Local Sound Developer – Damaged Textures

Local Sound Developer is an alias of St. Albans-based electronic musician Damon Vallero, and the evocative title of this twelve-track album – Damaged Textures – could well sum up this intricately-presented album far better than any review I could write. 

The sleight of hand that Vallero uses here is to blend together droning loops, enveloping ambience, clipped microscopically-detailed sounds and traces of rhythmic pulses with more organic sounds – what could be a reed sound from a Mellotron, snatches of overheard chatter and held tones reminiscent of an organ. The result, on tracks like the tense ‘Safe House’ or the wonky ‘A Town Stood Still’, is disconcerting, like Vallero is soundtracking some sort of weird, nonsensical but unsettling fever dream, encapsulating that disorienting notion that things simply don’t feel right. 

There is also a fragility here that’s often easy to miss. The countermelodies of ‘Behind The Façade’ are mournful and searching, floating to the surface delicately like a desperate cry for help. ‘Hidden Places’ is among the more intriguing pieces here, skipping along gently like a broken music box, its melodic quotient feeling beautifully uneven, almost as if Vallero is deliberately trying to thwart a sense of familiarity from ever setting in. Opener ‘Never Found’ feels like Vallero has taken the coruscating peels of a jubilant bell and processed it with watery synth tones to leave you stranded somewhere in the tricky interzone between euphoria and abject pessimism, while ‘Under A Sun Shade’ is built from bucolic guitar lines that could, if you squint, sound like they belong on an exotica compilation. 

Damaged Textures is a restless album, sitting in its individual no person’s land, and one whose complex, detailed design lightly commands your attention. One gets the impression that Vallero could quite easily suppress the instincts that give this album its distinctive, skewed centre of gravity and just produce music that drifts forth aimlessly; to his credit, he has made an album that prompts deep and frequently haunting reflection, that evolves and progresses with cautious deliberation. 

Damaged Textures by Local Sound Developer was released November 6 2020 by Downstream Records. 

Words: Mat Smith 

(c) 2020 Further. 

Fujiya & Miyagi – Feeling The Effects (Of Saturday Night)

‘Feeling The Effects (Of Saturday Night)’ is a new track from Fujiya & Miyagi and finds David Best, Steve Lewis and Ed Chivers in a reflective state of mind. 

It’s also an old track – well, sort of. The track was a half-written idea lurking on a hard drive dating from 1999, before the group had released their debut album Electro Karaoke In The Negative Style. Alighting on the idea after almost twenty years, David, Steve and Ed began a process of building the track remotely during the early days lockdown. 

“A vehicle for examining past triumphs and defeats, and the conflicting feelings such thoughts provoke,” according to David, the track carries subtle disco reference points and svelte electronics, bubbling away beneath gentle pads and searching half-melodies. The effect is like looking back on the person you were twenty years ago and being both remorseful at the passing of time but also thankful that you grew up and got all those crazy impulses out of your system; like contrasting doing shots and dancing in a club on a Saturday night in your twenties with watching Strictly Come Dancing with your kids while a drinking low-calorie beer in your forties. A brief swerve by David into what could be an unused line from ‘Oops Upside Your Head’ doesn’t sound remotely out of place here, even if any sense of joyous euphoria is held in check by the uncertainty and tentativeness that the track’s structure suggests. 

A departure from recent Fujiya & Miyagi concerns – awkward funk, Italodisco, electro – ‘Feeling The Effects’ nods to David’s parallel work with Julian Tardo in Slippery People but points to a new (old?) direction for this group. Metaphorical hangovers rarely sound so serene. 

Feeling The Effects (Of Saturday Night) by Fujiya & Miyagi was released November 20 2020 by Impossible Objects Of Desire 

Words: Mat Smith 

In Conversation: Body/Negative

Andy Schiaffino by Nick Francher

Fragments is the debut album from LA’s Body/Negative, the pseudonym of nonbinary multi-instrumentalist and producer Andy Schiaffino, and follows their Epoche EP from 2019. Beginning with an instrumental cover of Elliott Smith’s ‘Figure 8’ that sounds like it’s being heard through the gauzy vestiges of sleep, Schiaffino has produced an ambient album full of unique personality and highly personal, almost diaristic reference points.  

