Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Black Love

Black Love - Soundtrack For Black Power
Hertz-Lion. Cassette. HL-2.

On Saturday Morning, as is my habit, I set off on my hunter gathering duties. As I turned the key in the ignition the radio came to life and the speakers regaled me with that drippy hippy west coast anthem; America's 'Ventura Highway' [how the car radio came to be tuned to Radio 2 is a mystery I shall have to solve at a later date. What with me being permanently stuck in the R4/R3 ditch these days the sound of Anneka Rice's inane babblings towards the tracks end was enough to have me swerving all over the road desperately trying to hit the ‘4’ button on the display without crashing. Something I have no wish to repeat].

Having fulfilled my hunter gathering duties I returned home to find ‘Black Love - Soundtrack For Black Power’ awaiting me and there, stamped upon its return address, the words Ventura CA.

We were destined to like each other. I was going to smother this release in critical kisses from the off, adopt it as one of my own, take it to parties with me, introduce it to friends, give it a Buddhist name and register it with the Wine Society. We were going to be more than friends, we were going to be travelers through life. And then I discovered that the package contained a cassette and my love increased a thousand fold. I was floating on air. My eyes twirled in delight. My heart felt lighter. A skip came to my step and everything seemed covered in lovely dust. With a ‘Bank of Hell’ 20 note stuck to the inside of the case my love increased another thousandfold. When I discovered that it had a running time of 2.23 seconds I had all on not to involuntary ejaculate into my M&S boxers. And then, and then ... the climax … no web presence. No web presence. Can you handle that fact? Here we are again in 1992 and Bill Gates still hasn’t thought that a web browser would be a good idea. We’re in writing to each other territory folks. Just the return address on the jiffy bag and little ol’ me. I mean, even if it sounded like shit it was going to get ten thumbs up. Possibly more.

I read the press release, something about a performance at REDCAT in LA in 2008 involving Sarah Best, David Cotner and a Segovia. No, not that one. Transpires said cassette is actually the data for a 1981 Texas Instrument game called Strange Odyssey. This being a time in gaming pre-history when gamers needed to load data from cassettes to get their pixelated, simple beyond idiocy games to work.

You could of course play these data cassettes on Walkmans and boomboxes, the results being a constant stream of computer chatter. Noise in other words. What Cotner, Segovia and Best did [Best running point on logistics, it says here] is combine these sounds with those of other amplified tape sounds, these tapes being duct tape, Scotch tape and er ... 'magic tape'? Each being torn, ripped and no doubt used to strangle passers by with within the darkness of the venue, as a measuring tape twanged back in to its protective case from one end of the venue to the other for added effect.

I doubt whether these sounds are incorporated in to the sounds I'm hearing now though. This is code dissonance, a conceptual release and nothing else.

The cassette itself appears to be an original Texas Instrument release but this could be the work of Hertz-Lion industry. That is all I know.

The delight in such absurdist releases as this are multifarious and should be replicated in large doses so that we may venture in to the world of noise at more regular intervals. A case in point - I have three Pain Jerk CD's here that have remained virtually unlistened to since their arrival a couple of months back. A two and a half minute noise cassette, be it data chatter, Merzbow or The New Blockaders, in this format and at this running length, should be applauded. The best sub three minute noise cassette I've heard since Cock E.S.P.'s legendary 'You Know What They Say About Guy's With Short Sets'. And far better for the morale than Ventura Highway.


Hertz-Lion Releasing
Post Office Box 1211

Monday, March 16, 2015

Sppong 23 - Dr. Stegs Diary. March - June 2001.

Over the last few weeks I have been the fortunate recipient of not one, but two Dr. Steg packages. Both arrived unannounced. Both were enough to raise me from my cups. The first was an assemblage. A picture if you like. An assemblage that had glued upon it golden things that Dr. Steg’s dog had chewed. More on this later. The second package contained Dr Steg’s diary, various comics and sheets of A4 that show the existence of various other forms of SPON. More on these later too. I sat and read the diary on Friday night and knew that I couldn’t put it away without further comment. I gave it to Mrs. Fisher and she read it with the same degree of amusement and delight. After consultation with Dr. Steg he was quite happy for me to reprint here.

The diary covers three months of 2001 and shows not only how Dr. Steg’s passes his days but his wit and eye for the absurd. In it the mundane sits cheek by arse with Dr. Steg’s surreal dreams. Cats stare into space and dogs lick the inside of cats mouths. Steg himself sits and stares at empty washing lines. He builds dog kennels out of Twiglets. He makes pointless lists of ‘different things’.  All recorded for posterity in Steg’s instantly recognisable mix of made up words and phrases [Foot & Mouse], ampersands and jumble of capital and lower case letters within the same word. There’s the odd bit of instant art, CD price stickers [remember the days when the likes of HMV and Virgin got away with charging £16.99 for a CD?] and parking tickets too. At its end we see Steg’s more philosophical side, something that doesn’t come as a surprise at all, ‘When I said art is dead I really meant that modern society had killed art but art can only ressurect itself when modern society is dead. We will continue!’

