Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Vittelli: London Sound Survey & Matthew Phillip Hopkins

London Sound Survey - These Are The Good Times. 
[Field Recordings From London In The Early 21st Century]
Vitelli. VIT001. LP. 300 Copies.

Matthew Phillip Hopkins - Nocturnes
Vitelli. VIT002. LP. 300 copies in grey vinyl including artists booklet.

Although not obviously aimed directly at Londoners per se These Are The Good Times does give the habitues of our capital city the chance to listen anew to the sounds it produces. As Ed Baxter observes in his most excellent sleeve notes, Londoners aren't so much in transit as on the way out to be replaced by 'newer more robust urban punchbags'. This is the record that every one of those punchbags needs to hear to convince them that the ‘smoke’ isn’t just a constant barrage of emergency vehicle sirens, traffic and computerised voices telling you to mind the gap.

Thanks to the combined efforts of sound recordist Ian Rawe and Vittelli's Nick Hamilton we now have 21 instances with which to hear London through fresh ears. Culled from over 40 hours worth of material that Rawe recorded for the London Sound Survey website these 21 tracks have been selected by Hamilton to show London in a new light.

There’s the joke telling Irish beggar on conduit street, the chatter of customers and staff at Pellici's cafe on Bethnal Green road [bit a mash? lovely], the nostalgia filled lachrymose singing of pearly kings and queens and the Poet of Villers Street reciting the classics. Atonal squeaks appear courtesy of the Stonebridge Lock Windlass, dark ominous drones from the Sun Street Passage on Liverpool Street, vibrant ethnic music via a Caribbean Sunday Service on Canvey Island. A Trumpeting busker on Euston Road plays a sad lament.

Rawe recorded surreptitiously when the need arose, thus giving some of this a clandestine appeal. I doubt the sight of Rawe complete with parabolic reflector and shoulder strung recording equipment would have gone down a treat in Pellici's caff. Needs must.
My favourite pieces are the Corton Refinery sirens and the wide band that is the Motorcycle Wall of Death as recorded in Dulwich complete with rasping bike engines and the whoops of delighted onlookers. I shall be visiting London in a couple of weeks and thanks to Rawe I shall approach it with ears anew.

Release number two sees Matthew Phillip Hopkins garner comparisons with, amongst others, William Basinski, Nate Young and Giancarlo Toniutti and in the 'liking' stakes I'd say that they were all bang on. MPH [as I like to think he’s known] does indeed begin proceedings with a remarkably Basinski like Disintegration Loops piece albeit with added stifled gas mask breathing and the crackling of a distant bonfire. This, 'Nocturne 1', is mournful and dirge-like. Nocture 2 is more electro-acoustic in nature. A looping distant church bell and creaking oar straps add to the drenched subdued atmosphere. Tape abuse appears albeit of a very subdued and tempered nature along with tiny snatches of capstan skree amidst that deep and sonorous church bell. ‘Nocturne 3’ is the side long outing, a steadily cycling drone with seemingly random synth prods emerging like sparks of radio static that fizz into the ether.

According to the press release Hopkins produces these works using synths, cassettes, fx pedals, contact mics and random objects, in the dead of night, with headphones firmly in place.

I have to admit to never having heard of Hopkins before, no doubt due in part to his adherence to the no audience underground ethos of releasing your work in tiny micro editions. Which means I can compare his work with that of Phil Todd, Mel Delaney, Daniel Thomas, David Thomas, Eddie Nutall, Kevin Sanders, Stuart Chalmers, Andie Brown … and probably quite a few more of the recent crop of luminaries who are creating drones and atmospheres in an experimental electro-acoustic environment. Hopkins may live and work in Australia but he has plenty of contemporaries here in England.

Nocturnes is his first vinyl outing but after lapping this beauty up for the last couple of weeks lets hope its not his last.



London Sound Survey

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