Friday, May 31, 2019
Consumer Electronics - Airless Space
Harbinger Sound. Harbinger 200. CD/2LP
With the prospect of quiet solo Saturday night ahead of me I decided to spend it taking in the new Consumer Electronics long player. After visiting the wine cellar and making a suitable choice for the evening I pressed play and settled down to what the fuck was I thinking of? This is ridiculous. After four tracks I couldn’t take it no more and turned it off. Taking a long slug of what turned out to be a rather sumptuous Gewurtztraminer I began digging around for an Art Garfunkel album whilst cupping my ears to check for damage. I’d made the mistake of taking Consumer Electronics lightly. You don’t do quiet nights in with Consumer Electronics. You have to prepare yourself. Its like inviting the Stasi round for tea. Is it one lump or two and excuse the mess, we’ve been busy hiding the typewriter. Oh shit.
Philip Best says that he thinks this is the best Consumer Electronics release to date and there’s me thinking that Consumer Electronics previous outing Dollhouse Songs [also on Harbinger] was that perfect amalgam of disquiet and bang up to date late 2000 and teens electric fear and loathing. What impresses most during playback of Airless Space is that Best is probably right. Consumer Electronics go from strength to strength. While his previous partner in chime Mr Bennett fleshes out his CV with almost danceable tosh we take pride in the the fact that one of the original purveyors of Power Electronics [now aided by Sarah Froelich and Russell Haswell] still manages to create songs that are a rusty dagger to your guts.
Its the twin prong attack that gets you. Best delivering his lines with malevolent relish while Froelich does her best to rupture her vocal chords. Hers is a delivery capable of reducing nuns to tears. They ease you in, if thats ever the right phrase, with a vocal track each. Each track built around a stripped down beat, each track equally unsettling. On the opener ‘Body Mistakes’ Froelich’s deranged vocal delivery gradually dissolves into a sea of digital static while on next track ‘Carnage Mechanics’ Best delivers his spoken word lyrics in an increasingly fevered state while reveling in his favourite subjects; self harm, drug abuse, emotional instability, exhibitionism, war zones, death, sex ...
'Would you act differently if the cameras were off?'
As the beat morosely and relentlessly thuds on.
The thirteen minute long ‘Murder of JJ’ has Best’s vocal coming at you as out of the ether, as a ghost, a cipher with an accentuated emphasis on each word, again the spine is a relentless dull thud beat and when Froelich emerges she’s singing about ‘living down here with the dogs’ and then Best comes in and the pair of them are delivering the weirdest of harmonies as Best goes to the floor frothing at the mouth singing ‘its love and light and its forever’. In some ways it could be a love song.
Sitting through an hours worth of such derangement is like sharing a therapy session with a group of emotionally damaged people charged with making music out of broken synthesizers. Its like reading a repulsive book thats doesn’t make much sense but which you find morbidly fascinating. Its like putting your hand in to a dark hole and feeling something cold, mushy and wet. Unsettling is the word that keeps coming to mind and I’m all for that.
Russell Haswell’s production gives Airless Space exactly that but within that vacuum lies a dark malignant growth that no amount of Alsace’s finest could ever make cheery. Some people just like it that way.
This release is Harbinger Sounds 200th and as such deserves a special mention. Let us all raise a well charged glass in Mr. Underwood's general direction.
[If you can please do buy the double album so as to get the lyric sheet. This will enable you to not only follow the lyrics with your finger but to better understand the inner workings of the Best/Froelich partnership].
Friday, May 24, 2019
Astral Social Club + Grumbling Fur Time Machine Orchestra - Plasma Splice Trifle
VHF Records. VHF147. LP
Released 7th June
Soundcloud has its uses but the comments people leave during certain points of track playback make me think that its users have vocabularies that aren’t shall we say, overdeveloped. ‘Nice’ and ‘#poetry’ are two that pop up during Grumbling Furs collaboration with Charlemagne Palestine. An album with a ridiculous title that I shan’t reproduce here and could only have been created by someone sitting on a keyboard. And by that I don’t mean one you’d find on a Bosendorfer.
