Secret Flight – Secret Flight

Secret Flight first floated ethereally past my music radar at a performance at Milton Keynes Gallery in January 2020. Built from wonderfully delicate synth sounds, heat-haze hooks and brittle rhythms, overlaid with hypnotic, angelic vocals, that Secret Flight performance occupied a unique zone bordering lo-fi electronica, classical melodies and a sort of shoegazer-y feeling of numbness and detachment.

This self-titled album follows an initial release in 2018, My Forever Mirage. Secret Flight contains some truly mesmerising, haunting pieces, each constructed using that fragile, sparse approach to arrangements that left such an indelible impression on me back in 2020. Along with more resolutely ephemeral pieces comprising just voice and elegiac synth chords, there are some truly breathtaking standout moments. One of these is the seven-minute ‘A Prism’, laden with detuned beats, subtle arpeggios, a relentless spiral of synth tones and a chamber choir coda about grief that offers a sense of resolution and closure.

Another outstanding track is ‘On The Day’, which has a beautiful, 1981-vintage synth-pop outlook, the combination of precise, restrained electronics and soaring, beguiling voice recalling Yazoo’s finest moments. ‘Vertigo’ has a crunchy beat with a vaguely glam rock swing, the accompanying vocal having a sort of muted euphoria that reminds me of early Smiths, while the quietly defiant progressions of closing track ‘To Lose’ is going to be the music accompanying the final scene in the movie adaptation of the book I haven’t written yet.

Secret Flight is a remarkable, if consciously understated album. It maintains a firm hold on your attention, enveloping you with its delicate presentation and revealing more of itself and its sentiment the more time you spend with it. Its vocal themes are open and honest, yet also shrouded and deliberately obfuscated, offering a window into emotional turmoil, love, loss and personal anxieties. A powerful (yet subtle) journey from start to finish.

Secret Flight by Secret Flight is released May 26 2023.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2023 Further.

Gvantsa Narim – Apotheosis Animæ

Gvantsa Narimanidze is a sound artist from Tbilisi, Georgia. Her latest work was inspired by the winter season and was composed between the end of 2022 and start of 2023. It was a winter fraught with anxiety given the ongoing Russia – Ukraine conflict and fears that gas supplies across Europe would be insufficient to cope with extremes of cold weather, ushering in nightmarish predictions that countless people, suffering fuel poverty, would freeze to death.

How much of that backdrop fed into Apotheosis Animæ is hard to discern. What is evident is a frosty stillness that presides over the delicate, sparse pieces that Narimanidze presents here. The piano-led opening track ‘Apotheosis’ is augmented by gentle reverb which only enhances a mournful, slightly dejected tone. It’s almost as if Narimanidze is sighing outwardly at the start of colder weather and the unstoppable slipping by of time.

That air of austerity and acceptance wends its way with intense subtlety through the pieces here. The ten-minute ‘Amnesia’ begins like an outline of itself, wherein all detail has been scrubbed away and replaced by tiny, almost imperceptible changes in momentum, a growling synth tone and high-pitched string sound drifting in like a bitter breeze. Snatches of voice, eulogising humankind’s relationship to the Earth, taps into Narimanidze’s belief system, foreshadowing a dramatic denouement wherein all the disparate elements previously buried deep in the mix coalesce into something tangible, something living.

‘Born In The Mist’ consists of suppressed, howling sounds that carry a sense of danger, heavy processing giving rise to a murky, dramatic, almost claustrophobic soundworld. It reminds me (pleasantly) of the first time I came upon one of Thomas Köner’s quiet works, whereupon I turned the volume up to an ear-splitting level to experience the brutality of amplified near-silence. ‘Train’ is easily one of the most mesmerising pieces in this collection, beginning with icicle-sharp pirouettes and gradually opening out into a crystalline field of synth pads on the axis between the haunting and the joyous. Elsewhere, the expansive ‘Codex’ has a lingering latency, an unswerving drone loop dominating the background while tendril-like synth arpeggios creep slowly into earshot. A stately, muffled glissandi piano motif adds a sense of grandeur as it weaves through the drone and synth spirals.