Further. spoke to Schiaffino about the thoughts, feelings and inspirations that went into the creation of this beautiful micro-masterpiece of an album. 

Listening to classical music as a child definitely influenced the way that I write.  I primarily use sitting at my piano as my main source of inspiration – music always seems to come out of me easier on the piano if that makes sense. I grew up listening to a lot of classical composers and opera – things like Yanni and Andre Rieu – and groups like Thievery Corporation thanks to my oldest brother’s exceptionally good taste. I feel like all of those early sources informed the melodies that I create now and maybe even appears in my vocal style and often lack of lyrics. 

The making of Fragments began probably in the summer of 2019. I had a lot of demos I was fleshing out with Dylan Gardner of the psych project Communicant, who ended up co-producing half of the record. I didn’t really intend to make an LP at first, I was just working on ideas, but all of those tracks just sort of found their way into being on this album. I put it down around the early spring of this year when I was in a really depressed state which eventually led to a major break up in my life, and I couldn’t bear to listen to any of the songs until maybe June or so when we were deep in quarantine. 

I think I took a lot of inspiration not only from the electronic music, IDM and ambient music that I listen to, but also a whole lot of pop music. My co-producer has his roots in pop and produces a lot of pop artists. He showed me a lot of really, really awesome pop artists who have some pretty incredibly experimental production. I really tried to harness those textual elements that I found and put it in my music in a way that felt appropriate. Pop music really was a huge influence throughout the making of the first and second half of the record, in addition to things like shoegaze and dreampop. 

Inspiration, productivity and creative impulses are pretty sporadic for me. I can’t really just sit down and force myself to write something. I really envy the people that do have that ability! I can pretty much only write when I want to and when I have an idea; whether a melody pops into my head while I’m driving, or I hear something in a song that I want to replicate. My demos always have to have some kind of clear purpose behind why I’m sitting down to make it, otherwise I just kind of make garbage. 

A lot of my music is made while sitting on the floor of my living room surrounded by gear and tangled cables. I don’t know why but that kind of weird chaotic space makes the most sense for me and helps me get all my ideas out. Pretty much all of the album was recorded in my home, aside from ‘Figure 8’, which was recorded in my co-producer Dylan’s studio and engineered entirely by him. The final track ‘The Big Sleep’ was a remote co-write with my friend Nick Ventura. He did about half of the things you hear on that track, and I believe recorded his parts in his own home. 

My co-producer Dylan used to always play Elliott Smith’s ‘Figure 8’ for me on his beautiful teachers’ model Wurlitzer piano which I am so envious of and want one of my own. He used to always play me that song before I had ever really dived deep into Elliott‘s catalogue – Dylan was already a massive superfan and eventually showed me all of my now-favourite Elliott tracks. Dylan played it so beautifully that I always just assumed that it was one of Dylan‘s original songs; I never knew it was a cover of something! I found that melody to be so beautiful and so strange, and eventually one day I woke up with such a strong urge to cover it and make it my own, so Dylan and I recorded our version of it in one night. 

I absolutely love Elliott Smith.  I was kind of a late fan even though I’ve been seeing murals of him everywhere ever since I moved to LA in 2017. I hope I don’t lose too many cool points for admitting that! His music has such a fragile quality to it, and it’s got this just really beautiful element to it which I think isn’t found in a lot of modern singer-songwriters’ catalogues. I think he was a really special person and I relate a lot to his story… In addition to that he’s just an incredible guitarist and undeniable melody magician and I think that he is totally underrated. 

