Bethan Kellough – The Underlying / venoztks – light breaker

California Dreaming: The Underlying, by sound artist Bethan Kellough and light breaker, by the anonymous venoztks, offer two very different sonic impressions of California. 

For Kellough’s contribution to Touch’s Displacing subscription service, that impression was informed by field recordings made at the edge of Salton Sea, not far from the Joshua Tree National Park and the Mexico border. We hear birds, insects and a gently unfolding natural ambience, but we also hear an undercurrent of something darker – the drones and white noise from a nearby geothermal power station. The power source, heralded as one of several sustainable alternatives to traditional oil and gas, is nevertheless obtrusive and impactful on the environment that surrounds the power plant. 

Kellough’s sleight of hand is to take those two sets of sounds – the delicate vibrancy of nature and the omnipresent hum of the power station as she approaches it – and augment them with a sensitive arrangement of sounds that somehow resonate much closer to the choruses of birds and insects than the mechanical interjections of the power stations. 

light breaker is the latest missive from venoztks, an artist who doesn’t so much operate at the margins but within the interstitial frequencies of shortwave radio. The fifty-minute piece that light breaker consists of (‘Indent’) is structured from captured radio recordings – voices overheard as fragmentary mid-conversation non sequiturs, howling white noise, brittle static and resonant bass sounds that ebb and flow as menacing slow-motion pulses. The effect is like listening to an intense analogue synthesiser improvisation, but everything you hear came from the radio and the manipulation of its dials. 

As well as being an intriguing, absorbing listen from the outer edges of found sound, the album also acts as a highly effective sonic screen. I found myself listening to this while undertaking an array of tedious domestic chores, where the barrage of abrasive, sculpted sounds and found drones also provided a useful means of drowning out the tedious mumbly hip-hop music that my wife was playing far too loudly elsewhere in the house. 

The Underlying by Bethan Kellough was released August 27 2021 by Touch. light breaker by venoztks was released August 26 2021. 

Words: Mat Smith 

(c) 2021 Further. 

Vacation Playlist: Edinburgh, August 2021

On Sunday August 22 2021 I flew for the first time since before the pandemic. A short flight to Edinburgh was something that I’d have done, before, fairly often, usually accompanied by things to review. It occurred to me a few days before that I’d need to plan what to listen to in the air, an active decision over what to listen offline after spending most of the pandemic period constantly online, with access to anything. It felt a lot like travelling as a teenager, where I’d pack my Walkman and choose a bunch of tapes to haul around with me.

I decided to trawl through recent Bandcamp additions – purchases I’d made or promos I’d been sent – and that formed the basis of my in-flight entertainment. While in Edinburgh I visited Nigerian sound artist Emeka Ogboh’s Song Of The Union at the Robert Burns Memorial near Calton Hill. 

Take-off: CARL STONE – NAMIDABASHI

Carl Stone’s contribution to Touch’s brilliant Displacing subscription series translates roughly as Bridge Of Tears and was recorded for Radio Free Nakano in his Tokyo base. The 15-minute piece is one of fragile momentum, seeming to rush forth and build into a sort of suppressed motorik groove while retaining an effortless, dreamy levity. Released May 28 2021 by Touch.

https://touchdisplacing.bandcamp.com/track/namidabashi

In-flight: LISTENING LANDSCAPES – LL#1 (MUSIC FROM RIVER DERWENT) / RIVER DERWENT SOUNDSCAPES 

Two 2021 releases from Dan Davies, both recorded using the sounds of the river Derwent in Derbyshire. Both illustrate Davies’ approach to taking field recordings and responding to them with additional composition for a diverse array of instruments, or leaving them poignantly unadorned. As such, these releases straddle the tranquility of listening to water and wind sounds (River Derwent Soundscapes) with delicately composed accompaniments (on LL#1) that are both mournful, vibrant and often noisy. Released March 28 2021 / May 6 2021.

https://listeninglandscapes.bandcamp.com/album/ll-1-music-from-river-derwent

https://listeninglandscapes.bandcamp.com/album/river-derwent-soundscapes

In-flight / landing: CARNEDD AUR – BEETLES 

Simon Proffitt’s work under the Carnedd Aur alias differs from his usual solo output as Cahn Ingold Prelog and The Master Musicians Of Dyffryn Moor by opting for more of an intentionally accessible output. Originally intended to be a body of work that his parents might recognise as something vaguely adjacent to electronic pop, the project instead became an engaging leftfield project whose titles were all inspired by different sub-species of beetles, with a sound that’s pure insectoid minimal acid-inflected techno. Released August 6 2021 by superpolar Taïps.