I don’t do much Soundclouding what with Bandcamp stomping over everything Godzilla like but Campbell’s been raving about Grumbling Fur for years now and to be honest the name put me off, a bit jokey, a bit proggy, a bit Blodwyn Piggy. I’m sure that the duo who make up Grumbling Fur; Alexander Tucker and Daniel O’Sullivan are the loveliest of people alive and help old ladies across the road whenever the opportunity arises but I’d never heard a single second of what they’ve ever done because I’d been put off by the name. My bad as the kids say. And seeing as I’m as familiar with what Campbell does as the pot holes in the roads around here it would be unfair to delve in to this collaboration without first hearing what it is exactly that Grumbling Fur sound like.
So I went to their Bandcamp page because that's where Godzilla goes. This is where they’re flogging/promoting their latest album Furfour. You can leave comments here too but instead of Bay City Roller fan vocabulary you get more considered opinions, maybe from Wire readers. Those opinions having Grumbling Fur in the Brian Eno vocal compositions camp which after a few tracks of Furfour I totally get; twin vocal harmony pop for grown ups with lots going on in the background showcasing the duos talent for mixing and overdubbing. I like Brian Eno, I like Brian Eno’s singing, I like Grumbling Fur and Furfour. Forget Blodwyn Pig.
Plasma Splice Trifle has harmonies and vocals and spoken word and when they appear its like a dreamy Dream Machine with pretty pictures flickering against your shut eyelids. Patient reader I was transported. The four tracks as a whole flow seamlessly. I was at one with the bob. I was grooving with the VHF crew. I imagine the VHF crew rolling a fat one [on the already printed LP sleeve of course] and DM-ing all those involved immediately upon hearing the results of their labour with a series of cap locked YESSES. I’d have done the same.
Grumbling Fur and Astral Social Club are a match made in, not heaven exactly that would be too corny but maybe somewhere in the Eno-sphere. Campbell’s sawing violin is there as is the electronic staccato shudder and the pumping beats. The sawing violin is no wild, folksy, moth eaten jumper, cider reeking mad jig either, its a beautiful soaring thing that lifts you cloud-ward, all this as on second track ‘Three Years Apart’ but first we have Campbell reciting from what we have to assume is a book or a poem, something about sperm and going back to the egg, all this over a muezzin call, a small child calling and shortwave static. As an entry to the album it draws you in and is soon followed by trademark ASC head bob beats and further multi tracked Fur/ASC jaw jabber thats buried deep, deep, deep within the mix.
The cherry on the cake is ‘Ozone Antifreeze Intelligence’ and a beatific, melodic piano riff thats the floaty ying to the vocals of the three of them’s yang. Grumbling Fur vocals drift in and out and under as Campbell speaks, electric guitars hold back feedback and things burble and bibble as the piano chimes its funereal chime. The riffing bass on last track Toejam Boxdrum is the riff to carry you all the way back to its intoned beginning.
I get the feeling that all parties involved are chuffed to mint-balls with what they’ve created here. Plasma Splice Trifle is a work of great depth created by two parties which I imagine have a lot of common ground between them. The more you listen the more it gives. I’ve had it clamped to my head for the last few days and now that I’m totes familarz with it I’m getting all evangelical. I’ve no idea what that covers all about though. Looks a bit Blodwyn Piggy to me.
Sunday, May 19, 2019
Preening - Gang Laughter
Digital Regress. LP/DL
Max Nordile - Got To Sleep, Fool
Digital Regress. DR29. Cassette
Dolphin - Breezebather
Out of sheer curiosity and having nothing better to do with my life for the next 90 seconds, I decided to check out what was happening in the UK Top 40 these days. It’s been a while. About twenty five years give or take a year. The singles charts are now as irrelevant to me as adverts for tampons, TV channels selling jewelry and shampoo. When singles were just that, small rounds of vinyl with a song on each side, they carried a certain weight. Now they are literally weightless. Since 2005 the Top 40 has included downloads and brought streaming under its aegis in 2014 [to qualify as a streaming single its length must not exceed 15 minutes and cost no less than 40p. So now you know].