Barring a few edits to make for easier reading I’ve left the spelling and syntax as is.

Er ...That's it? Watched a cat sitting very quietly on the driveway. World on verge of imminent collapse. Cut toe nails & fed clippings to dog. Welsh farmer committed suicide due to Foot & Mouse disaster. Blew nose.

16th March
Watched washing line blowing gently in the wind. Mass killing of healthy animals. Also available in Brian Cant flavour.

17th March
Woke up - went to toilet. Made cup of tea. Listened to  the Cocteau Twins. Watched dog going to the toilet and wiping his feet on the grass. Run away from all your Kwik-Save trolleys.

18th March
Woke up early & had a hearty breakfast of Jelly Babies, Digestive biscuits and Mr. Kipling apple pies. Proceeded to spend morning painting all the dirt and dust in the garage white so that it looks clean. Dry roasted peanuts for dinner. Spent afternoon studying dirt on window panes in strangers houses. Evening spent sitting in a darkened room, not easy to read. Went to bed.

18th March
Spent entire weekend listening to 'Slave to the Wage' by Placebo and now its Monday morning & it still makes no sense. I will write to them and ask what it means? Nothing sounds very well today? Where are we going? What a confusing world we live in!

20th March
Woke up after a lovely dream about death & murder. Day 28 of Foot & Mouse disease. Watched dog lick the inside of a cats mouth [as the cat yawned - Eric]. Thought today was Friday but it is only Tuesday. Picked scabs from dogs nose.

21st March
The day after 20th March 2001. It snowed all day today, but the snow didn't contain any snow adhesive so it didn't stick.

22nd March
Nothing happened yet. Tried to saw dog in half. Nothing?

23rd March
Breakfast. Nothing - a bit more nothing. Nothing for tea - some more nothing. Went to bed. The future is furtive.

24th March
Spent all day today painting all the dirt & dust in the garage its original dirt & dust colour. Painted all the coloured cats white [they were not happy about this so I had to nail their paws to the floor & paint them with a lavatory cleaning brush].

25th March
Rudely awoken from an interesting dream about being suffocated in a giant plastic bag prison type thing, chair, box, cling-film, cardboard death chamber coma dream suffocation thing! Rather nice while it lasted? Fuck!

26th March
Spent the afternoon studying the waterflow of sink and baths in empty houses. Plucked all the dogs fur out with tweezers. Here is some of it that was plucked from around its penis.

27th March
Huge mass killing of cattle and sheep and then putting them in huge fucking hole. On a brighter note they have re-opened  B&M Bargains. It has new electric doors & new shelves  stocked  with the same crappy rubbish as before. Jelly Babies & Dr. Pepper for lunch. Wore clean socks for the first time in four weeks.

28th March
Dull day but enlivened at tea time by watching police deal with an armed holed-up in some shitty drug flats. Bought 2 tins of cat food. Sunny evening, watched shadows of tree on the wall at the bottom of the garden.

29th March
Realised today how utterly pointless & boring keeping a diary really is if you were to do it properly! Never got round to writing to Placebo? Or man from crisp factory. Six letters to post but couldn't be arsed to buy stamps in Post Office.

30th March
Tried to make pen work. Created artificial rain. Nice dream, but can't remember what it was?

31st March
Awoke at midday. Fruitcake for dinner. Watched television for 3 seconds. Walked past a rotting kebab on a traffic island.

1st April
Dog farted. Did something pointless. Dog farted again. Watched washing blowing slowly on washing line.

2nd April
Read book about the Pre-Raphaelites. Tape re-corded dog singing. Tape re-corded cat sneezing whilst an aeroplane passed over head and one passenger vomited, another picked his nose and flicked it at a stewardesses arse. Someone ate a banana and an old man choked to death on his false teeth. Bought some broccoli & something that looked like spit. Out of date food for tea.

3rd April
Moist interesting nights dreaming about mutilation, radioactive waste disease death, memories & general carnage. Must have been something I eight. Visited a rather unpleasant place, nothing unusual happened, remember something important while walking across a zebra crossing! Evening spent deep in thought thinking about the depth of thought [probably as deep as any of the deepest holes in existence]. Cats never gamble & they have no concept of money.

4th April
Sixth week of Foot & Mouse disease. Can't think of one interesting observation yet! Pistachio nuts for tea. Spent evening listening to various kettles boiling inside the garage. All the steam caused the garage to evaporate. Very unfortunate!

5th April
Dream fragment - Angry Hotel comissionaires crucifying a tiny Jesus in a giant metal crucifix/coffin type thing under a pier [possibly Brighton]. Jesus was either Les Dennis or Rik Mayall?