https://superpolar.bandcamp.com/album/beetles

On location: EMEKA OGBOH – SONG OF THE UNION

Nigerian artist Emeka Ogboh’s contribution to Edinburgh’s Art Festival is a thought-provoking seven-channel sound art work installed in the Robert Burns Monument near Calton Hill. For the piece, Ogboh recorded versions of Burns’ poignant ‘Auld Lang Syne’ sung by twenty-seven Europeans living in Scotland, one from each of the member states of the European Union that the UK left in January 2021. His work has a subtle power as you sit in the Burns Monument and listen to the interwoven voices singing atop one another; being of Scottish descent, ‘Auld Lang Syne’ has always had subtle, stirring poignancy for me; heard in the context of a political work swirling and echoing around the circular space, its maudlin outlook is deeply unsettling. The day after I visited, I found myself walking past the building again. I could hear the plaintive voices wafting sadly into the aether, like ephemeral vapours of what once was. Song Of The Union runs to August 29 2021.

https://www.trg.ed.ac.uk/exhibition/emeka-ogboh-song-union

Take-off / in-flight: JAMES MAINWARING – MYCORRHIZA 

Saxophonist James Mainwaring occupies a sort of indeterminate zone between improvisation and composition. His latest album for Discus is titled after the symbiotic relationship between plants and fungi and its 13 pieces carry a similar sense of integration between the instrumentation. The signature piece is ‘Komorebi’, which features Mainwaring’s sax alongside mournful strings and field recordings of birds made near the house where he grew up, an extra level of significance when you learn that the house is scheduled to be demolished as part of the HS2 construction project. On ‘Statues’, which begins as an understated ballad and ends as a free and urgent piece, Mainwaring’s playing nods reverentially in the direction of Paul Desmond; ‘Globe’, on the other hand, makes an unexpected left-turn into synthesiser minimalism and insistent post-rock, angular musings. Released Juy 13 2021 by Discus Music.

https://discusmusic.bandcamp.com/album/mycorrhiza-111cd-2021

In-flight / landing: ANNA MEREDITH – BUMPS PER MINUTE: 18 STUDIES FOR DODGEMS 

Bumps Per Minute was Somerset House resident composer Anna Meredith’s contribution to the London venue’s entertaining DODGE experience, which closed on August 22 2021. Though most people just went for the nostalgia of riding an old fairground ride after a few cocktails, every hour, Meredith and sound artist Nick Ryan would subvert the traditional dodgem ride so that every bump or collision would trigger a different one of her specially-written compositions. The companion album includes those 18 compositions played all the way through; it might lack the chaotic randomness of the ride experience, but it nevertheless carries a decent approximation of what it was like to laugh uproariously, half-cut on over-priced cocktails, as you careered around the track accompanied by a skipping soundtrack that felt like a malfunctioning player piano tackling Don Dorsey’s Main Street Electrical Parade music through an 8-bit computer. Released July 15 2021.

https://annahmeredith.bandcamp.com/album/bumps-per-minute-18-studies-for-dodgems

Words: Mat Smith 

(c) 2021 Further. 

Rupert Lally – Solid State Memories (novella)

Brighton-born, Switzerland-based electronic musician Rupert Lally originally issued his debut novella, Solid State Memories, in 2018. The story was initially packaged up as a PDF with the download of the soundtrack he’d created to accompany the text, but Lally always felt that it needed its own oxygen away from the music; to coincide with a planned vinyl reissue of the album, Solid State Memories now exists as a stand-alone paperback, giving it the focus that it perhaps always deserved.

The creative impulse for Solid State Memories was the cover illustration, gifted by Italian graphic designer Hannes Pasqualini to Lally on his fortieth birthday. The image shows a woman standing on a rooftop overlooking a futuristic landscape, surrounded by broken technology, her identity card being cast to the floor. The most striking quality is not the mournful, pensive way the character is looking out toward the city and the monorail slicing its way through the landscape, but the way her hair appears to be a figurative device for the ephemerality of memories, here uncoiling out of her brain to join the dust and rubble of her rooftop perch, along with her discarded identity.

