips thick like oversize concrete doors.’ [Jesus Wants to Know the Women]

I see London I see France Totally ta-di-da Low-riders it’s butts not breasts I remember Sunset and Wine. I have been there, but I can’t remember a thing. I’m the one who mede European women rude and lame. Liberating shapeds. Bebroom adventure. Sexy singles. What x shoes should I wear with pastel dress. The wine opener would have been that voluptuous sport girl’s from the pool. A little white lie to keep me alive. [Hymen and the Scanty Panty].

‘Hymen and the Scanty Panty’ also carries the sound of breathless bedroom fumbling in the nearest Tom-Fox gets to sounding like Roky Erickson. On ‘God of Hollywood’ there’s the constant sound of a yapping and howling dog thats obviously not a dog and is obviously someone from the band pretending to be a dog. Tom-Fox has obviously soaked up some punk in his time too which is best heard on ‘Date-Rape Pill’, a four minute bar chord thrash on an unaccompanied electric guitar over which he sings ‘I don’t leave no aftertaste, I don’t need no aftermath’. And check out those album dedications; ‘This album is dedicated to everybody who always died too soon’ and ‘This album is dedicated to all new mothers’.

What this leaves us with is one big unanswered questions; Is Andy Tom-Fox a real person playing in a real band or is this all some kind of wind up? Does that butter wouldn’t melt fizog hide a beast with a ten inch todger? And if he is a real person why doesn’t he want us to hear his music? Why keep a website going and leave no contact info or any indication as to a back catalogue? And whats with all those ‘Y’s’. Is that the Prince influence or is he deep down a Genesis P-Orridge fan and all this is the work of some Industrial pranksters who for ten years have been perpetuating the Andy Tom-Fox myth in the hope that one day some damn fool writer would pick up on him and write about him?

There is an email address. Its on the back of Copulation Music. I’m writing him now.

Andy Tom-Fox, available in skips in Finland and, it would seem, nowhere else.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Eye For Detail

Eye For Detail - Midwich Remixed

The end of 2014 finds me and Mrs Fisher in Scarborough's old town. Where for a week, with no internet, in a three storied 'Fisherman’s Cottage' that looks suitably narrow and Georgian from the outside but holds all manner of hideous idiosyncrasies once inside, we do little else but read books and take long walks in the winter sunshine. The views across the south bay and the spectacular winter sunrises will live with us for years but to see that sunrise you have to kneel down in front of the top floor window first. To get to the top floor you have to climb two sets of narrow stairs while clinging to bannisters and railings for fear of falling backwards and to certain A&E. For this is the biggest problem with our ‘Fisherman’s Cottage’, it hasn't got one level surface anywhere. The kitchen slopes slowly down towards the sea from the front door. The bathroom drops two foot on one axis and one foot on another. Going to the shower from the toilet you have to actually lean forward and swing your arms to generate a modicum of inertia that will allow you to make the journey in one go. Of the twin beds available I foolishly pick the one in the corner of the room and discover on the first night that its has a left to right list of around 15 degrees meaning I spend most nights with my right leg flung over the top edge of the bed in a bid to stop me ending up on the floor. Now take in to account the fact that I have a cold that comes complete not only with a runny nose but a fuzzy head and a blood/alcohol level thats more alcohol than blood and you have some idea of the difficulties in navigating this residence. For seven days me and Mrs Fisher move around like passengers on a listing ship, clinging to each other as we pass on the landings or passing tips on the location of loose floorboards or sections of spongy lino. Its like being trapped in an Escher diagram with a view of Scarborough in the background. But hey! at least it wasn't cheap what with this being Christmas an all.

And lets not forget the boiler that releases a deathly rattle from its locked cupboard every five minutes or the fixtures that fall apart if you touch them or the shelves that you cant actually put things on for fear of them dropping to the floor and ending up at your feet or whichever corner of the room happens to have the lowest point. Or the doors that swing open of their own accord or the patches of damp that inhabit most corners or the TV that has a screen that’s about the same size as the new iPhone. But at least its warm and it needs to be because outside its absolutely fucking freezing.