The first half of Fragments was recorded in chronological order. I was feeling really down and there were a lot of tough things happening in my life. The second half of the record was kind of just reflecting on the idea of saving yourself, and helping yourself stay afloat. 

The very last track ‘The Big Sleep’ is a euphemism for suicide (and also a cheeky reference to David Lynch). My decision to make that the final track on the record was not only because it is sonically lighter than the first half of the record, but it’s also a song that’s about wondering what lies beyond life. I never really felt existential in that sort of way. Rather than fearing the endless unknown of the afterlife, I always welcomed death with open arms, and there’s been a lot of death in my life, so it always felt very normal for me strangely. 

That track was me grappling with the idea of, “What actually happens after I die?” for the first time in probably my entire life, so I thought it would be an excellent album closer, to leave things on a light note, right? I think the latter half of Fragments was both intentionally and unintentionally lighter, and definitely draws more from shoegaze and dreampop (mainly bands like Alcest, Slowdive, Hatchie, Tamaryn), much more so than the first half of the record. 

Fragments by Body/Negative was released October 23 2020 by Track Number Records. 

Interview: Mat Smith. With thanks to George. 

(c) 2020 Further. 

Yifeat Ziv – Amazonian Traces Of Self

Yifeat Ziv is a Jersulem-born, London-based sound artist who won one of the six coveted prizes at this year’s Oram Awards. With a practice focussed primarily on the use of voice, Ziv’s works include 2019’s Rish Rush, based on the prevalence of onomatopoeic gestures in all languages, performances at Café Oto, a collaboration with David Toop on his recent Apparition Paintings album, and sound installations at numerous galleries in Israel and the UK. 

Amazonian Traces Of Self, Ziv’s latest work, arose from a ten-day AER Labverde residency in the Brazilian rainforest last year. For the piece, Ziv undertook a series of excursions into the rainforest, making field recordings of the natural ambience and capturing her own vocal improvisations, both of which are combined together into this thoughtful composition, here presented as a seventeen-minute live piece recored at Iklectik in January of this year, but which also has a parallel existence as a sound installation (The Echo Of Our Breath). The CD release is accompanied by an essay, designed to be read after listening to the piece.

If you are remotely environmentally-minded, any mention of the rainforest should, by rights, bring to mind the progressive deforestation and devastation that the natural landscape has endured as a consequence of humankind’s progress; whether for repurposing as land for rearing cattle or for growing the so-called ‘sustainable’ soya beans that propel the world’s biofuel hopes, the rainforest has decreased in size at a phenomenal rate – over 50% over the last 60 years. 

By focussing its initial attentions on the natural sounds of the environment, the piece prompts complex emotions. There is a sense of tranquillity and serenity, but it also feels strangely unsettling, like a creeping sense of impermanence that coincides with Ziv’s reverberating vocal interjections – breath, a sort of staccato passage, tremulous, quivering passages and almost bird-like calls. These sounds feel alien, like they have no place in this location, something that Ziv describes as “vocal pollution”, an allegory for the way we have encroached upon, and starved, the Earth’s lungs. A middle section of wailing voices sounds like a desperate, mournful elegy to what is lost, what cannot be replaced and that which we have caused. 

Yet as the piece progresses, Ziv’s layered vocal sounds take on a different hue. They feel curiously natural and optimistic, sitting in balanced evenness with the natural sounds that she is vocalising over. We start to feel a symbiosis between her sounds and those around her, almost as if she is gently reminding us of our dependency on this place, of how we can live in harmony with these spaces. A sense of optimism begins to emerge, a feeling that all is not lost, that our devastation of a place upon which we all depend for our live-giving oxygen is not yet entirely irreversible. 

Amazonian Traces Of Self by Yifeat Ziv is released November 17 2020 by Flaming Pinesflamingpines.bandcamp.com

Words: Mat Smith 

Goodparley – Delay Cycle: Becoming / Sedative Songs

Two new albums from Cardiff’s Oli Richards released over the past couple of months, each intently focussed on the dreamy qualities of drone and reverb. 