With that image as his inspiration along with a documentary about memory, Lally’s story emerges as science fiction grounded in worrying plausibility; namely, being able to implant chips inside the brain to suppress, change and create new memories and behaviours. The novella’s protagonist and pioneer of the new technology, Dr. Alex Wells, awakes into the fog of displaced recollections: initially focussed solely on trying to explain the absence of her lover, who we learned died in a car crash several years before, the story unfolds to reveal that Wells herself has one of her own chips implanted in her brain and that the whole project was bankrolled by shadier quarters of the government for use by the military.

Overtones of J.G. Ballard abound here: Dr. Wells’ girlfriend was called Rachel Ballard, the orchestrated means of her fatal collision recalls Crash, and a lengthy section where Wells is pursued by government agents through a forest but blurred with inexplicable phenomena echoes his short story The Crystal World. The story is laced with as much scientific detail as it is emotional revelations from Wells’ personal life, the same enmeshed narrative between the two facets being allegorical for what’s symbiotically happening inside her brain with the chip.

Ultimately, Solid State Memories reveals itself as a thriller, where, true to the form, the odds seem perpetually stacked against Wells. It is only through encounters with benevolent characters that the gaps in her memory and her awareness begin to close themselves, in so doing revealing her motives and plans. Lally’s sleight of hand here is to pace his ambitious novella to reflect those memories returning, while also maintaining a level of acute tension through the endless chase, leading to a conclusion that is both harrowing and worryingly prescient.

Solid State Memories by Rupert Lally is available through Amazon.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2021 Further.

Shots: Nova Materia, Dan Davies, Friends Of The Oval, Philip Jeck, Fading Tapes

NOVA MATERIA – XPUJIL (Crammed Discs / Made To Measure) 

Released through Crammed Discs’ rebooted Made To Measure series, Xpujil is the work of Paris-based Chilean duo Nova Materia (Caroline Chaspoul and Eduardo Henriquez). The album takes the form of a journey through the Mexican jungle to the ruined Mayan metropolis of Xpujil. Along the way, they made a series of field recordings, which were then processed back in Paris into a single 40-minute soundscape. Deeply ambient and full of inexplicable, ephemeral mystery, the overall impression left by Xpujil is one of absence – of people, of nature itself, of context, of explanation. Few recordings have managed to exhibit such an engaging sonic quality through layers of percussion, haunting wooden flutes and delicate electronic textures, while also remaining purposefully silent. The piece was rounded out by contributions from DNA’s venerable Ikue Mori and cellist Gaspar Claus. Released June 25 2021.

https://novamateria.bandcamp.com/album/xpujil

DAN DAVIES – TRUTH, BEAUTY AND GOODNESS 

Truth, Beauty And Goodness consists of 15 pieces created by sound and visual artist Dan Davies, each one a specific response to a space or piece of art in and around Milton Keynes’ Campbell Park. Taking the form of a soundwalk commissioned for the 2021 IF: Milton Keynes International Festival, Davies used a combination of field recordings, sounds produced by ‘playing’ the various sculptures, electromagnetic recordings and delicate composition to accompany each piece. The results range from thought-provoking explorations of memory to angry pulses of raw energy. Read more about Truth, Beauty And Goodness in my interview with Davies for Pooleyvile, available hereReleased July 10 2021. 

https://dandavies.bandcamp.com/album/soundscapes-complete-album

FRIENDS OF THE OVAL – ADVENTURER 

Friends Of The Oval is a New York trio of vocalist Julia Farhat, electronic musician David Mason (aka Listening Center) and film director Michael Idov, and the evocative, orchestral ‘Adventurer’ is taken from the soundtrack to Idov’s JETLAG. ‘Adventurer’ is an exercise in delicate subtlety, Farhat’s sensitive voice barely rising above an ephemeral whisper yet yielding an intense, surging emotional poignancy. The strings recall The Balanescu Quartet at their most stirring, while Mason’s production style restrains a haunting synth sequence to the role of a mere gesture, never once distracting from Ivan Abramov’s string arrangements. After a decade of sporadic film music projects together, a Friends Of The Oval album is being worked on; on the strength of ‘Adventurer’, expect it to leave an indelible mark on your soul. Released July 28 2021.

https://foto.bandcamp.com/track/adventurer

PHILIP JECK – THIS IS THE HOUR OF LEAD – (Touch) 