Narimanidze is a masterful sound designer, capable of infusing her pieces with a naturalistic spirit but also a searching, inquisitive, unresolved quality. Those signature flourishes can be found all over Apotheosis Animæ, representing a fantastically intricate, complex and yet spiritually rewarding body of work.

Apotheosis Animæ by Gvatsa Narim is released on 26 May 2023 by Cruel Nature.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2023 Further.

Rupert Lally – Backwater / Hacker

Backwater is the second novel from Switzerland-based electronic musician Rupert Lally. Like his debut, Solid State Memories, Backwater is a suspenseful thriller. However, instead of pitching its wares in a dystopian and terrifying near-future like his first book, Backwater occupies the past, present and future. The story temporally criss-crosses all three to follow its lead characters as they try to prevent environmental disaster using the rare natural resources of the Bronze Age past, mysterious archways allowing instantaneous movement between eras.

This is principally a high-speed race against, and through, time, but also an exploration of other, deeper, themes: the bond between father and child, gender inequality, power struggles, corporate villainy, technology and climate change. It is hyper-aware of big issues facing society today but also authentically well-researched about Bronze Age history and culture. A trace of Solid State Memories arrives with a brief trip to the future, where we find Earth ravaged by global warming and profligate resource exploitation, a dirty husk of its former self filled with criminality and hunger.

Backwater is complicated, as most time-travelling tales can be. It both demands and requires complete focus, especially when Lally’s prose moves at an urgent pace through different time zones, left-turns and unexpected events. Like his previous novel, Backwater confirms Lally as an original story-teller drawn to mystery and drama-filled narratives. Dizzying and rewarding.

A sense of mystery also pervades Lally’s latest album, Hacker, released by Spun Out Of Control. Hacker operates in a interstitial time zone somewhere between 1980s movie soundtrack and 1990s Warp label electronica, using brief samples of WarGames, Hackers and other films to supply a plot line of dial-up era computer vigilantism.

Lally’s recent albums have been among the best, and perhaps most accomplished, in his career. Hacker sits comfortably in his latest streak of excellent releases, even if it is the complete antithesis of Wanderweg, the pastoral and bucolic exploration of natural landscape and pathways of his adopted Swiss home that preceded it. Here, the focus is squarely on icicle-sharp melodic tendrils threading their way down phone cables, encouraged and framed by rhythms as focused as an algorithm figuring out the password for a locked military server. Where standout tracks like ‘Hot Swap’ and ‘2600Hz’ are freighted with a vital, relentless energy, ‘Access Denied’ is thwarted but tender, and easily one of the most poignant pieces Lally has ever composed.

Backwater by Rupert Lally is available now at Amazon. Hacker by Rupert Lally was released December 23 2022 by Spun Out Of Control

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2022 Further.

Mister Poppy – Jelly

“Jelly is like time. Jelly fits any mould. It resists the sentimentality of form. Jelly is a state of putrefaction before dust…” – Andrew Poppy

Jelly is the follow-up to Andrew Poppy’s Hoarse Songs from 2021, and finds the composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist exploring harsh electronic tonalities that emerge from the shadows of our collective imaginations.

Consisting of five long pieces, Jelly is accompanied by a libretto that shows Poppy the lyricist to be one part Beat stream of consciousness poet, one part experimental philosopher and one part languid observer. Mostly delivered as spoken word verse, Poppy’s words come across as a sort of voyeuristic sequence of clipped words, half-formed sentiments and hyper-visual word patterns. Dramatic, dirty and laced with a Lynchian notion of the fixated gaze, Poppy’s words alight upon grim notions with microscopic detail. Opening track ‘Tattoo / Copy Something That You Love’ might be about the processes involved with getting a tattoo, but it’s delivered with a nightmarish visceral streak that’s as unflinching as the Velvets’ ‘Heroin’ – a different needle, but the same sting.