On New Years Eve we wobbled down from the Alma to the Leeds Arms where at midnight we locked arms with the locals in a drunken bout of bon honomie. When new years day came around I found that I hadn’t got a hangover. No, instead I discovered I’d been poisoned. I guess its much the same thing. When I did lift my weary frame form the wonky bed it was past midday and the chance of seeing the local lunatics jump in the North Sea for their new years day swim had gone. After a brief visit with the outside world where freezing cold horizontal rain lashed into our faces we hunkered down for the rest of the day in front of the fire.

It was here that I decided now would be the time to give Eye For Detail a spin. I’d listened to bits of it before but the delicate nature of some of what I’d heard told me I needed to give it my fullest attention. Such was my mental and physical distress that I was able to listen to all three hours and forty minutes of it with but one break, that being the time I got up to put the kettle on to replace vital body fluids.

Eye For Detail finds 27 artists/projects/people remixing Rob Hayler’s Midwich material and, this is the best bit, its all for charidee. If you pay the five pounds thats been asked for this three hours and forty minutes worth of wonderment [you can give more of course should you so wish] it will all go to the Red Cross. When Rob hit the £100 mark a while back he made one of those huge cardboard cheques that you see being handed over to lottery winners and sent it off in an extra big envelope. Eye For Detail has since gone on to make even more money [I’m not sure how much but its more] and gathered praise by those who’ve heard it.

During that three hours and forty minutes I was lifted from my cups by the calming sounds of Clive Henry doing his best not to get too noisy. Eye For Detail as morphine for hangovers. Highlights abound; Foldhead surprised me, and no doubt a few others, by resisting the temptation to go nuclear and delivering instead a sci-fi wasteland where desert winds on distant planets blow to no one. I was happy to see someone revisit Tiny Muscle, an early Midwich work thats long been a favourite, it being that perfect cycling head bobber, here its given a wonderful ear panning lift and added granulation courtesy of Piss Superstition. Under the Weather [or a variant thereof] is a chill out anthem gone wonky in the best possible way twisting the thing into shapes that it shouldn’t go but does. YOL shows he’s capable of delivering on the remit by retching and stuttering the word Stoma [a Midwich track of course] into a dictaphone. Quite stunning. And not only a stunning collection of work but a benchmark of some of those known to work within the ‘No Audience Underground’. A starting block for some, me included, with quite a few names being unfamiliar to me.

Those names being:

Dale Cornish
Aqua Dentata
In Fog
Clive Henry
Brian Lavelle
Van Appears
ap martlet
Chrissie Caulfield
Hardworking Families
John Tuffen and Orlando Ferguson
Simon Aulman
Paul Watson
the piss superstition
Michael Clough
Neil Campbell
Michael Gillham
Daniel Thomas
Andrew Jarvis

My go to hangover album, as they say somewhere.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Phil Julian - Trace

Phil Julian - Trace
Harbinger Sound LP. Harbinger 80.

Courtesy of the Sleaford Mods sightings of the words ‘Harbinger Sound’ are now common place within certain sections of the mainstream media. Whodathunk that one? This leads us to the sight of the Guardian's Alex Petridish pointing out that the Sleaford Mods also share a label with the likes of Olympic Shit Man and Cremation Lily. That’s a short lived noise band and a Power Electronics act that once upon a time wouldn’t have got a mention in anything more exalted than a messy copy and paste zine now on show in the Guardian’s Friday culture section. The times they are a-changing.

As far as I'm aware Phil Julian has yet to grace the pages of this nations daily press, but he does share a label with Olympic Shit Man, Cremation Lily and now the Sleaford Mods. He’s shared it since his days as Cheapmachines. Cheapmachines being, from what I’ve heard, work that troubles the noisier end of the spectrum.