Delay Cycle: Becoming is described by Richards as using the power of delay to “mimic the feeling of the repeated and ongoing shedding of emotional skin in the cyclical process of becoming a person”. With that sentiment at its centre, the album is a transcendent, and occasionally turbulent, experience. Across five pieces for guitar and electronics, Richards rarely leaves any sound untreated – small loops of unidentifiable provenance rise up, hang around and collapse in on themselves as delay, and its long decaying half-lives warp their original sonic fabric. 

‘Just A Reflection’ is a case in point, a quiet – yet highly dramatic – rumination that feels like watching the unstoppable aging of a person through the lens of a timelapse camera, its clustered tones feeling like an accelerated heartbeat, even as they descend into a murky fog of shadowy, impenetrable noise. In contrast, the album’s opener, ‘If The Surface Is Fogged Up’, has a reflectiveness that bespeaks of fragile hope and optimism, its splintered guitar tones acting as beatific, shimmering, crystalline splinters. The album’s highlight might well be ‘As A Form Of Grace’, a many-layered exploration of guitar melody that has a lightness of touch, even as it is bathed in psychedelic fuzziness. 

Richards’ album for Wormhole World finds itself in similarly contemplative territory, containing a triptych of pieces intended to soothe restless minds, yet which are frequently punctured by unanticipated moments of feisty noise. These moments act like distractions, like the clustered, insistent to-do lists that can enter the otherwise still mind of even the most experienced meditation practitioner. 

Using a palette of electronics, processed guitar and submerged conversations, Sedative Songs is appropriately named. These pieces are like a warm, enveloping, and much-needed salve, which Richards insists should be best experienced in the dark. If anything, they are more complex than Delay: Reflection, nearing a many-layered almost modern classical state of depth. On pieces like the sixteen-minute opener, ‘Sedative In Spring’, you find yourself following sounds until they dissipate into nothingness, grabbing at the next elusive gesture until it too evaporates into quietude, moments of backward guitar and quiet organ-like drones adding a feeling of inertia and stasis. 

Not for Richards the idea of long tones that stretch a melody out over a glacial timeframe: his approach is more dynamic, using ebbing and flowing layers of sonic interplay as a way of achieving the same, and ultimately calming, effect. Listened to as whole, in lightness or in dark, Sedative Songs is a truly beautiful, thought-provoking and necessary record. 

Delay: Reflection by Goodparley was released September 18 2020 by Recordiau Prin. Sedative Songs by Goodparley was released November 13 2020 by Wormhole World. 

Words: Mat Smith 

Alex Tronic / Shuna Lovelle – The Strangest Times

The latest single from Edinburgh’s Alex Tronic somehow manages to capture the weird feeling that has been omnipresent through 2020; a disconnected, disbelieving feeling that things just aren’t right. Even in the wake of a monumentally important day that will at least change the global political landscape, ‘The Strangest Times’ taps into a peculiar, almost dissociative detachment that many of us have felt as we’ve drifted without purpose through this year. 

Key to the song’s distinctive outlook is a bedrock of serene trip-hop gestures – woozy sounds, muted beats, strings, echoing melodies – through which are laced snatches of news broadcasts from the heart of the pandemic and sirens, each new sound creating a sort of dislocated, nauseating tension and anxiety. 

The track features the arresting, soulful vocals of Shuna Lovelle, imbuing the song with a sense of reflectiveness and an admission that no one really knows what’s next for humankind. Thought-provoking stuff from the epicentre of uncertainty. 

Watch the video for ‘The Strangest Times’ below. 

The Strangest Times by Alex Tronic & Shuna Lovelle was released November 6 2020 by Alex Tronic Records. 

(c) 2020 Further.  

In Conversation: Justin Watson on Isolation & Rejection

How did the Isolation & Rejection idea come to you, particularly as you’d shut F&F the year before? 