6th April
Saw a very unhappy wet pigeon sitting or huddling next to a used orange condom.

7th April. We exist in a place that has been replaced with ABBATOIRS built from the rotting remains of disease ridden lying bastard politicians. No one can deny this fact.

8th April
Saw a squirrel looking furtively at a sheep whilst it rained heavily and we listened to an old fur-encrusted T-Rex tape. Visited a house with no shelves, very messy! I had to leave a record shop & a book shop due to some unpleasant sounding people who I had the misfortune to be standing next to.

9th April
Dog sicked up tiny remains of human fingers all over hand brake as we went round Around-About on our way to Curries. They now rest in a tiny plastic bag in the bureau along with other solid things that disagree with his tiny dog stomach and he sicked up several hours later along with foul smelling grean bile! Tried to avoid watching the shiny new television. Spent evening listening to shiny new-old Fall CDs. [Plasma Screen TV £7-8000 if ordered from Comet]

10th April
8.16 am saw a lollipopman dashing by on his bicycle. Watched two pigeons fighting. Read enormous book about Benjamin West, the first artist born in America to achieive international stature.

11th April
Read a very thin narrow book about radiators. Saw two very old midgets shopping

12th April
Breakfast - small squares of cheese with a peanut on top.

13th April
Can't remember anything interesting happening  today - maybe I am dead?

14th April
Breakfast - went over the top - small squares of cheese with 'two' peanuts on top.

15th April
Thought cat was going to write a novel but it couldn't get the top off the pen.

16th April
More very odd dreams due to massive cheese intake. Too strange to write down but can remember the vastness and immense bizarre details of a hell on earth camping trip inside something dead & rotting. Knee deep in blood & entrails of something?

17th April
Thought I saw a nun with a step ladder! Saw a very old thing and a very narrow kitchen with cookers. Dream about flying and imaginary photographs of things that never existed except in the minds of imaginary people who existed in a non-existent place. [v.good]

18th April
Cat tried to assassinate the Queen. Unluckily he forgot to put bullets in gun.

19th April
Considered buying nail scissors.

20th April
Made a dog kennel out of Twiglets.

21st April
Opened a door. Mowed the lawn for the first time in 6 months.

22nd April
Opened a new packet of soap. Suicide bombers in Israel. Health risk of cancer from burning cows.

23rd SPON
Watched 23 different things that included the following:-

1. Drainpipes
2. Grass
3. The dogs eyebrows
4. Checkout womans teeth in Safeways.
5. Envelopes
6. Walls
7. Snot
8. Sky at different times of the day & night
9. Road signs
10. Bruises & cuts
11. Hair & stubble
12. Bricks
13. Tree stumps
14. Toothpaste
15. Skin
16. Ink in pens
17. Trouser & shoes
18. Car head lights & aerials.
19. Dirt on rims of cups & wine glasses
20. Jumpers & shirts
21. Rubber ducks
22. Books & old records in charity shops.
23. Blossom on trees & bushes.

23rd Spon
Spent day watching grass grow a tiny amount in the back garden.

23rd Spon
Strange dream concerning a mail order body parts operation that sent me a new body part each day. Eventually I had an 8 or 9 foot body in the kitchen. I was then sent all the intestines and inside body parts. For some reason they did not look like normal inside body parts? Woke up and listened to 'Songs for Drella' by Lou Reed & John Cale.

23rd Spon [Brown day].
Posted a large [brown] envelope filled with six year old memories & ideas that I still [and will never] understand. Painted something [brown] - am glad that I have no more [brown] paint, I loathe & hate [brown] paint, I loathe & hate [brown]. I am very glad that grass is green & it covers horrid [brown] soil. II suppose I must be grateful for this one small gift in life. It could have been the other way around! Horrible thought. Also, pity about the colour of tree bark! Glad I am not called [brown] as well.

23rd Spon
Saw a priest carrying a staple gun. But it was in fact a yellow helicopter. Sunny day that became very wet. Saw many strange & weird things today! Listened to something very old that actually sounded very new.

23rd Spon
The difference between a pencil and a pen is this. Spent the day & evening watching clouds drift by. Dream - some one sent me a very sharp sword in order to kill all plasterers in the world. Bought some new type of shoes!

3rd May
Watched cat have a big piss.

4th May

5th May
On the road to Monets garden. Saw many very irritating Americans discussing religion with their sons. Sat next to a man with hairy nostrils.

12th May
I don't care. You don't care. We don't care. Nobody cares?

17th May
Some people I vaguely know - house burnt down very quickly.

18th May
Spent evening painting in the rain - unfortunately notebook got so wet it nearly fell apart!