This Is The Hour Of Lead – is Liverpool sound artist Philip Jeck’s contribution to Touch’s second subscription service of the last two years. Inspired by Emily Dickinson’s pike ‘After Great Pain, A Formal Feeling Comes –‘. His piece is a thoughtful, reflective moment, using orchestral sounds and blocks of mournful texture to convey a sense of the weight of the world that we’ve felt bearing down in us. A noisy moment of clattering found sound at the midpoint jerks you forcibly out of your maudlin thoughts before plunging you straight back in. Released July 29 2021.  

https://touchdisplacing.bandcamp.com/track/this-is-the-hour-of-lead-2

FADING TAPES – CARTOGRAPHER (Panurus Productions) 

Fading Tapes is a Polish duo of Krzysztof Siwkowski (guitars, effects) and Marcin Lasek (percussion, radios). For the four long tracks that comprise latest album Cartographer, they are joined by vocalist Aleksandra, whose occasional vocals and chanting float, wraith-like above the symbiotic dynamic offered by Siwkowski and Lasek. Across the four pieces – ‘East Valley’, ‘Bones’, ‘Boats’, ‘Dry Red Land’ – there is an emphasis on dense layers of intense subtlety. Barrages of percussion dominate, but they are (until the second half of ‘Dry Red Land’) quietly restrained, occasionally heading in the direction of interlocking motorik grooves or wild gestures, but Lasek’s playing remains acutely delicate. Around his kit, Siwkowski floats ominous basslines and wiry, chiming guitars, but he again eschews histrionics in favour of something much more contemplative. And yet, in spite of their collective restraint, these four tracks each resolve themselves into a firm, transcendent, psychedelic euphoria. Truly immersive and ever-so-slightly mind-altering. Released August 4 2021.

https://panurusproductions.com/album/cartographer

Words: Mat Smith 

(c) 2021 Further. 

The Night Monitor – Perception Report 3

Conceived as an infrequent series of “borderland excursions into assorted strangeness”, Perception Report 3 continues The Night Monitor’s exploration of encounters and inexplicable events, presented as a sonic periodical of unfathomable Fortean mystery. The Night Monitor, one of several aliases employed by Blackpool electronic music Neil Scrivin, is here occupying territory that he has made entirely his own, featuring four tracks of spooky electronica that act as distressing anti-ambient music for unsettling phenomena.  

Previous issues of the Perception Report series have concerned themselves with tiny winged Martians and the idea of bent spoons being allegorical for twisted realities. The main feature of Perception Report 3 concerns itself with an alien encounter that took place on Ilkley Moor in Yorkshire in 1987, in which a photographer had a run-in with an archetypal green creature that later disappeared in a flying saucer. 

Scrivin has a way of presenting his pieces without hackneyed sci-fi or horror tropes. While it would be tempting to sculpt ‘An Alien On Ilkley Moor’ with brooding tones or wonky theremins, he instead imbues the track with something that falls between delicate edginess and wide-eyed curiosity. The piece opens with the sound of wind whistling across the moor, before pulses and shimmering, mystique-heavy tones take over, finally opening out into a stately, contemplative melody that feels like it belongs on Depeche Mode’s A Broken Frame

‘Raven In Tomb Land’ has a tidy jazzy swagger that slots in somewhere between fusion and wonky, while ‘The UFO And The Séance’ has a ethereal sparseness so gently terrifying that I found myself checking behind doors and generally getting freaked out by my several cats, who in turn were generally freaked out by me. ‘Pyramids Of The Year 3000’ delivers more of Scrivin’s slowly-building melodic sensibilities, affixing those to a stop-start rhythm that bristles with 1981-vintage electronic pop smarts. 

Whether you find Scrivin’s subject matter credible or think it complete bunkum is irrelevant: his music tangibly exists in its own unique dimension, one that’s well worth believing in. 

Perception Report 3 by The Night Monitor is released August 6 2021 by Fonolith. 

Words: Mat Smith 

(c) 2021 Further.   

Stefan Goldmann & .es – At A Moment’s Notice

At A Moment’s Notice collects together three pieces by Berlin-based Stefan Goldmann, a peripatetic sonic auteur for whom the loose, oft-used handles of ‘producer’ and ‘DJ’ somehow no longer adequately fit his work. Goldmann may have come to prominence through techno, and its devices may still inform his creative methods, but At A Moment’s Notice bears no resemblance to music fixed to a grid. 