In 1981 Laurie Anderson got to number 2 with ‘O Superman’, an eight minute single of an avant garde nature featuring electronically manipulated repetitive vocal phrasings that paid homage to Jules Massenet’s opera Le Cid. At the time I was living in a pub and after consultation with the people who put the records on the jukebox it was decided that in everybody's sanity it was best left off and given to me. I still have that copy. O Superman was denied the top spot by Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin with their cover of ‘It’s My Party’. Thats the same Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin who played their part in the Canterbury scene via Stewart’s band Hatfield and the North. Whats filling the top two spots now? I can hardly bring myself to defile these pages with the words but I give you Ed Bieber, Justin Sheeran with some collaborative guff that you file under ‘had to happen’, and Lil Nas X. Lil Nas X, I’ve just discovered, being famous for his crossover country rap breakout single Old Town Road. Country Rap. Maybe Mel Brookes can use it in his Blazing Saddles remake. I know that this is going to make me sound like an old curmudgeon but to be honest I'm far past caring.
So when exactly did mainstream music become so teeth grindingly dull? There’s always been dull music in the charts of course. At least up until I stopped listening. But the dull stuff was clustered around interesting stuff.
Here’s another chart from 1981:
1 - The Specials / Ghost Town
2 - Stars on 45
3 - Bad Manners / Can Can
4 - Imagination / Body Talk
5 - Whacko Jacko / One Day in my Life
6 - Motorhead / Live EP
7 - Tom Tom Club / Wordy Rappinghood
So I’ll keep 1, 6 and 7 and you can melt the rest on your three bar electric fire in bedsit land. Its still a decent return and that's just from the top seven.
Seeing as how most of the charts are now full of people I’m unfamiliar with I’m assuming that they’re either mediocre singer/song writers, bands with a modicum of talent stretched so thinly that you can see their genitals, female singers who think that howling like an ululating hyena will get them compared to Janis Joplin and country rap crossover stars. Its all v v v v depressing and something I care not to linger on. So without further ado I give you Oakland California’s Max Nordile whose been invading these pages with his improv skronk for the last couple of years now.
Nordile also prints zines that are black daubs opposite hand written upper case musings:
SOMEONE WHO IS DEAD
THEIR MEDIA PROFILE
BOOMING OUT FROM UNSEEN
Issue 30 is described as an ‘Art and Humour’ publication with the art being there for everybody to see and the humour being buried somewhere deep in Nordile’s mind.
Which is all well and good and a decent outpouring of creative activity and while the improv skronk tapes are most welcome [‘Dolphin’ is yet another Nordile improv attack vehicle while ‘Got To Sleep, Fool’ is Nordile wandering around in his own soundworld] it was the LP that blew me away this time. Last time it was via Uzi Rash and a couple of 12 inch platters that sat astride the Country Teasers horse only with more whisky and a liking for The Doors. This time its a 12 track 45rpm knock you sideways, I didn’t think people were making music this good these days, pure shot of mezcal straight in to the cerebellum, instant classic. Its like Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band made a record with some Ethiopian jazzers in a New York basement circa 1977 before they went out and blew The Ramones off stage at CBGB’s because they weren’t zeitgiesty enough. This is the music of the future coming from the past via all kind of jazzy, punky, improvisational wormholes that is like a lot of what I’ve heard before [all the best bits] baked into a cake and covered with glistening dark joyful listening cherries. It is life affirming stuff.