Under his own name on ‘Trace’ he creates held in check high frequency feedback, tortured drones and rummaging sounds that could only be contact mics attached to stubborn cutlery drawers. There’s three compositions with ‘Arrival’, the track that takes up the biggest chunk of side two, being a drone capable of causing a vacuum. Its the standout track. Heres where the tension thats apparent on the entirety of this release reaches its peak as two straining analogue fog horns, a tone apart, become ever more complex as the thing evolves into its final exhaled breath.

The side long opener ‘Open Form’ although not as immediate is equally as intense seeing analogue effervescent insect chatter giving way to ghostly whines and those clattering spoons. The five minute ‘Corona’ is tempered synth buzz and an oscillating drone that spirals out of natural hearing range.

Recorded at EMS Elektromusikstudio, Stockholm during 2013 we can only wonder if something Scandinavian rubbed off on Julian such is the sparse nature of his work here. Chuck in the equally matching Eddie Nutall cover art and you have a quality release. Just don’t expect a review in the Guardian any time soon.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Taming Power / Early Morning Records

Taming Power - Selected Works 2000
Early Morning Records. EMR 007. 10”. 200 copies

Taming Power - For Electric Guitar and Cassette Recorders
Early Morning Records. EMR 010. 10”. 220 copies

Taming Power - For Electric Guitar, Cassette Recorders and Tape Recorders
Early Morning Records. EMR 011. 10”. 220 copies

Taming Power - Twelve Pieces
Early Morning Records. EMR 017. 10”. 525 copies

The story so far: Neil Campbell sends some Vibracathedral Orchestra records to Bruce Russell for trades and in return receives several Taming Power releases. Campbell is so blown away by what he hears that he gets in touch with Taming Power who turns out to be the solo project of Askild Haugland a Norwegian, who to the complete indifference of seemingly everybody except Bruce Russell, has been recording and releasing his work since the late 80’s, mainly on vinyl. Via his Early Morning Records label Haugland has compiled quite a list of recorded work and when Campbell asks him, ‘What you got left?’ Haugland says ‘all of it’.

Campbell raves to Hayler. Campbell bungs me a Taming Power CDR comp that's an unlimited Early Morning Records promo tool designed to whet your appetite but when I see its a slimline CDR with dodgy Gerhard Richter cover art my heart sinks a little. But you don’t dismiss Campbell recommendations lightly. Its when the vinyl arrived that the enormity of it all hit me.

Its not just that Haugland has been sat on this motherlode of abstract, drone and noise for so long, its the whole thing, everything; the hand drawn labels, the hand written track titles that are always the date on which they were recorded, the mundane photo’s for cover art which on early releases are simply glued to the sleeve [apologies for the scans by the way] and then the sounds themselves, the sometimes caterwauling howl of tape recorder feedback, the staggering intensity of a guitar going head to head with reel to reels’, the bleakness, the darkness, the emptiness, the feeling that you’ve stumbled across an entire genre of music that you never thought existed before. I’m still stunned as to just how esoteric, far out, weird and mind-boggling this all is and all the time Haugland just keeps on doing what he’s always done, recording  and releasing. To little fanfare. I’m pretty certain that all that's about to change. The West Yorkshire No Audience mob has picked up on it and the word is beginning to spread. If I was you I’d get in touch before all those low numbered runs disappear for ever.

You can read about that first Taming Power delivery here. You can read Campbell’s proselytizing letter to Hayler here, you can read Hayler’s thoughts on the matter here.

And one release at a time we have:

For Electric Guitar, Cassette Recorders and Tape Recorders: Filigrees of fluttering, distorted electric guitar notes put through a tornado. An unfurling blast of static and degradation which envelops both cassette and tape recorder until it eventually plateaus out into a blissful coda, the ringing guitar notes eventually appearing at its end.

Selected Works 2000: Tape recorder feedback. Painful stabs of dueling analogue equipment capable of disorientation and imbalance.