This new collection for The Wormhole, the always surprising, never predictable offshoot of The Tapeworm, finds Goldmann on location at Café Oto for a solo electronic performance in those heady, pre-pandemic days of 2019, a performance from some seven years before with .es (Takayuki Hashimoto on alto sax, shakuhachi, harmonica and guitar and Sara Dotes on piano and percussion), in between which is a solo Goldmann piece for electric guitar – the latter as clear a signifier as any that Goldmann won’t even be pigeonholed into the electronica genre. 

That central guitar piece, ‘Echoes Of An Era’, takes the form of a desert-washed blues loop. The guitar loop is layered and subjected to effects that lift it out of arid predictability into sonic vibrancy, while still sounding like the perfect soundtrack to standing beside your car on the side of an empty road waiting for a mechanic to arrive from the closest one-horse town with a can of gas. 

A semblance of that bluesy tonality appears with Hashimoto’s harmonica about twelve minutes in to the Goldmann & .es performance recorded at Osaka’s Nomart Gallery in July 2012. Hashimoto is omnipresent on the performance, but it’s when he puts down the sax and picks up the harmonica that things really start to fly; inchoate piano musing and quiet electronics are suddenly replaced by industrial-strength blocks of sound and rhythm, after which the re-emergence of howling sax feels more logical. By its denouement, ‘12.07.2012’ feels like a guided tour of an illegal Osakan sweat shop, its final bass pulse and wobbly piano suggestive of a getaway car speeding away from the heat and terror of a few minutes before. 

The Oto performance (‘29.09.2019’) is more assuredly electronic, but still refreshingly unpredictable. Here Goldmann runs through a cascading array of pulses, tones, sinewaves, drones and varispeed rhythms, skipping from idea to idea without ever languishing anywhere for long enough to get comfortable. At its most structured, ‘29.09.2019’ sounds like early Pan Sonic jamming with an 8-bit video game soundtrack to a game that no one remembers; at its most free, it’s like surfing on the aura of a self-generating fractal. 

At A Moment’s Notice by Stefan Goldmann is released August 6 2021 by The Wormhole / The Tapeworm. With thanks to Philip. (This is not a Mortality Tables Product, but we probably could make it one if we thought about it.) 

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2021 Further. 

Charlotte Keeffe – Right Here, Right Now

Right Here, Right Now collects together pieces by trumpet / flugelhorn player Charlotte Keeffe in various different formations – solo with electronics; in a duo with Diego Sampieri (guitar); in the Charlotte Keeffe quartet with Moss Freed (guitar), Ben Handysides (drums) and Ashley John Long (double bass). We also hear Keeffe’s work composing for the London Improvisers Orchestra on three adventurous and frequently unpredictable, playful pieces.

The result is a collection that draws out an immediacy of playing and an adaptable, varied tone. The pieces she conducted for the London Improvisers Orchestra veer from intricate, scratchy electronics, howling bells and ominous voices (‘Mysterious Breath / This One’s For The Bees…’) to the joyfully chaotic, cataclysmically euphoric nod to Orchestra stalwart and Flying Lizard par excellence Steve Beresford (‘To Steve Beresford’).

Quartet pieces like ‘Sweet, Corn’ are full of enticing energy, the interplay of the rhythm section and Keeffe’s wild, urgent playing reaching several crescendos before pivoting toward hook-y melodies and finally into squalling, beautiful noise. A more contemplative tone can be heard on the pretty ‘A Horse Named Melody’, even as Handysides’ drumming seems hellbent on upending the piece toward messier territory. Whether in her quartet or in a duo with Sampieri, you can hear a perfect unity between Keeffe and guitarists, leading to some genuinely breathtaking, intertwined melodic runs on the gentle, captivating ‘OM’ in particular.

Another dimension to Keeffe’s all-encompassing approach can be heard on the two solo pieces. Here we find Keefe subjecting her trumpet and flugelhorn to a series of electronic processes, showcasing yet another side to her playing completely. ‘The Melody’s In The Post’ (inspired by a melody by Alicia Gardener-Trejo) finds her horns fading in and out over a bed of restless, itchy static that sounds like an after-hours Radiophonic Workshop for an astral jazz documentary that sadly never was. Something similar occurs on ‘Noizemaschin!!’, taken from Keeffe’s first live improvised solo set in 2017. Somewhat more restrained in its processing than ‘The Melody’s In The Post’, ‘Noizemaschin!!’ instead relies on washes of reverb and stuttering, chattering, inchoate passages interspersed with rapid note clusters, leading to a ghostly, atmospheric otherworldliness.