According to Poppy, these pieces were at least partly inspired by Robert Rauschenberg. That would certainly explain the abrupt edges, collaged approach and his insouciant approach to subtle appropriation. Each piece here hovers round the twelve-minute mark without ever feeling like they have no sense of direction. Each builds slowly and often imperceptibly from base elements – a sonorous bass pulse, a fleeting, fluttering tone – toward some dramatic conclusion, without losing sight of an essential minimalistic ethos that allows empty spaces to be just as prominently featured as Poppy’s finely-crafted loops and dense blocks of electronic sound.

This is an often uncomfortable listen (which I intend as a compliment). There are many times on pieces like the haunting, hyper-sensual ‘Mister Post-Man / No More Fumbling’ where I’m reminded of Coil, especially when a flurry of strings drift into view on top of Poppy’s wiry, undulating electronic sequences. That’s not to suggest that these pieces deal with some sort of dark, brooding, shadowy occultist magick. It’s more the case that they contain a sense of tantalising, enveloping danger, acting like a portal to somewhere other than here, where every moral sensibility is inverted.

If that all seems to jar with a title that feels playful and ridiculous, therein lies Poppy’s compositional sleight of hand – an ability to take something quotidian, atomise it, play with the mess it produces and reassemble it with only the briefest sense of where it came from. A beautifully challenging and intensely-detailed album.

Jelly by Mister Poppy was released October 1 2022 by fieldRadio. Thanks to Philip.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2022 Further.

John Derek Bishop / Inge Weatherhead Breistein – Ro

Ro pairs electronic experimenter John Derek Bishop (Tortusa) with tenor saxophonist Inge Weatherhead Breistein. The album captures the duo performing in five churches along the western coast of their Norwegian homeland, with Bishop manipulating Breistein’s sax in real time using live sampling techniques.

The first thing that grabs you on the opening track, ‘Spurv’, is the rich tendrils of reverb that surround Breistein’s horn. This give his playing a stately and atmospheric quality, even when he launches into a run of more forceful notes instead of the more delicate passages elsewhere. Those sections are at once soothing but also inquisitive, as if he was seeking answers from the furthest corners of the room, his circular breathing technique seeming to gently lift you up out of your most contemplative thoughts.

Bishop’s processing similarly alternates between extremes. At its most subtle, his looping technique creates a chorus of Breisteins, a many-layered orchestra of saxophones, giving a sense of depth and perspective to his playing. Sometimes his contributions exist solely in the background as a microcosm of tiny sounds freighted with almost percussive textures, or as fleeting constructs of dissonant drones; elsewhere, as on the seven-minute title track, his involvement becomes increasingly prominent, especially in the second half, where he contrives to convert Breistein’s playing into a swooning, cinematic piece full of drama and tension. For the most part, at least in the first few pieces, Bishop occupies a terrain of considerable restraint and a generally respectful approach to his manipulations.

Perhaps the most surprising moments come with ‘Lag’ and ‘Stim’, where Bishop feels emboldened to add in a consistent rhythm alongside his partner’s sax. After a number of quiet, softly undulating pieces, those pieces have a crushing, disruptive edge, their rattling textures seeming to shake the pews and foundations out of their holy slumber. ‘Trekk’ begins with a passage of what could be echoing birdsong and clattering percussion, but might well be re-pitched and reassembled sections of Breistein building his horn and warming up. Whatever the source, as the piece progresses it evokes the feel of a slow riverboat cruise through some exotic jungle rather than trawling the cooler waters of Norway’s coastline, acting as a perfect example of this duo at their most inspiring.

Ro by John Derek Bishop and Inge Weatherhead Breistein was released by Punkt Editions / Jazzland on October 21 2022. Thanks to Jim.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2022 Further.