For Electric Guitar and Cassette Recorders: An electric guitar ringing like an old clock that's chiming wild hours. The B-side twists the form into more surreal shapes. A slowed down Terry Riley taffied into strained drones.

Twelve Pieces: Here Haugland lists all the equipment used; electric guitar, Casiotone MT-36, zither, drilbu, drilbus, dingsha, singing bowls, harmonica, metallophone, voice, tape recorder, cassette recorder/s and like the similar double 'LP Twenty One Pieces' the mood moves from an analogue church organ sparse [the Casiotone] to soporific gamelan, a Largactil infused tubular bell.

Everything here feels as if its been ingrained by dust, muck in the grooves, a film of dirt that covers everything creating a patina that gives Haugland's compositions a sound that makes them his own.

earlymrecords [at]

Monday, January 19, 2015


Ø+yn & False Sir Nicholas.  

Ø+yn - Tentaculeando a la Puna.

Ø+yn & Uton - Sacred Geometry and the New Mental Order

You know that thing I said about downloads? Just forget it. Ø+yn gets in touch. He’s from Argentina. Plays lo-fi, folk psych, musique concrète, drone, sitar abuse, a southern hemisphere Filthy Turd with bent swannee whistles and songs gone wrong. A demented Penguin Cafe Orchestra with Simon Jeffes off his tits waving his fiddle in the air like he just don’t care. Man.

I get confused with downloads. I never know where I am with them. Give me something I can get my hands on and take down the chazza when I’ve done with it. But I’ve got to bend and go with it. Just go with it. Listen for a while. Its no big deal. Delete and move on. Save some shoe leather. Give the guy some exposure because he deserves it.

And he’s not Mikka Vaino and someone whose initials are YN collaborating. I have no idea what that’s all about.

These three albums are a low key Vibracathedral Orchestra rattling bin lids and tree trunks, theres India in there somewhere and those grinding low key drones that sound like they’re coming out of a box that has a handle on the side thats almost a Klaxon. ‘Los Músicos Ciegos de Cuzco’ from the ¨Tentaculeando a la Puna¨ album is banjolele Greek Rebetiko attack as the march of a thousand bazoukis do battle in the background. ¨Tentaculeando a la Puna¨  is the best of three. It has adventure in its step, shamanic rituals played out on wastelands, scraped strings, an air of desolation, the odd moan, things going round your head aswarm as Ken Dodd blows down a six foot piece of four inch downpipe. 

Some of these came out on cassette. You can work it out by following the links. Its what I did. Its what you have to do in the crazy world of instant download. Good stuff.




Saturday, January 17, 2015

Readers Digest Audition Discs.

A recent dig in the seven inch bin in Cleck Oxfam unearthed 15 flexi discs that some poor sod had carefully collated and inserted into the sleeve of a promo for the Encyclopedia Britannica. That's the Encyclopedia Britannica, which for anyone under thirty years of age was the 24 volume leather bound stripped down Wikipedia, which if you lived nowhere near a library, was what you looked in if you wanted to find out what Iceland did. That's if you could afford the six months wages that it cost to buy them. The Encyclopedia Britannica wasn’t just an encyclopedia it was furniture, an heirloom, something to look at when there wasn’t anything on the telly.

Flexi discs are a rare sight these days. Lyntone, who used to produce the vast majority of flexis in the UK shut its doors in 1991. I did hear of a pressing plant in America run by proselytizing Christians who used flexis to spread the message, but I never did find them. Apparently some people within the noise world used them, no doubt leaving many a transubstantiating God botherer wondering if he’d just screwed up the pressing.