Right Here, Right Now by Charlotte Keeffe was released June 11 2021 by Discus Music.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2021 Further.

Miles Davis – Merci Miles! Live At Vienne

“I’m an instinctive kind of person who sees things in people that other people don’t see. I hear things that other people don’t hear and don’t think are important until many years later, when they finally hear them or see them themselves. By then I’m someplace else.” – Miles Davis, Miles – The Autobiography

It’s tempting to view the modern jazz scene of the late-1980s and early 1990s as a barren, inhospitable place. The combination of ubiquitous digital keyboards, omnipresent clean bass lines and sharp production in place of the raw energy of earlier versions of the jazz form gave the genre a sort of dryness that became a shorthand for elevator music.

Miles Davis, adaptable though he always was to what jazz could be, took a while to adapt to what the 1980s represented. He started the decade emerging from retirement, meaning that when he returned, it took a while for his breath to reach its full potential again, while recurring bouts of pneumonia threatened to – and and ultimately did – take his signature style away forever. Nevertheless, Davis looked around and found himself a place, whether in the way that he took Michael Jackson’s ‘Human Nature’ or Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Time After Time’ and made them his own on You’re Under Arrest (1985), or his seminal late-career work with Tommy LiPuma and Marcus Miller, his creative friendship with Prince or the recently-exhumed Rubberband sessions from 1985. Davis, to paraphrase the master of punchy epithets himself, remained as relevant as a motherfucker.

Merci Miles!, cringey title to one side, captures all of these bold aspects of Davis in his literal twilight moments. Recorded at the Vienne Jazz Festival in southern France on July 1 1991, Davis would be dead less than three months after he performed this concert with his group. There’s no weakness in his playing, no less energy, no less enthusiasm for the material or his art; no trace at all of these being among Davis’s last breaths.

The setlist drew from what was Davis’s most recent album at that point, 1989’s Marcus Miller- produced Amandla, and You’re Under Arrest. The material from the former is delivered with a gentle, lyrical crispness, while his duetting with the group’s alto saxophonist – Kenny Garrett, who easily gets as much solo time as Davis across this set, if not more – evokes the spirit of some of his vital sparring with sax players in the bebop era. Both ‘Amandla’ and ‘Hannibal’ here have a certain mystique, evoking the African spiritualism that connected the album to 1986’s Tutu.

Also included in the set are two pieces written by Prince, ‘Penetration’ and ‘Jailbait’. Both carry a slick, funky outlook that’s immediately recognisable as Prince compositions, and that Davis initially seems able to engage with, but after a while it feels as if he’s lost interest, leaving the rest of the group – and Garrett in particular – to lead.

The lengthy versions of ‘Human Nature’ and ‘Time After Time’ find Davis at his most profound on this date. His playing on these two tracks has a searching, questing quality, finding endless new angles within the distinctive melodies to explore and develop, taking two instantly familiar pieces down intriguing new pathways. Considering Davis was forever prickly about playing signature moments from his own catalogue, he doesn’t seem to have any such issue with playing these two pieces, raising them to the status of contemporary standards.

Key to the sound of pieces like ‘Wrinkle’, later to emerge on the Rubberband album, is the rhythm section of bassist Foley, second bassist Richard Patterson and drummer Ricky Wellman. On ‘Wrinkle’ you hear the trio pivot sharply from elastic funk to frantic, white-hot runs. Foley’s playing deserves special mention on this date – his approach was to play an octave higher than expected, allowing him to riff like he’s playing an electric guitar. Despite its integral positioning in this set, Foley himself had been self-critical of his playing literally up to these last few concerts with Davis. Like so many stories you read of Davis giving nurturing advice to his young players, he had suggested to Foley that he try to play less; the result was space and room to hear the expressiveness of his playing. The group was rounded out by young keyboard player Deron Johnson, who manages to give the normally stale-sounding digital equipment of the period as much a sense of resolute firmness as textural colour.

Ashley Kahn’s inclusive liner notes for the album capture what it was like to be around Miles at the end of his days. We learn about his love of foie gras and pig’s feet, his enthusiasm for France and live music, his gratitude humility, and a certain shyness about talking on stage or in public. More poignantly, we hear first-hand accounts from Johnson about his bandleader’s failing health. “The whole inside of my body feels like it’s falling apart,” complains Davis to his new protégé. Despite playing as well as any other point in his career, physically he looks drained, sluggish and worn out on stage at points during the 80-minute Vienne set.