Preening is Alejandra Alcala, Sam Lefebvre and Max Nordile. Theirs is a stripped down sound with Alcala’s bass running wiggle worms around Lefebrve’s post-punk drums as Nordile skronks and honks in and amongst. Nordile and Alcala do vocal call and response harmonies like Don Van Vilet arguing with The Raincoats and all of it sounds like nothing I’ve heard in years. Opening track ‘Dogtown Top Ranking’ is a tumbling James Chance like rawk with the chorus nicked from Althea and Donna’s greatest hit. ‘Flotilla’ has that Egyptian vibe and its here where you get to hear Nordile’s vocals disappearing into a higher register yelp before collapsing in on itself. Put it down to too much sunshine. ‘Slabs’ is Preening paying tribute to Albert Ayler. ‘Work Policy’ is a song about dress codes. ‘Red Tape’ is an instrumental with guest laughing, people laughing like lunatics as guest cornettist ErAl does the Ornette Coleman thing. The title track is a piece of improv featuring Alcala on piano and then gamelan and the sounds of cars as heard through the open window of wherever they recorded this open heart surgery on my musical lassitude. I could do the whole dozen like this but you really need to hear it for yourself.
There was a time when you could just wait for the next musical genre to come along and give your jaded tastebuds a car battery like jump start; out with the Punk in with the Post-Punk, out with the Indie in with the Rave. Now everything in the mainstream seems like so much mush. Corporate mush at that. Unless you get digging of course. Digging is where you get to find the real gold. Preening are unlikely to ever bother the likes of the Top 40 but that means you cant dig. Dig?
Monday, May 13, 2019
The New Blockaders - Live at Sonic City
Cold Spring. CSR261CD. CD + DVD
The most astonishing footage of this forty minutes and exactly no seconds bout of TNB destruction comes at its very end; as Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata escapes from a very battered and out of tune piano we get a slow-motion close up of [presumably] that very same instrument. A claw hammered finale that is a slow blow after blow after relentless blow that disintegrates the key cover into plumes of dust and countless fragments of wood. Its a controlled performance but no wild, smash it to bits bout of pissed up artistic indulgence on someone else’s expense sheet. This is The New Blockaders slowly and methodically going about their work, banging out a head syringing noise with a hammer in each hand, feeding a cement mixer with self made detritus, sawing and hammering and generally reducing everything in sight to splinters and misshapen metal.
Using several cameras and overlay effects you get to see the dust vibrating out of that upright piano, the cement mixer being fed with a gramophone horn as the gramophone itself plays records in a way that its makers never intended it do. The backdrop shows the flickering static as created by a blank VHS cassette with TNB instruction words like ANTI, NOTHING, REJECT, appearing. A table contains a mixer and small metal boxes that have turning handles on them. One Blockader studies a small reel to reel recorder with an intent that's almost disturbing. The resultant noise is of course suitably intense, destablazing to the senses and offensive to those of a weak nature.
The biggest benefit from having this live footage is that you can get as close as the front row did without having to inhale the dust or suffer hearing damage. It also shows how in control the performers are. This performance being enacted by two Blockaders, a Rupneus and a Niemand, though which Rupenus remains unexplained or Niemand come to that. Each methodically going about his work; rubbing metal on to that cement mixer, throwing metal rods in to a galvanized rubbish bin, hammering said galvanized bin in to a useless shape.
The CD part of the package is the soundtrack to the DVD. While on the DVD the soundtrack doesn’t match the action on stage. This leads me to believe that the audio may have been put together in the studio. Moonlight Sonata is not seen being played either at its beginning or its end, there’s also audience chatter during the rare quieter moments which seems hard to believe and synth-like sounds, none of which you can pick out in the DVD. This detachment gives the visuals an arty, cinematic feel.
Of the live footage that exists on the internet none compares to what we have here. That live show at the Broken Flag Festival? A drunken riot. I’m guessing that The New Blockaders wanted something that truly represented what its they’re trying to achieve. This is it.
Friday, May 10, 2019
Duncan Harrison - Nothing’s Good.
Index Clean. IC-011. CD
Duncan Harrison - Preamble to Nihil
Duncan Harrison - Life Is Not A Succession of Major Events
Duncan Harrison - Something Approaching Zero
I’ve never met, spoken to or otherwise had anything to do with Duncan Harrison but I still feel I know him. Not that I’m in constant contact via the DM’s or the PM’s. Such is the social media world we live him his name crops up all the time and I think I may have even seen him play live in a charity shop once as part of the Colour Out Of Space fringe. After visiting his Soundcloud page I can adjudge that he’s a vegetarian who works in a vegetarian restaurant in Brighton, this because the first two tracks on his Soundcloud page are of Harrison phoning his local radio station to talk e-coli in salad and how to spot when an avocado’s ripe. I’m making an assumption here, he may be a meat eater who works in a vegetarian restaurant, this is Brighton after all. Then again … no.