19th May
Saw 4 ducks going for a walk near a very busy main road. Dead mouse on doorstep this morning. Bought book about David Sylvian and I read it very quickly.

20th May
Visited the Tate in Liverpool and saw some lovely pictures by Picasso, Bonnard, Hockney, Mark Boyle, Peter Blake, Derek Boshier, David [?]. Spent several hours studying their surfaces & colours.Splendid afternoon! And also Miro, Dubuffet & Frank Auerbach as well! Caught dog trying to shag grey cat.

21st May
Woke up, fell asleep and then woke up again. Strange dreams about things that aren't very nice. Placed dead mouse in jam jar in garage.

22nd May
Woke up and listened to 'Pied Piper' by Crispian St. Peter and watched an empty black bin liner blow around the garden. Then listened to 'Just Like Eddie' by Heinz and then 'Sea of Heartbreak' by Don Gibson and finally 'He Kissed Me' by the Crystals. Came home to find dead mouse in jam jar completely maggott ridden. So threw it in neighbours garden that I do not like. Saw odd man having a really good pick of his left nostril whilst stareing into a shop window - possibly a jewelers or shoe shop? Avoided neighbour who I do not like as I saw him find jam jar with maggot ridden mouse corpse inside, he didn't look very impressed - think he threw it in his dustbin! Listened to 'Let it Bleed' by the Rolling Stones.

23rd Spon
Saw a well dressed elderly gentleman riding a Harley Davidson. Listened to bees pollinating flowers and dried blossoms blowing against walls and pavements.

24th Spon
Cut grass with tiny pair of scissors. Very, very odd dream last night - vague & weird people with severe mental problems turning into shops, cows & dogs! People crying tears that turned into churches & cathedrals - an overall sense of religious doom & surreal heaven? Don't know! A strange sense of ridiculous hope & not hope? Things expanding turning in to unexpanded things drifting & bright! Then returning to darkness & dreadfulness - no hope in this place - only fear and certain death after an initial baptism of enlightenment. Took dog for walk.

25th Spon
Things overheard on the way back from Monets garden -
1: Where is there a public toilet I can take hostage! [No public toilet was taken hostage].
2: I always sleep better with a hand grenade stuffed up my arse! [No way to disprove this statement]. Actually heard evening of 6th May 2001.

26th Spon
Very old 'Fall' songs played on the only CD player that works in the house. Flower petals from Monets garden dry silently in a chest of drawers. Changed one Rolling Stones CD for this one.

27th Spon
Nothing Day - Read funny story about a man who killed his wife & four step-children. Working on pictures of people who have been stabbed to death. Mainly children

28th Spon
Visited the David Hockney exhibition at Saltaire Mill. Jolly splendid day. Big spaces full of pictures, books, furniture, chairs, photographs & pianos. Bought book about David Cronenberg. Saw large plastic dinosaur.

29th Spon
Wet day spent standing in rain. Got wet.

30th Spon
Day of blood and blooded animal carcasses. Blood on carpet. Blood on wall of toilet, blood and flesh on garage floor, blood on sink! Spent afternoon reading book that is covered in spots and fingerprints of blood. Small traces of blood on cats whiskers. Blood on bed sheets! Changed them for ones not covered in blood but flowers.

31st May
Saw graffiti on wall that says - Why police.

1st June
Saw graffiti on the side of an electric generator building next to a shit smelling park that just said - orgasm! Further on down a scummy back alley, written on the wall of an old rock factory where the words - hits from the bong - in bright red letters. Saw midget, with very long large head, nearly knocked over by elderly man in large cow or car? Walking in to the gents toilets in the casino I heard an old New Order song playing as I took a piss but couldn't remember the name of it? And the entire room shimmered in the wind as if all the wallpaper and furniture was nailed to the washing drying on the line outside.

2nd June
Talked to Eric about the meaning of life, but unfortunately, being only a cat he had no idea what he was talking about. Read interesting article on Jamaican graffiti. Primitive thoughts about fire, death, very real feelings about our past and future, if it's going to happen it'll happen and we mean nothing - dragged along without asking. We don't care - we have lost our feeling for any form of compassion or genuine careing. People die in front of the television. We need to be 'shocked' in a real sense to jolt us from the television, work place apathy [general life] cruel, cold, asleep, destiny no feelings nothing - no - thing. Create a new religion or pigeon. Watched good film called 'Boys Don't Cry'.

3rd June
Wiped dust from the surface of something dusty.

4th June
Watched excellent film called 'All the Little Animals' with John Hurt in it. Dog exploded. Watched 2 ginger cats staring at each other in a funny way?

5th June
Morning - attacked by wild dog then walked in to lamppost. Afternoon - lovely and wet - sat in a darkened room listening to 'Everything and Nothing' by David Sylvian and reading biography of William Burroughs by Ted Morgan. Drinking French red wine that cost 89p a bottle. Evening - nothing but wind and rain.