If you ever see any flexi’s, buy them. If you see the Readers Digest flexi’s give ready money there and then and take them home where with any luck you’ll get to hear Max Bygraves tell Brian Matthews that people are fed up with rock n roll and all they want is a nice tune before playing a medley of Max tunes including the obligatory Me and My Shadow. You’ll hear Christopher Howell tell you in his ever so slightly posh, plummy RP English accent the exciting news that there’s a six LP box set of light classics awaiting you as a scratchy ten second burst of Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba erupts from your farty speaker. Or you can hear Humphrey Littleton trying to be as enthusiastic as he can about yet another Glen Miller box set. And on it goes.

Readers Digest flexi’s were promo tools [RD called them ‘Audition Discs’] for their hulking box sets. These leviathans of the box set world would often run to ten LP’s. I’m guessing that most of them ended up in the chazzas because their arthritic owners could no longer pick them up. Titles like ‘Wonderland of Sound’, ‘Golden Hit Parade’, ‘Music For You’, ‘Wonderful World, Wonderful Music’ contained selections of Classical Music’s greatest hits, vast swathes of easy listening, musicals, country and western, some if not all of it performed by Percy Faith and his Orchestra whose version of ‘Please Release Me’ would accompany us on Reggie Drakes Sunday afternoon mystery tours [that’s another story].

And don’t forget to tell Readers Digest whether you want the mono or stereo version and don’t let the crackles on this flexi disc put you off as the records you’ll be getting are of a much higher fidelity.

More aromatic effluvia came in the way of a double sided Faces flexi as given away with the NME and a six inch blank faced flexi that came with 70’s Hot Car magazine. This contains a stilted, well rehearsed conversation between Murray Walker and Anthony Lanfranchi before Lanfranchi drives an F1 Car round a track telling us what gear he’s in and which corner’s coming up next.

Meanwhile back at the Encyclopedia Britannica Michael Aspel is asking Phil and Sheila Barnsby why they thought buying 24 volumes of soon to be out of date information was a good idea before setting us an exciting quiz on the b-side. The 70's really were that shit.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

One Direction

I don’t normally make new years resolutions but after careful thought and consideration it became obvious to me that the Idwal Fisher blog needed a shake up. Well, obvious to me at least. So how better to usher in this shiny new election year than with a clean sweep of the old thought process. Out goes the ‘I review everything I get sent’ mantra of the last six years and in comes a more laissez faire attitude.

From today if I do get something sent I promise I’ll listen to it but I wont promise I’ll review it, so yes the review gates are once more open but please don’t expect a quick response. I have been known to sit on things for over a year before cogitation took its natural course.

From today I will review whatever takes my fancy be it something I bought in Oxfam or the new Pynchon novel. I used to like reviewing the odd chazza LP so why not bring those days back and if that Vomir release has to go in the opposite direction then so be it. Bring on the Round The Horne LP and that flexi disc that came as an Encyclopedia Britannica promo with the Michael Aspel quiz on the b-side. Derek Bailey playing with David Sylvian? Why not. And that Ethiopian jazz CD courtesy of Awesome Tapes From Africa that’s been doing the rounds the last few weeks now, I feel it needs a post. And Super Noise Penis, the Smell & Quim/Cock E.S.P. 7" I’ve just dug played for the first time in donkeys. Smashing.

I shall still champion the underground [even if Dave Keenan’s has had it locked in the naughty cupboard for the foreseeable future] as this is where I feel most at home. Things will be a lot zippier round here too, not so much time spent pondering over structure [not that I ever did that much in the first place] and seeing as I’m on FB now in full blown Idwal Fisher mode, for better or worse, there’ll be some cross pollination there.

I have a little more time to myself these days and I always get more done in the winter months so expect a spurt. Or maybe not. All this could change come the summer and Test Match Special [always a distraction] but for now this is it. This thing that your looking at. It will continue.

I’ll be linking this to the contact and submissions page so it doesn’t get lost.


idwalfisher [at] dsl [dot] pipex [dot] com

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Basil Athanasiadis - Stray Cat’s Dream

Basil Athanasiadis - Stray Cat’s Dream [Intimate post-Fukushima Meditations].
Sargasso. SCD28077. CD + Booklet.