The fact that the fist two tracks on Harrison’s Soundcloud page are of him phoning his local radio station to discuss food related issues impresses me immensely. That another track on there is a drunken recording of himself and Dylan Nyoukis wandering the streets of London looking for alcohol is another ten pound sledge-hammer through the floor of common sense. Its saying ‘yes I have a Soundcloud page [and a Bandcamp one too obvs], doesn’t everybody, but the first things you’re going to hear is me and ultra charm local radio DJ talking e-coli in salad and then me having a good time in the Cafe Oto toilet with Mr Brotzmann. Not like that you’ll understand, just a little bit of good time gurgling and skronking. Put that in your organic pitta bread halloumi wrap with chia and cress and shove it where the monkey shoves its hickory smoked almonds.
The real dirt comes from the hands of the man himself; an A5 booklet containing prose and poetry, two cassettes and a CD that you could easily put into the hands of someone wanting to know more about where noise is at in 2019 and say ‘here you go, it’s all there, just apply brain and go enjoy yourself’. If I were to place these on an Olympic finishing podium ‘Life Is Not A Succession of Major Events’ would get bronze, ‘Preamble to Nihil’ the silver and the CD ‘Nothing’s Good’ the clear winner with the awardee reciting words from the ‘Something Approaching Zero’ while putting on all three gongs on a hopping about Harrison head.
In Harrison’s sound world ‘Life is Not a Succession …’ is the one where he records the Rupenus brothers taking his house apart while he sits at the top of the bare staircase throwing cricket balls through the front door and out into the street as seagulls squawk and cars go by. ‘Preamble to Nihil’ meanwhile is where things become a little more eclectic, where amongst a myriad of other sounds, he impersonates a dripping tap, skronks on a horn, blows wildly down a tenor recorder, chops up tape edits of his own voice, loops clanking noise and offers up field recordings of church bells and church organ music that had me in such a melancholic mood that I had to keep telling myself that this was the same person who started the tape. There was noise too, noise that sounded like it was recorded at an expensive, totally exclusive French recording studio with Iannis Xennakis at the controls.
By now we not only know that Harrison has intimate knowledge of e-coli in salad ['wash, wash and wash again'] and the toilet at Cafe Oto but that his world, his soundworld, encompasses everything from Dictaphone-iste gabber to full bore noise works. Thanks to these few tapes and his website [whose first page shows a photo of Harrison outside the gates of Strawberry Fields in Liverpool but turned 90 degrees left and chopped so that you only see half his head] we can also deduce that he’s quite happy listening to Sergeant Pepper as he is knocking up vegan wraps as he is getting drunk with Nyoukis while extolling the virtues of the sound glass marbles make while rolling them around the palm of your hand.
Which is what you get to hear on ‘Nothing’s Good’. Three very different tracks that feel like total compositions in their own right. The first of which involves the detail to be found in Dictaphone mouth squelch, the second, a lo-fi noise movement of sorts where a rusty bucket passes for a Tibetan drone bowl before all the crockery left over from the jumble sale gets smashed to pieces in it, and then all the keys on the keyboard held down while moaning a Brighton mantra before chipping out with a hacking cough. At times it sounds like Harrison is firing a high pressured jet of water into that rusty bucket while expertly manipulating the sounds so that they sound like mini stars exploding and reverberating into the English Channel, like TNB with a vegan vibe. The final, shorter track is book-ended by Harrison reading his poetry whilst in the middle of it all appears a gentle drone made from stuck stylus fluff and a gentle looping. All this thrown under the wheels of a microphone struggling to cope with the noise generated by a blizzard.