6th June
Spent evening watching clouds.

7th June
Graffiti on wall of Liberal Democrat party HQ in big black letters 'VOTE ELVIS'

8th June
Hollow empty feeling this morning. Listened to 'The Smiths' in an attempt to cheer myself up a bit. Cats have left half a mouse in the garage.

9th June
Watched '2001 A Space Odyssey' this evening. Why doesn't now look like that? Saw graffiti on old falling down building that said 'danger keep out'. Nearly got knocked over by a bycycle.

10th June
Bought copy of 'Less Than Zero' fromme book fair. Visited nice shop & bought very expensive salt & pepper pots.

11th June
Dry bread for dinner. Discussed the possibility of plastic surgery on the dogs head to remove his saggy eyes & wobbly chin bits. I seem to be absorbing music & writing at an enormous rate. Also appear to be less dark than last year. Thinking more about nature and clouds, trees, leaves, insects, grass etc ... rocks, earth, dirt, flowers.

12th June
Met some body who wasn't very happy.

13th June
Read books about Picasso, Throbbing Gristle and extracts of Cities of the Red Night by William Burroughs. Listened endlessly to Black Water by David Sylvian. V beautiful & haunting song!

14th June
Listened to The Smiths 'singles' especially No. 11 Panic and No.15 Girlfriend in a Coma. Line from an old Psychic T.V . song came to mind - dreams less sweet became more real whilst I thought about a world of human piss plants? Watched 'meet the parents'.

15th June
Wet with thunder & lightning. Reading Kenneth Williams diaries. Watched Call Me Joe? Picture fell off wall due to '1964' string.

16th June
Slept very late. Watched 'American Werewolf'.

17th June
Slept very late again - took dog on beach - kite convention - dog had fight with another dog. Watched 'Ronin'. Listened to old Cabaret Voltaire album 'Voice of America'. Watched documentary about Picasso - repaired and re-hung picture that fell off wall on Friday - only three pages of this diary left - eric not very happy today. Dream about a world covered entirely in dead animals and pavements made from dead mice. When I said art is dead I really meant that modern society had killed art but art can only ressurect itself when modern society is dead. We will continue!

18th June
Dream about a civilisation of cancerous flys living in a decaying city made from wombs, scabs, ear wax & human dog farting machines roam the city & vomit acidic beans & sausages over the flies to try & kill their maggot offspring buried deep inside rotten human organs & dead babies that drowned in ancient poisonous spinal fluids. My mother was today diagnosed with Spon disease.

19th June
Wet. Thought about the space between spaces in a very spatial but initially flat way. Had bath. Read 'The Bell Jar' by Sylvia Plath & listened to 'Concert' The Cure Live. Due to lack of people going to country during Foot & Mouse epidemic there is a strain of mutant plants that have taken over near streams and can give off skin infections if touched. Sounds like fun! When leaving no entry is permitted. Maybe to some death is a lovely dream whilst the world itself [reality] is a bad dream - last line inspired and stolen from Sylvia Plath. Also KleenPane windows cleaned today. Free quotes Tel 01253 or 7500411. Took to looking at book about Pre Raphaelites whilst listening to The Smiths*. Particular favourite plates include page 85. Girlfriend in a Coma. William Dyce - Pigwell Bay, Kent -a recollection of October 5th 1858 and whilst listening to Placebo* page 107 - William Holman Hunts - The Shadow of Death 1870-73. Whilst thinking about my own father who was a carpenter! And my own date of birth 23-06-66. Black-eyed*.


Thursday, March 12, 2015


Time  - Guillaume Belhomme, Guillaume Tarche

Published by Lenka Lente

78 pp
10 x 15 CM
100 copies
ISBN :  978-2-9545845-7-7

I’m a sucker for art gallery bookshops and those books that you just don’t find anywhere else except in art gallery bookshops. Books full of the work of an artists you’ve never heard of before delight me no end. Books chock full of images that are immediately inspiring. You buy them. I buy them. I shouldn’t because they’re expensive but I can’t help myself. I take them home, look at them and put them on a shelf where, years later, I take them down and marvel at them once more.

I dare say I shall take down ‘Time’ sometime in the future but more in bafflement than amazement. Time contains nothing but black and white images and is, I think, themed around improvisation and the difference between improvisation and composition

‘In fifteen seconds, the difference between composition and improvisation is that in composition you have all the time you want to think about what to say in fifteen seconds, while in improvisation you have only fifteen seconds.’

Theres a picture of Ornette Coleman’s ‘Something Else!!!’ LP cover and beside it a card with the words ‘Et maintenant’ printed on it. There’s a picture of Japanese tape manipulator Aki Onda and sound artist Akio Suzuki, pictures of rocks, Japanese art, abstract snapshots, John Coltrane CD’s, mushrooms, some grainy images of a woman giving birth, some pictures show an album sleeve sharing the frame with something else such as the reverse of Kraftwerk’s Radioactivity LP sat atop some dusty analogue equipment, a CD sits atop a cactus and so it goes.

