Sunday, February 24, 2013
Small Things On Sunday / ASC+Robert Horton
Small Things on Sundays - Searching For
Skrat Records. SKR011. LP
Neil Campbell/Robert Horton - Trojandropper
Zum. ZUM033. LP
It has to be said that a certain form of listening lassitude has made itself more than unwelcome here at Idwal Towers these last few weeks. In what would normally be a flurry of cassette and CD insertion there has instead been a sloth like scrape of knuckles upon floor in its place - a death like noise akin to the sound of a clubbed foot being dragged along behind a perfectly formed one. A stasis that has laid me low for three weeks now, mainly due to various ailments and moments of manufacture which when combined produce one great big stinking shit pot of unhappiness.
What has kept me going though is vinyl. Its the format I turn to when the chips are down, when the spunk has been sapped, when the limbs are weary and the head needs rest. For some unknown reason there’s been a flurry of TV activity in connection with vinyl in recent weeks with various talking heads extolling the virtue of the gorgeous groove. I’ve missed most of it and only half watched the rest but the gist is still as clear as polished glass; vinyl beats all other formats of music carriage into a bloody pulp. Its a total no brainer, for whilst whatever other format you prefer to praise may have its plus sides it will never replace the vinyl record as thee archival musical format of choice. Anyone who disagrees is wrong and deserves to be hit square in the teeth with a knotty stick.
So whilst there has been an almighty slow down in the listening stakes of late it hasn’t ground to a complete halt for somewhere amongst all the shit thats been flying I’ve taken succor from these two joyous platters.
Small Things on Sunday are new to me, despite several releases on various labels including the venerable Striate Cortex. A Danish duo in the shape of Henrik Bagner and Claus Poulsen they create some achingly beautiful atmospheres - with the aid of guitars, radios, violas, tapes, gadgets of an unknown source, the odd laptop but most importantly vinyl and its potential for ‘accidental and unexpected sounds’, they produce some wonderful and at times splendid gushing moments of experimental delight.
It would appear that both Bagner and Poulsen have got the noisier side of things out of their system and have now set sail for the far shores of ambient atmospheric calm so what we have here are six tracks of various melancholia that capture the radiant charm of Harold Budd, the Arctic wastelands of Biosphere and the guitar led misery of American post rock down in the dump-sters La Bradford. There’s drone too as witnessed in the last track ‘Two Instruments’ in which the chatter of Amazonian insects give way to a see-saw tussle between Charlemagne Palestine and Terry Riley in which our protagonists try to better each other in getting the most use out of a wheezing organ before everything crystallizes into the shimmering distance.
I found that ‘Searching For’s’ charm took a while to reveal itself which is mainly down to the opening track ‘Enceladus’ doing its best to resurrect the ghost of La Bradford [even if the guitars are detuned], an outfit with whom I had but the briefest of dalliance’s at a time when I must have been at my most vulnerable. But the slowly shifting beauty of the thing eventually appears, especially on second track ‘Liquid Mirror’ where the sound of crackling vinyl shifts under the weight of Sonny Sharrock going down the frets of his guitar with a horse hair bow. There’s a deep unsettling ambiguity to a lot of what happens on here which for the most part leaves the listener in a deep state of lost wonderment. Its a dense listen too, a many layered beast with which you’ll have to devote a lot of time and effort to should you require any goodness from it. With a lot going on beneath the surface there’s scope for this record to be played dozens of times with the chance that each listen will sound as fresh as the first. Its a hard trick to pull off but one that Bagner and Poulsen deserve credit for. The press release states that some of these tracks are culled from various improvisational live outings whilst others are ‘the product of hours of re-imagining and re-arranging’. Either way it did its bit in helping me lift myself from my cups.
As did Trojandropper. Which is a virus, which seems fitting considering recent ailments. Horton and Campbell wanted to create a disco album and failed miserably. Its no bad thing for what they did create is something much better, a dance album of sorts but the kind that necessitates the ingestion of the kind of drugs you can only get at the vets. You can certainly move your body to it but only in a ‘oh I think I’ve been tasered’ kind of way. Like on the ‘Panharmonicon Particle Radio’ which sounds like a Ukranian folk record speeded up or an off his tits George Formby thraping the neck of his ukelele until his fingers bleed. All the tracks have some kind of Casio beat underpinning them whilst some have samples lifted from [I’m guessing] 80’s pop songs. Head and out-of-body, euphoric moment of total joy comes on the last track ‘Utterly Free World Without God’s Curse - Multi-Sky Wave’ where our collaborators mash up [I think thats the term thats in use these days] a truly gorgeous soul beat whilst slathering on some Neneh Cherry violin which mutates into a hydra of bleeps beats and frantic bobbings.
Apparently Horton and Campbell have never met, this being a collaboration via the etherwaves. I have no idea what Horton has been up to before but having listened to plenty of Campbell I feel its safe to say that both of these artists like working with beats and the layering of different sounds upon them, be it a snake charmers reed, some glitchy electronics, spacey effluvia, spazzy guitar, fiddles, trumpets, tapes, piano, percussion … you get the idea.
Onward ever onward.