Harrison is one of those people for whom sound is found everywhere. It’s the John Cage quote about the world having an abundance of free music, you just have to stop and listen to what’s around you to appreciate it. Harrison adds to this soundworld by recording himself moaning about his neighbours constant playing of Metallica, by recording marbles going around in his hand, by blowing wildly into a treble recorder, by listening intently to the barely audible click of a stuck needle in a run-off groove. I bet he makes a mean bean burger too.
Sunday, May 05, 2019
Vukovar & Rose McDowall - Live in Inverness
Constant Shallowness Records. Cassette
A cassette surreptitiously shoved into my hand in a pub in Halifax yesterday lunchtime accompanied by a sotto voce ‘you didn't get it from me alright and don’t mention the ….’ I don’t do drugs but I should imagine plenty of drug deals go down like this; a minimum of talk, a passing of goods and then a parting. I shoved it in my pocket promising to give it a listen and not mention whatever it was that I wasn’t supposed to mention which I can’t remember anyway because I’d had a few glasses of vino by then, which whilst not my normal lunch time tipple had the great benefit of making Halifax appear welcoming.
A Bald Heads of Noise convention in what was once Dirty Dicks, a half timbered pub that has now reverted back to its original name of The Royal Oak, which is what it would have been called when Peter Sutcliffe drank there. And there’s Pete’s Pisser just inside the main door. Pissing up against the same wall as a serial killer. How many more of you have done the same and not realised it? How many gallons of piss have gone down that urinal porcelain hole since the day the pub opened? How many of us have nipped outside for a fag and been offered coke and ket? On a Saturday lunchtime? Yes your honour. Not me you realise. It’s just a rumour that was spread around town.
Rose McDowall was one half of 80’s polka dot popsters Strawberry Switchblade. Maybe she still is? My contact with the ongoing nature of pop music is virtually non existent. Vukovar I thought were called Vvkovar but that was just the font confusing me. I think they like black clothing and have offered up endless pints of chicken blood at shrines dedicated to Nick Cave and Ian Curtis. I once saw Nick Cave in Brighton, he was wearing an expensive looking powder blue cashmere sweater, sensible slacks and black boots, an outfit that looked like it’d been bought in Italy from shops whose prices exclude mere mortals. Then I saw him again the other week in ‘Wings of Desire’, Wim Wenders filming him and his band in a run down East Berlin hotel, Cave turning in a blood curdling performance. There must be a law that says you can’t escape the pull of Nick Cave for more than two weeks. Maybe that’s no bad thing.
A true tape bootleg sound with lots of audience chatter during the quieter parts, muffled bass that still sounds great, drums that sound like they’re made from Tupperware, where McDowall’s voice floats like ethereal flotsam, an undulating ephemeral ghost-like wail wrapped in tattered Nottingham lace, spiders webs and too much reverb. Male Vukovar vocalist doing guttural low register Elvis like Ian Curtis drawls. I imagine him hunched over the mic, clad in black leather, a young Alvin Stardust with a shiny chromium chain hanging from his back pocket. The band are bass heavy, military medium, face the front, straight ahead pace hardly shifting thud thud thud Gothbusters meets Joy Division. Last track is Mutiny in Heaven because it has to be.
A part of me liked it and a part of me reminded myself that I hardly listen to such music anymore because I find little joy in it. Maybe I’d like them if I saw them live, maybe I’d like to see Rose McDowall live too with or without Vukovar or her other Strawberry Switchblade half. At least this cassette did me the favour of reminding me how great a pop band Strawberry Switchblade were, this after I ditched the cassette and fell down a Strawberry Switchblade Youtube hole. Birthday Party next.
If you follow the link below you will discover that this cassette costs an eye watering £13. The price of fame perhaps but with only a handful of the 88 copies left they must be doing something right. You can have my copy for nothing if you can answer the following question correctly:
How many bald heads were there in the Royal Oak yesterday?