Wabi-Sabi is a complex and hard to define Japanese principle that roughly translates as the finding of beauty, simplicity, emptiness, economy and humility in natural objects and processes. There’s a lot more to it than that but spending half this review explaining it would test both your patience and mine. Better perhaps that you go to Japan and find a small tea bowl that makes you go ‘ahh’. That’s wabi-sabi. Mrs Fisher’s a big fan. Or you could read Mr Athanasiadis’ more eloquently detailed explanation in the accompanying booklet.

Basil Athanasiadis gives himself the task of trying to capture the essence of wabi-sabi in a series of compositions that range from Cage like prepared piano works to the inclusion of traditional Japanese instruments and the voice of his Japanese wife. I’d say he’s done it such is the lightness of his touch on pieces like ‘Youki’ an eight minute composition for piano that contains clusters of delicately struck high notes and the equally light Utakata in which the 20 stringed Koto plays foil to a more traditional violin.

The first nine tracks are a series of compositions called the Book of Dreams where prepared piano and flute create atonal atmospheres of the kind heard only on late night Radio 3 programmes. This is Webern played as if Webern had lost his sturm and drang and instead found his arigato goziamsu. The edges have been softened and even me, someone with a virtually pathological hatred of the flute [Ralph Hutter in early Kraftwerk days aside] can find the stark beauty in such work.

‘Little Songs of the Geisha II’ finds Athanasiadis’s wife Shie Shoji adding her delicate voice to the sho and the violin and as you’d expect the results are an austere collection of four song/poems that lie halfway between a geisha house and one of John Tavener’s more minimalist works.

Although not mentioned by name in the press release or the lengthy booklet, John Cage looms large here as evinced on the ten minute plus title track ‘Stray Cat’s Dream’ where a slightly more lively version of Cage’s ‘In a Landscape’ stands there for all to see. Its one of my favourite pieces of Cage’s and the one you go to when you get into arguments about how Cage couldn’t play or compose. Its beauty lies in its simplicity which is of course one of the concepts of wabi-sabi.

Song From The Forest

Song From The Forest - A film by Michael Obert. Selected Recordings of Bayaka Music by Louis Sarno.

Gruenrekorder. Gruen 150. CD + booklet.

Let us venture into the Central African rainforest which is where Louis Sarno found himself after hearing the music of the Bayaka Pygmies playing on his radio one night. And off he goes on what must have been an exciting and daunting journey. Twenty five years later Sarno is an accepted member of the community and has a son called Samedi. The film ‘Song From The Forest’ recounts how Sarno brought his son back to New York, from one jungle to another. What we have here is the soundtrack and but a small representation of the 1,500 hours worth of recordings that Sarno has made of the Bayaka Pygmies unique music.

And they do like to make music. When they pass a gooma tree they slap its exposed buttressed roots, when the women bathe they slap the water to make water drums, when they go into the forest they mimic chimpanzees in mock gorilla hunting games, they play flutes, bow harps, they sing laments, greetings and farewells and by the sounds of it have a good time in the process.

Listening to Song From The Forest you are struck by the purity of it all. An hour of this CD will cleanse your mind of years of commercial radio. Its the purity that William Bennet speaks of when he says that the sound of two African’s banging rocks together has the same intensity of a Whitehouse performance. You can hear that in the tree drumming where the driving polyrhythms are joined by a female vocalist who’s breathy utterances give the piece an air of [probably unintended] menace. ‘Earth Bow is another remarkable piece in which a sapling is bent with a piece of twine thats then plucked, a rainforest double bass, as ever accompaniment is in the shape of hand made percussion. ‘The Flutes We Hear No More’ is the sound of two duetting flautist, the flutes now destroyed and gone forever. The CD is bookended by both a greeting and a farewell. The Yeyi-Farewell is a haunting dirge that showcases the Bayaka’s penchant for polyphonic vocals, in-between the coughs and the cicadas emerges a lonesome and yearning voice.  

