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


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