F&F was officially in hibernation in November 2019, following the release of Ekoplekz’s last album. It was a great way to end things, at least for now I thought, and I had no intentions of doing anything with the label for a while at least (perhaps never) – running F&F was great fun and I got to work with some incredible artists, but I needed a break and wanted to forget about it for a while (I wrote a short piece for Electronic Sound which goes into some of the reasons). 

Christmas that year was glorious – the kids even got presents instead of more vinyl in the basement. 

Then just when I thought I was out… etc. 

I&R started with a throwaway comment on Twitter (where all throwaway comments go to die), as lockdown and the challenges being faced (for individuals, families, charities, the NHS but also the creative sector) inspired a flurry of activity from artists and labels, which was wonderful to see – this included a whole bunch of projects and compilations all raising funds for great local and national causes*. 

I wondered, in the aftermath of the first batch of new compilations out of lockdown, what happens to all those rejected tracks? The project grew from there, eventually turning into a place where tracks rejected or abandoned in any way could find a home. 

The basic idea also touched on something I’ve always found weird about running a label, which is the bit about deciding if something is any good or not, or if it ‘fits’. It might just be me, but that always felt weird and even a little unhealthy (not doing it in isolation helped, like the collaboration with Joe Stannard for The Outer Church). People running record labels don’t know any better than anyone else, obviously – often they are just weird, evil narcissists using the record label business to expand their empires of misery, discarding artistic dreams with abandon and a belly laugh (joke). 

Anyway… 

Doing something open and inclusive seemed like a good idea, and timely. I then stupidly expanded on the idea online, chatted to Rob Spencer (from Gated Canal Community) about it and we then jointly stumbled into this huge (and joyous) project. 

*As an aside, some of favourites were Bechdel Volume OneFrom PerpetuityTouch: IsolationHer IndoorsHelp Musicians Compilation… 

Were you surprised at the level of interest? 

We have 105 artists involved, with more tracks being submitted after the deadline (which were, unfortunately, rejected – the compilation of those tracks will no doubt appear at some point). 

Rob and I were pretty surprised by the response – I was thinking a nice little project, maybe 20-25 artists, would be lovely and help me cope with the insanity of lockdown (and shielding for me personally – 6 months in one room is not a good idea). 

Nothing I’ve heard thus far sounds like it should have been rejected. Did you get any stories explaining why something had been overlooked? 

We got loads of great stories – some weird, some funny, and some quite upsetting.  

We’ve put together a few of the stories and shared them on the GCC website here and here – and will be putting up more soon. 

There are some consistent themes – it seems rejection is a shared experience of many artists. 

How did The Brick come into the equation? Were you aware of their work before? 

Rob is from Wigan (go Cherry and Whites) and suggested they would be a good charity to raise money for. 

We were keen to make sure that any money raised went locally, and went directly to a charity dealing with not only the impact of COVID-19 but many of the inequality and injustices that have unfortunately become a part of society right now. 

The Brick felt like a good home for the project – they do amazing work, and are also lovely people. 

Are you sure you can’t be convinced to do a Volume 6? Or a second lockdown series? 

As mentioned above, we had some submissions after the closing date, and I really wanted to do a bonus 6th volume, but already it was feeling like a huge undertaking and I wanted to make sure it didn’t all fall apart. 

Fingers crossed it hasn’t – I hope that the artists feel like we did it justice. 

We have got another project in the works though – another one launched on twitter with very little consideration to any of the implications (and this one comes with some added trickiness…). 

Isolation & Rejection Vol. 5 and all preceding volumes can be found at fandf.bandcamp.com

Interview: Mat Smith 

(c) 2020 Further. 

Elizabeth Joan Kelly – Stay Safe

Stay Safe is a brief new release from New Orleans-based electronic composer Elizabeth Joan Kelly, comprising two new tracks (‘Stay Safe’ and ‘Cohntagious’) packed with more ideas in their fifty-odd second durations than most electronic musicians can muster in anything far longer. 