The back cover lists the people you can find in this book. People such as Sun Ra, WG Sebald, Guy Debord, Samuel Beckett, Orson Welles, Lol Coxhill, Sonic Youth and for some reason, highlighted, Steve Lacy.

And so it goes.

At a time when you can download a copy of Proust’s ‘À la Recherche du Temps Perdu’ to your Kindle for two quid I quite like the fact that publishers such as Lenka Lente exist. Long may they do so.

Their other publications include a tome on the outsider artist Adolf Wölfli which contains a three inch CD by Nurse With Wound, something that appears to have lots of John Coltrane album artwork and the Futurists manifesto as written by Francesco Balilla Pratella. There’s other goodies too including EVP searcher outer Michael Esposito. All in French mind.


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ian Middleton

Ian Middleton - Untitled [casio, etc.]
Self released CDR [1994 - 1996]

Ian Middleton - Untitled II
Self released CDR [1996 - 1997]

Ian Middleton - Untitled III
Self released CDR [1997 - 2001]

Ian Middleton - Aural Spaces
Self released CDR [2004]

Ian Middleton - Moire Music
Self released CDR [2007 - 2014]

Ian Middleton - Mobiles
Self released CDR [2007 - 2009]

Ian Middleton - Time Building
Self released CDR [Recorded 2007 - 2008 - Mixed 2014]

Ian Middleton - Tape Tapes
Self released CDR [1999 - 2007]

Ian Middleton & Mark Vernon - Desire Lines
Self released CDR [2014]

Ian Middleton - Music for the Survivor
Self released CDR [?]

Ian Middleton - Well of Sorrows
Skire LP. SKR02 [2009]

Ian Middleton - Aural Spaces
Swill Radio LP. Swill 029 [2009]

Ian Middleton - Time Building
Entr’acte LP. E66 [2009]

It was Campbell who mentioned Ian Middleton. Another hitherto barely heard of, off the radar, under the radar, no buggers ever heard of him, obscure beyond words, outsider drone artist. I mentioned his name to Simon Morris in Dirty Dicks only to be reminded that it was Middleton who made a fleeting appearance on the Ceramic Hobs sprawling late 90’s supermad Psychiatric Underground release. This was in days when Middleton was Remora and tape noise ruled the world and nobody was really that fussed if all you did was offer up two sides of C90 fluff and stuck it to a paper plate with ‘play loud’ written on it in fibre tipped pen. Not that this was what Middleton was doing but you get my drift.

All this after Campbell had turned half of West Yorkshire and other environs on to that obscure Norwegian noise/drone project Taming Power and the talk turned to outsider artists and those who choose to work without the merits/demerits of social media and self promotion.

Middleton has been releasing material for years now with but a small handful of labels having the nous to give him a platform. The ten CDRs you see above have all been burned by the man himself and I dare say thats there’s more where they came from. The LP’s are things of utter joy and without Middleton’s kindness and Campbell’s prompting would have sadly passed me by.

But they didn’t and for the last few weeks I’ve been soaking up the drones and letting them cast their unearthly spell on me. For these are drones capable of casting you adrift from your earthly woes. These are drones capable of lifting you from your cups, capable of filling your lungs with air and head with swimming joy. Its what really good drones do.

Since 1996 Middleton has been creating them with a Korg MS10, a few effect pedals and the occasional field recording. Before 1996 it was mainly noise and Ceramic Hobs dalliances. Its what you did in 1996. ‘Untitled [casio, etc]’ is the organist at Cologne cathedral giving vent to his psychedelic noise drone side whilst channeling Brainticket through Nurse With Wound. Heavy duty full on pummeling drone throb with weasly tones and erupting novas. Raucous drones that penetrate your skull and leave you tripping like a nodding hippie gazing in to his Tangerine Dream fold out gatefold sleeves. You have to start somewhere. ‘Untitled II’ sees the appearance of Bohman-esque kitchen detritus and a prepared acoustic guitar. On ‘Untitled III’  the 22 minute opener ‘Catacombs’ has just the faintest whiff of industrial drone. Its a murky world but one heading in the direction of purer drones. And then, barring a few pure piano compositions, we move in that purer drone world.

A blow by bow account of all thirteen releases would test both your patience and mine but suffice to say that barring a few dodgy tracks on those three early releases the vast majority of what you can hear is both compelling and highly rewarding. I found myself listening and lost in a reverie and on many occasion wondering if I would ever pull myself from my Middleton musings. Opportunities to indulge to such a depth rarely arise and must be fully expoloited.

