Thursday, August 28, 2014

Shards of Ordnance. Birmingham 26th & 27th September

A reminder of this soon to be upon us weekend of sonic shenanigans where I shall be wrapping up warm just in case it snows. Last years gig at the same venue [celebrating 30 years of Con-Dom's existence, this gig, I think, celebrates the end of 30 years existence] had to be performed outside in the beer garden due to a double booking. This, in November, where the temperature can easily drop below zero once the sun has disappeared, if it ever makes an appearance at all. For the full horror of what happened at this particularly surreal gig read the full report here .

Se you there.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Let's do the Extraction

Daniel Thomas - That Which Sometimes Falls Between Us/As Light Fades
Kirkstall Dark Matter. 2 X CDR/DL. 39 copies [including 9 ‘flower press’ copies].

Daniel Thomas - Enemy Territory
Cherry Row Recordings. CDR/DL CRR005.

Daniel Thomas & Kevin Sanders - I Am A Moment Illuminating Eternity
Hairdryer Excommunication. CDR/DL 25 copies.

Midwich & The Skull Mask - Six Angles
Cherry Row Recordings. CDR/DL CRR004

Midwich - Inertia Crocodile
Cherry Row Recordings. CDR/DL CRR003

TST - The Spoken Truth
Hairdryer Excommunication. CDR/DL

It would appear that half of what lies in front of me is what Rob Hayler would term ‘Extraction Music’. Thats him in the Midwich guise, making contemplative sounds or writing about such matters via his Radio Free Midwich blog or releasing such things via his Fencing Flatworm label. He expresses himself most clearly with words and sounds and when he claims something as his own [see the term ‘no audience underground’] it sticks.

Which brings us, once again within a short space of time, to Extraction Music, or as I prefer, having already shortened it for my own amusement ‘Extraction’. I’ve written about it recently and thanks to the efforts of Daniel Thomas, David Thomas, Kevin Sanders, Hayler and others on the periphery of this newly minted sub genre there’s lots to listen to. It would seem that every time I visit a gig in Leeds my pockets are further stuffed with the rich pickings of this ‘vibrant underground music scene’ [cf The Guardian and any other media outlet who realises that after a quick Google search that there is such a thing].

On my last visit Daniel Thomas gave me what could be seen as Extractions defining moment so far. In much the same way that Striate Cortex’s Victorian Electronics four disc set gave Leeds its flag in the ground moment a few years back, this limited to nine copies two disc set of his work comes housed in a flower press made from defunct beehives. Not only does it look good and smell good but the contents work too.

It is effortlessly listenable material. I’ve been at it for weeks now and find it hard to tear myself away such is the ease with which it fills your space. But you do need space within which to experience it. Extraction demands your attention and you should give it by listening in a quiet room on a still day when the neighbours are all out and the phone is muted or off the hook. Thus armed you can immerse yourself in this new found world where things move more slowly and where tracks can runs into the thirty minute mark giving you plenty of time to hear things evolve and mutate.

Thomas’s ‘That Which Sometimes Falls Between Us/As Light Fades’ is the place to start [via download too as I’m guessing these small runs will already have gone]. Eleven tracks spread over two discs give rise to the gently hum of a droning prop driven aircraft as heard from the comfort of your seat [this being Monday Off], next track Cabin is a near fifteen minute float of discrete circling, cycling, swelling synth patterns. More ominous fare appears on the untitled tracks of the first disc where single notes reverberate into cranial gaps setting up vibrating resonances that play havoc with your sinuses, track three is more urgent, more vibrant but still with that undertow of throbbing pulse that permeates much of what Thomas creates.