The foreground of each these two pieces is a robotic voice delivering a public service announcement-style message offering advice and guidance during the global COVID-19 pandemic. ‘Stay Safe’ features a soothing female voice encouraging the public to stay home, delivered over a frantic, post-electro framework of twitchy beats, nauseating siren-style sounds and gently reverberating tones that eradicates any sense of reassurance. ‘Cohntagious’ – named for the inability of the synthesised and vaguely Johnny Rotten-esque robot voice to correctly pronounce ‘contagious’ – encourages you to avoid your partner if they’re exposed to the virus through their place of work, its backdrop a snarling, uncomfortable stew of jackhammer beats, post-industrial clanging and a general feel of unease. 

Sounding like the infinitely looped announcements you might expect to hear in a post-apocalyptic urban wasteland where no one survived, something about what Elizabeth has done here seems to tap directly into the sensation of paranoid dread and existential panic that have become the cornerstones of our daily locked-down lives. 

Stay Safe by Elizabeth Joan Kelly was released October 30 2020. elizabethjoankelly.bandcamp.com/album/stay-safe

Words: Mat Smith 

(c) 2020 Further.  

The Shiver Bones Group – Horror Too Horrible To Hear (2017 – 2019)

With terrible regularity for the three years between 2017 and 2019, a murky troupe of Philadelphia-area artists known as The Shiver Bones Group released an annual Halloween Story Time record. Containing short stories narrated like macabre radio plays, backed with snatches of music, sound effects and all sorts of ghostly interventions, the Horror Too Horrible To Hear series came across like The Residents taking over the Night Vale podcast with typically warped readings of Edgar Allen Poe and M. R. James.

The Shiver Bones Group rose out of of a high school ‘zine called Sewage Waste Disposal Unit formed by three students – Michael LaLaLa, Matthew Kirscht and Bryan Michael. LaLaLa is an artist and purveyor of quirky electronic pop, while Kirscht has established himself as a collectible Halloween artist and illustrator for TOPPS’ enduring Garbage Pail Kids, whose gross characterisations can be imagined in the stories that The Shiver Bones Group released as Horror Too Horrible To Hear. Bryan Michael is a Poe enthusiast and one third of Philadelphia electronic music unit Alka, and was responsible for the FX and music on the three releases put out by the group, using a vintage 1984 E-Mu Emulator II. Other collaborators, each with the types of circumspect names one might find in the graveyard of The Haunted Mansion, drift in and out for each release like tortured wraiths.

Across the three releases you hear stories about killer ghost dogs, student-murdering ghoulish visitors, why you should never drape your arm over the bedside while sleeping, devil turkeys (yes, devil turkeys), rabid pumpkins containing chomping insectoid teeth and romantic dinners by patrons with restlessly haunted heads, each one backed with schlocky sounds and creepy fairground music for ice-cold crypts. These stories suggest vivid, terrifying imaginations filled with buckets of corn syrup blood and the most gruesomely illustrated, yet comedic, demons.

Sadly, a fourth Horror Too Horrible To Hear release was thwarted by LaLaLa, Kirscht and Michael being unable to convene to record a new instalment. For this year, you’ll just have to make do with Kirscht’s animated Bogey Wail short and his and LaLaLa’s in-demand Halloween postcards. Alka, meanwhile, have just dropped their new album Regarding The Auguries, a terrifying record that’s as horrible as these grim tales for reflecting back our realities rather than fiction.

Turn the lights down, light a jack-o’-lantern and settle into the sound of Horror Too Horrible To Hear at Bandcamp… if you dare.

Horror Too Horrible To Hear, Horrible Too Horrible To Hear Two and Horrible Three Horrible To Hear were released October 13 2017, October 13 2018 and October 17 2019 respectively. shiverbones.com shiverbones.bandcamp.com

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2020 Further.