‘Mobiles’ contains analogue era Raymond Scott melodies, reversed tape drones and feather light drones. ‘Moire Music’ utilises the field recordings of Mark Vernon and is minimalist and austere with hedgerow birds adding depth to frosty morning walks. ‘Music for the Survivor’s’ is where we hear Middleton sit down at a piano, four short tracks that begin with a stark and sombre interlude before being joined by ever so gently plucked strings. Middleton’s piano feels as lonely and oblique as Harold Budd’s with the resonance holding on long enough to give us that real depth of loss. ‘Tape Tapes’ contains ten short works that barely rise above the five minute mark. ‘Time Building’ wanders into Forbidden Planet territory, this time with added squeaky gates and ‘out there’ added spacey-ness.

The three vinyl releases are were I found myself reaching swoon max. ‘Well of Sorrows’ is beautifully austere and melancholy. The four tracks on side A creating suitably bleak atmospheres of forlornness especially on the longer Lonely Highway. This is American road movie territory where a denim clad Martin Sheen sticks his thumb out at the side of a wide open road waiting for a battered convertible with Sissy Spacek in it to pull up - big sky drone moving through ever sadder and sadder phases, diminished chord loops soaring and dipping through each other. The side long Snowdrops is a series of shifting phases and beetling notes burbling out of a drone stream of analogue information. Bliss.   

The Entr’acte release Time Building and the Swill Radio release Aural Spaces share similar ground in which shimmering drones appear dominant. The two wide bands on each side of Time Building are each long enough to set your drift dials to nod and should be used as such.

I was rather worried that after receiving such a generous package [two packages] that I wouldn’t like what they contained or only half like them or be indifferent to them and have to explain to Campbell that his taste sensors had taken a kick to the gut. This obviously isn’t the case. Instead I have discovered another one of those rare human beings, one who eschew fame and fortune for the far more humble goal of creating genuinely beautiful music.

Incomplete Discogs page

iancmiddleton [AT] gmail.com


Sunday, March 08, 2015

Crater Lake Festival 2015

Crater Lake Festival
Wharf Chambers, Leeds
March 7th, 2015

Rudolph. Eb.er
Evil Moisture
Stephen Cornford
Charles Dexter Ward
Dylan Nyoukis & Kieron Percy
Dale Cornish
Kay Hill
Stuart Chalmers
Yol & Posset
Mel O'Dubshlaine

Five pound entry for eight hours worth of Crater Lake was always going to be the best fiver spent all year. And so it proved. As the rest of Leeds' desperate late night thrill seekers parted with the same sum for a bottle of lager in a crap pub a knowing and not inconsiderably large crowd of people took the opportunity to soak up large amounts of sonic exploration for the same amount.

Arriving just after 3pm I was met with the sight of people wandering around clasping empty beer bottles with wires and batteries coming from them. Most of them were wearing idiotic grins, like they'd just discovered that there was a way of getting drunk on water. All this due to an Andy Bolus workshop in which objects of a personal and round nature could be turned into ghost detectors or something. I don't know what it was but it seemed to make half a dozen people sat around a table insanely happy. I half wished I'd joined in but I find things with wires terrifying and I'd have no doubt had to have drunk the bottle of beer first which, with the day ahead of me, would have been a mistake, with lunch time beers turning in to afternoon beers turning in to night time beers turning in to a review of the first three acts and nothing else. With such a great line up sobriety was for once to the fore.

Someone called Ted said I should incorporate more beer related content in to reviews and with the Wharf Chambers supplying a decent stock of vittles the opportunity was there and when I spied Rudolph Eb.er clutching a bottle of something looking good I asked him what it was and came back from the bar with a non alcoholic beer that tasted of Lapsang Souchong. Which actually wasn't that bad in the way that a generous mouth feel lager with no alcohol does. So I went back to the bar for another bottle of Club Mate and contented myself with the fact that whilst various bits of the Ceramic Hobs were rolling about on the floor in drunken dishabille I was able to retell to you in these words exactly what happened at the 2015 Crater Lake Festival.

Pete Cann's once a year all day festival of sonic exploration has become a firm favourite on the calendar. It ticks all the boxes in that the venue is perfect, the city is perfect, the sound is well, there’s no complaints and its cheap to get in. Did I mention that its only five pounds to get in? Five English pounds to see over dozen or so people get to grips with drone and noise and cassette improvisation and many things that lay in between. Well I never. Tell that to someone from that London and they wouldn't believe you.

At around 3.30pm Mel O'Dubshlaine began talking in to a small microphone manipulating her voice via god knows what so that what emerged from the speakers were broken fragments, not Norman Collier meets Jaap Blonk but disembodied voices, ghostly appearances. When Phil Todd joined in on something that looked like a futuristic tambourine the whole thing went kind of spacey. And off we go.