What all of the above people are doing is collaborating, cross pollinating, swapping and sharing, finding themselves in a space that is rewarding for all parties. Hayler explains:

‘the leading exponents of the sub-genre I’ve defined as ‘extraction music‘ are very busy guys indeed ... Dave Thomas (solo as ap martlet, half of Hagman, one third of TST, label boss of Kirkstall Dark Matter), Daniel Thomas (solo under his own name, the other half of Hagman, a further third of TST, as a duo with Kevin and label boss of Sheepscar Light Industrial and Cherry Row Recordings) and Kevin Sanders (solo under his own name and as petals, as a duo with Dan, the final third of TST, label boss of hairdryer excommunication)

That's what happens when you put but three very creative, talented and enthusiastic people together. When you add to this list like minded travelers and those that hover on the fringes of Extraction such as Seth Cooke, Stuart Chalmers, Ian Watson, Eddie Nutall [Aqua Dentata], Andie Brown [These Feathers Have Plumes] and Plurals, not to mention a small number of enthusiastic labels, you have what is amounting to a significant amount of highly rewarding and listenable music, the vast majority of which is of tremendous quality. My mind doth boggle.

When Thomas [Daniel] teams up with Sanders you have a nigh on single 40 minute track that's a slow build made from [no doubt] crusty old analogue boxes and field recordings. Here the mood is a sombre one made from flatulent crop sprayers, distant irrigation pumps and rubbed bowls. It eventually peters out to the sound of a muted helicopter, crows and shortwave static. As invigorating as as lung enhancing long walk on a cold, damp winters morning.

The TST release ‘The Spoken Truth’ has a much fuller, thicker sound which is what you'd expect when the attendance rises to three. Here we have a single eighteen minute machine throb drone with the controls set firmly towards planet Ambient Industrial. A piece that barely shifts from its original settings until its final dying seconds. A piece where the sounds of passing cars on wet roads and the gentle crash of waves upon pebble beach vie to be heard.  A powerful, resonant drone and one I found somewhat unsettling in an ominous, stuck in a dark underground car park at one in the morning kind of way. The way it exits leaving that last fizzing box as evidence of its existence is pure delight.

Which leaves the three Cherry Row releases. Cherry Row exists to allow Daniel Thomas an outlet for those releases that surpass the recording limits set by his three inch only CDR label Sheepscar Light Industrial. Which leaves plenty of room for Thomas to stretch his legs on Enemy Territory. A more lively release in that the pulses almost become beats especially on first track ‘1016’ which tips its hat to some of Tangerine Dream’s more pulsing ecstatic moments and is without doubt the most energetic, head bobbing track to be found amongst all of these releases. ‘Vampierkasteel’ is more in keeping with what has gone before, minimalist, inching, shuffling, throbbing, a microphone placed within an extraction duct, ‘Lincoln Towers’ is fifteen minutes worth of deep sonar sounding pulses whilst the title and last track is rawer with flapping overloaded woofers farting their analogue hearts out.

Rob Hayler’s Midwich project takes over where Enemy Territory leaves off with some equally engaging head throbbing, bobbing synth stabs as recycled through some kind of effect that makes it sound like its losing its signal and finding it again. The less than two minute track ‘Piped’ is an oscillating frequency leaving ‘The Sure’ to see us out with a less frantic take on Terry Riley’s Poppy Nogood in which Midwich goes for the cycling overtones jugular.

His collaboration with the Mexican guitarist cum experimenter Miguel Pérez is perhaps not so Extractionist with the title track seeing Pérez’s droning dissonance segueing into Hayler’s climbing overtones. The longer ‘Written in Sand’ is cut from the same cloth with each artist layering their sounds over each other making for a jarring listen.

I could have added more to this list from whats in front of me now; the new Piss Superstition on Fencing Flatworm, the three Sheepscar Light Industrial releases, the two releases I have featuring Stuart Chalmers. Where Extraction ends and drone and improv begins is a moot point but it hardly bears pondering over for long. With such a wealth of material available its best just to enjoy the moment and worry about semantics later.

Sheepscar Light Industrial

Cherry Row

Kirkstall Dark Matter

Radio Free Midwich


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Daniel Biro - Shir Hadash

Daniel Biro - Shir Hadash
Sargasso. SCD28076

After weeks in the extraction immersion tank the words ‘a-cappella gospel-influenced voices with transcendent electronics’ didn’t exactly set the pulse racing but then I remembered playing Shir Hadash when it first arrived here [in pre extraction immersion tank days about six months ago now] and thinking that its mixture of resonating harmonies sung in Hebrew coupled to deft electronic nuance was actually much better than its strap line suggested.