Audio Obscura – Love In The Time Of The Anthropocene

One of the earliest things I remember of the COVID-19 pandemic was how quiet the skies became. We live on a corridor that runs out of Heathrow, less than fifty miles south of us, and the unmistakeable drone of jet engines or the graceful plumes of parallel contrails, slowly dissipating behind an airliner, were part of the sonic and visual focal points of our skies. 

I find myself returning to this recollection again when listening to ‘Three Sisters’ from Neil Stringfellow’s new Audio Obscura album. In ‘Three Sisters’, Francisco Cantú reads a story about his own lockdown experiences. He too notices the quietened skies and the sudden drop of air traffic by up to 95% as he contemplates the failure of the crops he tries to grow during lockdown. Where his forebears might have known instinctively how to work the land, Cantú watches as each of his crops – each one an ancient species common to North America – fails. It seems to underline, in a detached, almost resigned way, how little we understand of so much of that which sustains us. 

Love In The Time Of The Anthropocene’s focus is squarely placed upon the proven reality that humankind has created the singularly destructive destiny we are now living through; whereas, at other points in Earth’s history, nature has wrecked devastation on our planet, setting in motion massive evolutionary changes and sculpting the way our home looks, the Anthropocene is entirely manmade. Even pandemics like COVID-19 are singled out in the words written by Stringfellow’s chosen experts, pre-eminent authorities on the Anthropocene like Professors Simon L. Lewis and Mark A. Maslin, as symptoms of what we have wrought. 

For Stringfellow, the motivation to produce this album came from parenthood. Like a lot of us, the introduction of children into your life gives you pause to think and reflect about the world that they will inherit. In Stringfellow’s case, this set in motion a three-year process of developing the album, seeking permission to use texts, gathering samples of the likes of Greta Thunberg and choosing narrators and collaborators. Its release on the eve of Halloween is appropriate, for this is likely the most unsettling, chilling thing you will experience this weekend. 

Presented with an unflinching gaze upon the state of the world, how this came to be, and the tipping point we find ourselves at – or more than likely already beyond – Love In The Time Of The Anthropocene is a contemplative sequence of fifteen pieces. Skipping electronics, eerie birdsong, delicate strings are Stringfellow’s chosen backdrop for narrations by Cantú, Anders Harboe, Julia Blackburn, Simon Medley and others. Each piece is draped in either mournful texture or a sense of violence – fractured sounds, broken rhythms, cycles of abrasive dissonance. The effect, on pieces like ‘Welcome To The Anthropocene’ or the plaintive ‘Magpies’ is arresting; at times an aggressive tonality seems to shake you violently out of your complacency, quickening your pulse and giving genuine shivers. 

It is the messages that are important here. Stringfellow’s role is thus that of the curator, creating the conditions for these messages to reach your ears, often in the most brutal and direct of ways. The album was concluded in lockdown, and we hear snippets of BBC broadcasts from the summer, when lockdown panic seemed to be receding and the forgotten – or, as is the actual case, linked – virus was further down the headlines; where the focus on ecological disaster once more became our focus. Wildfires ravaged vast tracts of land, another species lurched closer to extinction, and so depressingly on and on. Nothing had changed; we were just looking elsewhere, and that rather sums up our collective attitude to impending environmental doom. 

Love In The Time Of The Anthropocene borrow its title from the classic novel by Gabriel García Márquez. Like the way that Márquez’s book peeled back the layers of life story of its protagonists, Stringfellow’s album does something similar with the Anthropocene, explaining its origins and painting an anguished picture of its irreversibility. Unlike Márquez’s book, however, there is no dark humour at play here; no one falls out of a tree trying to rescue a parrot. In Stringfellow’s case, the character saws down the tree, murders the parrot and thus proceeds to take a blowtorch to an ancient rainforest. It presents a damning indictment of humankind’s legacy, and the worst of all possible gifts to our children. 

Love In The Time Of The Anthropocene by Audio Obscura was released October 30 2020. 

Words: Mat Smith 

(c) 2020 Further.