The original red tiled floor of the WC performance space has born the brunt of Yol's previous performances there especially with regard to a steel mop bucket. Along with the north east’s very own dictaphone merchant Posset they make for a match made in scratch heaven. Yol hits the floor with a steel rod and scrapes empty yoghurt pots across the tiles, Joe Posset screams into a variety of Dictaphones. Yol's head goes back and he screams about glass cathedrals [shopping centres?], Joe Posset screams into his Dictaphones and screams about what I’ve no idea. Voices appear through the murk only to disappear and there in its place but the faintest tinkle of metal on red tile.

Cassettes feature prominently in several acts including Stuart Chalmers who kneels in front of two lit candles and dons a long black wig which he lets fall over his face as he performs his own private ritual. Playing a Walkman in each hand he fast forwards and reverses over the capstans before hitting a pebble with a stick and eventually strumming a very small zither. I've been waiting a long time to see Chalmers play live and the wait proves to be worth it. Like Nyoukis and Percy he creates atmospheres in which impossible to identify sounds appear. Sounds that are being created by the manipulation of a never ending supply of cassettes. At its start Chalmers moves from received pronunciation spoken word 50's BBC female announcer to atonal classical compositions before blending everything into noise. Nyoukis and Percy become so involved in their composition that beads of sweat appear, each adjustment to their ongoing work morphing into disturbing atmospheres. You can almost smell the cassette cases.

Dale Cornish plugs in a lap top plays thirty seconds of something and then gets involved with an audience member after being sarcastically applauded. He then gets involved in a discussion about the merits of merch before delivering some low end frequency beats in a Panasonic kind of way. When he rips out the link to the PA loud cheering can be heard and he has a grin from ear to ear suggesting that he's just enjoyed himself very much thank you. We are all enjoying ourselves very much thank you very much.

Everybody gets a loud cheer. Its an enthusiastic audience. After Lee Stokoe's sublime two mini keyboard drone set I'm given the best ever eulogy about how the man is a giant amongst drone makers. And who am I to argue? Stokoe has the nous to let his relentless waves of crashing drone play out its finale on his own amp leaving the PA to lick its wounds. Charles Dexter Wards drone set is, I think made from electric guitar, but I'm sat on the reclaimed pew at the back of venue and all I can see are peoples backs, but its loud. Easily the loudest thing so far and with my head back and my eyes shut I soak it all in.

I see five minutes of Kay Hil’s set but he seems to be having problems with his equipment causing unwanted feedback and equipment chatter to leak in. Its the only set I miss.

Stephen Cornford has four TV's stacked up with a contact mic on each screen. The two TV's in the middle of the stack are side on and when they are brought to life they show interference and static from which Cornford mixes the results relaying them to us. I'm stood about three feet in front of his TV's trying not to remember what my mother told me about sitting too close to the telly because this is the best place to be to take full effect of those ever changing flickering screens and the drones they''re making. I now know I’m not epileptic. If you were sat at the back on those reclaimed church pews I dare say the impact may be lessened but being that close and with the volume getting louder it was the perfect place to be. When he begins to turn the TV's off one by one there's an almighty jump in volume as the last one dies, a noise so shocking and unexpected in its volume that it brings audible gasps.

When Andy Bolus takes to the stage he tells us all to turn our phones off or get out of the room as their signals interfere with his sensitive equipment. Which seems to contain a butchered tape machine that has a crinkled length of cassette tape looping out of it and into another home made machine. This is now the loudest set of the night and the longest set I've seen Bolus play [this from a man whom I once saw play the Kirkstall Lights for all of about thirty seconds after falling off the stage dressed as a rabbit or a dog and injuring his back].  There are people getting carried away after eight hours of steady drinking and they begin shoving each other about and waving their fists in Phillip Best homage. When Bolus releases huge thunderclaps of noise this only goes to induce further jostling but there's only about four of them and they look like they come from good homes.

The days entertainment ends with Rudolph Eb.er sat behind a mixer delivering a series of his trademark sounds, my favourite being the fly trapped in a bottle. At one stage he sticks two brain activity sensors covered in black boot polish on to his head, an act which  makes his eyeballs swivel. There's a change in frequency and a change in Eb.er's appearance as he now has black dots all over his head. A completely different performance from the last time I saw him at the Extreme Rituals in Bristol which was bare chested and crossed legged with the added sense destroying stench of burning vinegar for accompaniment. If we'd have had the burning vinegar in the confines of the Wharf Chambers there’d have been a stampede for the door. As it is the feisty crowd down the front make the most of Eb.er's brief forays into all out noise but for the most part this is a short stray in to Eb.er's own sound world.

Outside and on the way to a taxi the streets are clogged with £5 bottle of beer merchants. I could tell them about Club Mate and the Wharf Chambers but somehow I don't think they'd be interested. Roll on next year.