So here we are six months down the line and a planned day out from the extraction immersion tank became a week in which I dipped my head into the Shir Hadash bath almost to the point of self annoyance. I became addicted to its close knit harmonies and took it everywhere I went. Mundane journeys became transformed, I was in a world of my own. I was, dear reader, transported.

Performed by three male vocalists of the Elastic Theater Ensemble Shir Hadash is immediately lifted from the mundane by the use of words like ‘shamanic’, ‘trance inducing’, altered state’, ‘spiritual ecstasy’ and in the case of Naggen Bitrua, an offering that wouldn’t look out of place if overdubbed on to the original Omen, ‘demonic’. Perhaps a little something to remind us of the dark side? Biro then treats their voices electronically, which he did live when this piece was performed in 2009 but with soft hands showing his skill as a composer whilst allowing the obvious natural beauty of the voices to reveal themselves. Its only on the last track ‘Chayos’ that Biro allows himself the luxury of cracking his fingers and letting his electronics dominate the proceedings entirely. 

But its the voices that win out. I admit to being a fan of close-knit harmony, be it via the sacred works of Arvo Pärt, the Mike Sammes Singers, the King’s Singers [I’m being serious here by the way] or Gregorian Chant. You can’t beat a bit of group singing [just don’t get me going on barber shop quartets]. So to hear these three male voices of the Elastic Theater Ensemble singing in harmony [in Hebrew remember] has been something of a much needed breath of fresh air for me. It could do the same for you.

The most uplifting moments are on Shir Hadash 2 when the reprise from Shir Hadash 1 is drawn out and extended to include Biro laying on some jazzy Rhodes electronic piano and lengths of low tempo electronic drum washes. The way those voices soar with nothing but a series of closed mouthed ‘hmmms’ is both uplifting and deeply moving. ‘Chayos’ sits at its end with the voices processed beyond recognition into a swirling mass of discord. In-between the harmonies disappear into seas of Biro-twisted discontent [think soundtrack to unsettling nightmare as used by BBC production team]. Its those two Shir Hadash compositions that get me every time though. First as pure a-cappella and then in its ten minute long Biro-tinged incarnation.

Sargasso are doing a fine job of stopping me from getting in to a rut with my musical tastes. I’ve reviewed their releases on these pages before and each time I’ve been impressed, not just by the quality of work on offer, but the way in which they challenge your musical preferences.  


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Panelak - Heimat

Panelak - Heimat
Angurosakuson. AS007. CDR

We left Pascal Ansell with his eponymously titled release but a few months ago. After listening to it and digesting it the word that rang out loudly between our ears was ‘scattergun’. After listening to Heimat the word that now rings loudly between our ears is ‘scattergun’. The man is a tower of reliability.

And he’s enthusiastic. Of that there is now doubt. The Tigger of the Leeds noise scene [if indeed there is such a thing]. An intelligent presence constantly rubbing things together and sticking things in where they shouldn’t just to see what kind of noise emerges. Shouting, wounded sounds, tapes going backwards and forwards, bongoes gone mad, noises galore, some harsh, some not so, pan lids chucked down stone steps, strings plucked, strings scraped, anything that he can get his hands on is detuned, broken and put back together again in a constant bout of ‘pure digital experimentation’ to quote the press release.

True experimentation then, not something you come across much these days. Including the cover with each one coming in a different sleeve as hand made as they come, all torn bits of paper and added bits of things. All wonderful really and hard to dislike. Both inside and out.

Trying to describe it though is like trying to describe your entire music collection. I jotted down a few names that came to mind whilst listening to Heimat and ended up with the following list: Yol, Throbbing Gristle, early Merzbow, Derek Bailey and Raymond Scott. Last time around the list included, Toshiji Mikawa, Joe Jones, Faust and Derek Bailey [a constant I feel]. Whether all of this makes for one coherent whole I’m not so sure but after listening to Heimat numerous times I’m still of the opinion that sooner or later Mr Ansell will deliver something thats not just a collection of ideas. That he’s open to these ideas is encouraging [Yol-like shouting would suggest that exposure to local gigs is having a beneficial effect]. The man is a culture sponge soaking up everything within reach before forming a version in his own style.

I shall look forward to further adventures.