As well as the Bayaka there are pure forest recordings and dialogue from Sarno recounting the story of someone he knew who could walk into the forest and live like a king on the food he caught and gathered. An amazing adventure and an amazing story. Makes not to self to see film.


Monday, January 12, 2015

MK9 - Anhedonic Ideations / Death Squad - Out Patients

MK9 - Anhedonic Ideations
Neural Operations 2014 NO 12. 2 x 3” CDR, 1 x business card CDR, 1 X button badge that reads ‘ERROR’ and booklet. 125 copies.

Death Squad - Out-Patient
Neural Operations 2011. CDR 100 copies.

I have a great deal of respect for Michael Nine. In the sometimes murky world of Power Electronics his live shows are never anything less than gripping and what I’ve heard of his recorded work either under his own name or that of his previous outfit Death Squad has always led me to believe that we're dealing with a serious player here. With Death Squad I once saw him play a Termite gig where blood was let as scenes of mass rioting were projected on to a whitewashed wall. Of the several solo gigs I’ve seen under his MK9 guise every single one has left me feeling inadequate, baffled, angry and ashamed. Nine’s ability to make us face up to the inanities of this world; the pointless wars, the wasted lives, the lying governments, the senseless hatred is both humbling and profound. And then here, his own self doubt. A bout of Anhedonia, this being the term used to describe ‘a state of mind where one no longer enjoys the things that used to be enjoyable’.

In Anhedonic Ideations Nine examines a bout of self doubt brought on by a year long struggle with something a bit more complicated than a creative block. During this period Nine kept a diary in which he recorded his thoughts and observations. Some are mundane, some are acutely personal whilst others dig deep into his psyche asking himself questions he can’t answer playing both psychiatrist and patient. Cuttings of this diary, along with black and white images of urban spaces and his own contorted face make up the considerably dense booklet. 

Of the two three inch discs the silver one contains a series of audio recordings that Nine made daily over a six month period, each track representing one week. Here we have short blasts of white noise, shortwave interference, static and amp hum. The five tracks on the black disc are Power Electronics in its purer sense with Nine’s slowed vocals going through the distortion machine to a background of electronic disturbance. Here we find more recognisable PE tropes but its Nine’s delivery and his slowly measured American accent that [even through the static] lifts this from the ordinary. On track three his voice comes at you through a distant howling wind. On track four that distant wind is joined by a crackling frequency distortion that goes deep into the depths of the ear canal. On the last track he recites from what I presume is an Afghani schoolteachers account of the effects of US drone strikes, all this to the sound of heavy rainfall and an oscillating low hertz drone. The effect is both haunting and deeply affecting.

The square disc [as its described on the insert] finds Nine reading a paragraph of his diary entry with each disc being unique.

The amount of work that's gone in to this release is staggering, there’s even a typed two inch square piece of paper folded into the side of the square CD that probably came from Nine’s own diary. As a way of working yourself out of a creative cul-de-sac its quite something, as an insight into the mind of an artist working within the Power Electronics genre its probably unique. Either way its an outstanding release.

Out-Patient finds Nine in is his now defunct Death Squad guise. Here we have inmates of psychiatric institutions being interviewed by their doctors, admissions from desperate drug addicts, straight lifts on the benefits of ECT as extolled by the medical profession and cop abuse all daubed with ominous, gestating electronics. There’s also a live track as recorded in Denver in which Nine’s shows his ability to hold down a sustained rant. Impressive stuff.

Nine’s work is disturbing, gripping, personal and the product of a mind that never stops questioning the often seemingly obvious observation that all of humanity is off to hell in a squeaky wheeled Wal-Mart trolley.  

Power Electronics has its detractors but they’re usually of the kind that hasn’t listened to any in over twenty years. A dousing of Michale Nine goes a long way towards re-balancing that misconception.