“For me, the urgency to play and create music today is worse than when I started,” wrote Davis at the very end of his 1989 autobiography, smack in the middle of his final career nadir. “It’s more intense. It’s like a curse. Man, the music I forget now drives me nuts trying to remember it. I’m driven to it – go to bed thinking about it and wake up thinking about it. It’s always there. And I love that it hasn’t abandoned me; I feel really blessed.”

Merci Miles! Live At Vienne is released June 25 2021 by Rhino. Thanks to Jess and Joe.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2021 Further.

Take Five: Isambard Khroustaliov

Transhuman Harmolodics is the typically deep-thinking new album avant garde electronic musician and Radiophonic Workshop contributor Sam Britton’s Isambard Khroustaliov alter ego. Britton’s conceptual jumping-off point here is the notion of transhumanism, the idea that we can somehow upgrade our corporeal existence and eradicate ageing. If that sounds like heavy and pretty scary subject matter, consider that Britton has decided to amplify the complexity by using Ornette Coleman’s amorphous, ever-changing concept of harmolodics. We spoke to Britton about five of his favourite albums, from Coleman to Zappa.

Ornette Coleman – The Empty Foxhole

I remember seeing Ornette Coleman perform with his son Denardo in the early 2000s and being totally in awe of the connection they had musically. It was just a whole other thing, completely unexplainable, but totally tangible … totally ancient, but completely modern in its freeness. I came back to this album after I featured some recordings of my son singing on my 2019 album This Is My Private Beach, This Is My Jetsam. For me, The Empty Foxhole is just such a beautiful document of father and son revelling in new adventures together.

Kim Gordon – No Home Record

Those no bullshit, take no prisoners records are few and far between, but I reckon this has got to be one of them. I really hope that sometime soon I get the chance to see Kim Gordon up on a stage hurling out these tracks incredibly loud to a massive crowd who are all moshing uncontrollably, me included.

Carlo Gesualdo – Madrigals

I was introduced, almost by accident, to Gesualdo through the brilliantly geeky BBC Radio 3 programme Building A Library, where different recordings of the same piece of music are compared and contrasted. It was one of those moments when you just switch on the radio and find yourself completely caught off guard and totally blown away. Apart from anything else, how utterly different two performances of the same piece of music can be sent me down a wormhole of early vocal music ensembles, all of whose skill and dedication is awesome to behold.

Sun Ra – My Brother the Wind Vol. 1

When I first listened to this record it blew up all of the mystery and nerdiness that surrounds synthesisers for me. Right from the beginning a feeling of revolution is in the air, but once you reach the epic ‘Space Probe’, it’s pretty clear not much is going to be the same again. Apart from anything, the constant shift in sonority and the way Sun Ra uses it as a improvisational tool is mind-bending. The instrument he is using hasn’t even left Moog’s factory and despite everything to come, I think there’s little that touches the sheer breadth and vision documented here.

Frank Zappa – The Yellow Shark

I came back to this more recently after watching Alex Winter’s 2020 biopic on Zappa. Towards the end of the film there’s an incredibly moving portrait of him working with the Ensemble Modern and the concerts they did together before he passed away. I remember seeing the Ensemble Modern perform the same pieces at the Proms in the Royal Albert Hall not long after and the mixture of euphoria tinged with tragedy it evoked. As the film brilliantly portrays, Zappa was nothing if not a walking contradiction, but also ultimately a tireless champion of liberty, independence and free speech. The Yellow Shark is a brilliant tribute to one of music’s great iconoclasts.

Transhuman Harmolodics by Isambard Khroustaliov was released May 28 2021 by Not Applicable. With thanks to Jim.

 

(c) 2021 Further.

Shots: Ian Williams, Polypores, Simon Dobson, Biel Blancafort, Yoshi Wada

IAN WILLIAMS – ALL BECOMES DESERT (Slaughterback)

All Becomes Desert consists of five exhumed ambient improvisations that Beautiful Pea Green Boat founder Ian Williams recorded in the 1990s. Designed to evoke the wide expanses of desert landscapes, pieces like ‘Atacama’ and ‘Kalahari’ have an Eno-ish soothing dimension in their slowly-evolving progression, but there’s also a sense of mystery and wonder which, for this reviewer, speaks to the idea of landscapes being formed imperceptibly over millennia. The departure comes with ‘Outback’, constructed as a beat-free series of acidic sequences, which makes me feel like I’m on a helicopter ride over vast, undulating natural topographies. Important knowledge for synth nerds: Williams made these recordings on an old Roland Juno 106. Released March 2 2021. (MS)

https://ianwilliams.bandcamp.com/album/all-becomes-desert

POLYPORES – SHPONGOS (Behind The Sky)