Answers via idwalfisher [at] gmail [dot] com
Friday, May 03, 2019
Lyall/Olive - Lowering
845 Audio. 845-9. CD
Tim Olive and Yan Jun - Brother of Divinity
845 Audio. 845-10. CD
About a month ago I received an email from someone asking me if the reviews I write are tempered by the fact that I know the person. The posit being that most of the music I write about is made by people I know and would I give someone I know a bad review thus jeopardizing the relationship. The short answer to which is ‘yes I would’, with the caveat that most of the people I know aren’t sensitive wallflowers who take to their bedrooms should someone say boo to them. A review is just that. Its a review of the music. I don’t write character assassinations or use reviews as a vehicle for slander, unless I can work in Trump or the Tories of course.
What about if that person lived in Japan and you just happened to be passing through the city they lived in and you dropped them an email saying ‘Hello I’m in town and it would be really nice to meet up and thank you for all that great music you’ve sent me over the years’ and they said yes and they took time out of their schedule to meet up with you and show you some parts of the city that you’d have never found under your own steam like the greatest Jazz cafe that you’ve ever been to in your life and at the end of it all they bunged you two discs of their own music. What would you do then if it was rubbish?
Me and Mrs Fisher were passing through Kobe and I thought I’d drop Mr Olive an email to see if I could coax him out of his electro-acoustic lair. I’m happy to report I did and after meeting us at our hotel and being ever so genial and pleasant he took us to that never to be forgotten Jam Jam, a basement Jazz cafe that has a listening side and a conversation side and was blasting something like Dexter Gordon at a volume that just about made conversation possible [all this on a Wednesday afternoon]. He also pointed us in the direction of Motoko Town, a narrow alleyway of shops under the JR line that had not one, not two, but three record shops all within spitting distance of each other, every one of them a sprawling, chaotic jumble of vinyl and CD that had long ago outgrown the confines of the shop and were now happily spilling into the narrow passageway. Each one of them a full days worth of digging and exploration and there’s us with only four nights and only one of them left.
At the end of the day a yellow plastic bag was handed over. The bag originated from a musical instrument shop called Miki Gakki whose strapline in fabulous strangled Japanese/English read ‘Super sensibility for sound. We are sound riders. Really?!’ and out came the two CD’s you see before you. Are they rubbish? Will I have to give a sledging review to someone who showed me around his home town and bought us tea? No chance.
I don’t know why Tim Olive originally picked me out to send his music to, there must be plenty of other people deserving of his creations. But arrive they did. In recycled card sleeves and vegetable ink stamps, permanent designs and ones that are always going to win me over. He doesn’t release that much, maybe ten releases since 2012 which leads me to believe that quality is winning out of quantity. In the early days of reviewing his work I plead guilty to too many over comparisons to Bernard Parmegianni but that’s just me being lazy. I feel I know his work better now and can leave those lazy comparisons behind.
As with all 845 Audio releases these are collaborations. Last time around we discovered Jin Sangtae, a South Korean who eeks sounds from computer hard drives and a live recording with Olive joining Frans de Waard and Takuji Naka in a basement in Europe somewhere. This time it’s Cal Lyall a fellow Canadian expat now living in Tokyo and Chinese resident Yan Jun who between them contribute to two compelling releases.
‘Lowering’ moves from a juddering noise opening into a submarine drone courtesy of Lyall’s hydrophones with Olive employing magnetic pickups, electronics and a Bohman-esque scrape, this making for a submarine sound like they were working away on sensitive instruments at 20,000 leagues under the sea. The work eventually plateaus into a cycling drone with Olive’s electronics dancing like microtonal insects upon its body.
‘Brother of Divinity’ sees Yan Jun’s radio swirl enter the fray. Here, both Jun and Olive employ electronics making for a highly detailed work with much chatter, burble, clank and tink of spring and buzz of bare circuit and metal. At times a background of restrained fuzz tricks you into thinking there’s a noise beast waiting to unleash itself and at times I thought I was halfway down the garden path to a TNB shed but the mood remains a constantly restrained and a deeply satisfying one with much of what’s going on reaching you at sound levels that teeter on the edge of audibility. The reward for the astute listener is a work rich in detail. Like an audio Joe Coleman painting but not half as bonkers.
No rubbish here then. Far from it. Not only do I have two rather excellent electro-acoustic releases I have two reminders of a memorable day in Kobe. Cheers Tim.