You may not realise it, but the plants in your local park and garden are all talking to each other. Just beneath the surface lies a kind of underground internet, linking all their roots. This allows them to communicate and thrive in various ways. What’s responsible for these floral subterranean networks? Mushrooms. Or fungi, to be more precise and their long strands of unseen underground mycelia. The wondrous effectiveness of these connections and the beauty to which they contribute above the surface, forms the theme of Polypores’ latest release, Shpongos.

This is at least the 17th album in five years from prolific modular synth enthusiast Stephen James Buckley and Shpongos is a typically ambient, explorative composition. Given the mycological theme, there is clearly a nod to mushroom enthusiast Terrence McKenna. From initial simplistic drones, sounds gradually bubble up into complex, tightly-wound melodies. Tracks like ‘Sweet Rot’ and album closer ‘Exopheromones’ evoke spores drifting in the wind, ready to land and bring new life, where nature had given way to decay. Beautiful, in its own intricate way. Released April 26 2021. (CH)

https://polypores.bandcamp.com/album/shpongos

SIMON DOBSON – MDCNL (Lo Recordings)

Things I hear and feel when listening to ‘Pick Me Up-Down’, the opening piece on Cornish composer Simon Dobson’s second album: minimalist cycles that remind me of ‘In C’; widescreen vistas from the opening scenes of a nature documentary; emotional turbulence that oscillates between poignant sadness and joyous optimism; a sort of euphoric dissonance; a delicate synthesiser melody that reminds me of a specific cluster of notes on the soundtrack to the original Teen-Wolf. Such is the way that Dobson’s evocative compositions can spark vivid images and memories, lightly positioned as they are at the meeting place of soundtrack, modern classical music and ambient electronics. ‘Thread’ is among the most overtly electronic of the five long pieces presented here, its twelve-minute layering of slowly-evolving melodies and flute-like timbres being rooted in a sort of spiritual enlightenment and sci-fi wonder; the soaring, string-led chord change that appears out of nowhere at the three-minute mark is impossibly, relentlessly moving. Released May 7 2021. (MS)

https://lorecordings.bandcamp.com/album/mdcnl

BIEL BLANCAFORT – KENOMA (Modern Obscure Music)

Biel Blancafort is a Catalonian electronic music and his new EP for Barcelona’s Modern Obscure Music was inspired by a recurring dream of arriving at a remote, deserted island called Kenoma, named after the Greek word for ‘void’. The six pieces included here are rarely still and always restlessly moving forward, shrouded in atmospherics inching along the tightrope between uncertainty and beauty. On the title track I imagine Blancafort, alone, lying on a patch of barren beach watching storm clouds gathering and dissipating overhead in motion time lapse, the track speeding gently from fragile melodic passages to a delicate house rhythm. At the other end of the island, the gentle piano note clusters of ‘Llar’ fall somewhere between Music For Airports and Satie’s Gymnopédies. An arresting body of work, yet delivered with soothing subtlety. Released May 21 2021. (MS)

https://modernobscuremusic.bandcamp.com/album/kenoma

YOSHI WADA – THE APPOINTED CLOUD (Saltern)

A remastered, first-time vinyl pressing of recently-departed New York Fluxus composer and artist Yoshi Wada’s The Appointed Cloud from 1987. The Appointed Cloud was Wada’s first large-scale, interactive installation, featuring a custom-built pipe organ and other instruments controlled by computer, installed in the windowless, cathedral-like Great Hall of the New York Hall of Science in Queens. For the performance recorded on November 8 1987, Wada and other musicians played instruments – bagpipes, timpani, tam-tam – alongside the installation, which was controlled by software developed by La Monte Young acolyte David Rayna. The result was an hour-long set characterised by oscillating drones, skeletal tones and intense, frequently jarring sonic interplay, played at incredibly loud volume. The drones evoke the eternal hum of existence, while percussive crescendos for gong and timpani align Wada’s overtone-rich music with classical tradition. Deep listening rarely sounded so dramatic. Released May 21 2021. (MS)

https://yoshiwada.bandcamp.com/album/the-appointed-cloud

Words: Chris Hill & Mat Smith

(c) 2021 Further.