Various Artists – Fictions

The latest release from Crammed Discs’ reinvigorated Made To Measure series is described as a compendium of ‘wordless fiction’. Curated by Crammed Discs co-founder Marc Hollander (Aksak Maboul), the album compiles eight tailor-made pieces that navigate a path between ambient, soundscapes, adventurous electronics and modern classical stylings.

While the pieces here are new, there is a sense of reverence through the inclusion of a track by Benjamin Lew and Tuxedomoon’s Steven Brown. The pair originally worked together during Made To Measure’s initial years, releasing Douzième Journée: Le Verbe, La Parure, L’Amour in 1982 and its follow-up A Propos D’Un Paysage in 1985, creating mesmerising and innovative clashes between tapes of African music and electronics. After hooking up again at a Made To Measure event in 2019, they found themselves rekindling a creative partnership, and their track – ‘A.D. Sur La Carte’ – is a haunting stew of inquisitive synths and mournful trumpet that together feel amorphous and ephemeral.

Another Made To Measure alumnus is Pascal Gabriel, here appearing in his Stubbleman alias. Gabriel released his critically-acclaimed Mountains And Plains audio travelogue for the label in 2019 and has collaborated with Crammed Discs and Aksak Maboul in the past. His piece finds him working with Norweigian trumpet player Nils Petter Molvær. ‘Ne Pas Se Pencher Au Dehors’ has definite soundtrack credentials, the melodic synth refrain and more direct trumpet playing that comes in after two minutes sounding (to me) like the perfect accompaniment to Michael J. Fox’s final scene in Bright Lights, Big City as he watches the sun rise over Manhattan’s East River and contemplates starting his life afresh.

Elsewhere, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith delivers a cascade of burbling synths on ‘Waterways’, managing to enrich analogue sounds with an aquatic sense of motion, over which floats a pretty xylophone motif. LA’s Mary Lattimore is an artist that has truly redefined approaches to playing the venerable harp, and her ‘Bird’ offers up a sweet, heart-wrenching duet with electronics that is simultaneously hopeful yet thwarted, as if gazing wistfully on the fleeting nature of existence.

Not that these are all delicate, gentle sonic experiments. French composer and sound artist Félicia Atkinson’s ‘The Sun, Perhaps Three Of Them’ bristles with wild energy, a central white noise drone and what could be a voice is nothing short of chilling, while Christina Vantzou’s tone poem ‘Museum Critic’ use of out-of-place found sound to catch you off guard and knock you out of the meditative state provided by other tracks here.

Taken as a whole, Fictions represents an absorbing, inspiring collection onto which you can write your own personal narrative.

Fictions was released October 14 2022 by Crammed Discs / Made To Measure

Thanks to Jim at Ampersand and PG.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2022 Further.

Rupert Lally – Forgotten Futures

I recently found myself watching a National Geographic documentary about the 1986 Challenger disaster. I was nine years old when that tragedy unfolded over Florida. I remember vividly watching it on Newsround when I got home from school and again on the evening news with my father. I hadn’t realised until I watched the film, but that was probably the first time I became aware of death. It also seemed to end my fascination with all things space and science fiction, which had been an obsession thanks to growing up with the Star Wars movies.

Rupert Lally’s Forgotten Futures reminded me of that day and that life pivot. The premise of Lally’s album, originally recorded for Lost Futures magazine, was to look back on his own childhood in the late 1970s and early 1980s. As he acknowledges, memory is a troublesome companion – whereas, at the time, we might have been filled with hope, optimism and the dreams of a thousand possible futures, with the benefit of hindsight we often see things differently. So it was for Lally while recording Forgotten Futures. On the title track we find him running through a list of futuristic visions that all seemed possible back then, but which now seem fanciful and a long way out of reach – except for TVs in kitchens and slightly limited approximations of smart homes – brings to mind how utterly disappointing those exciting versions of the future actually were. (Growing up, my vision of the future was basically informed by the Smash mashed potato adverts. The future has definitely not lived up to those expectations.)

This is undoubtedly one of Lally’s most introspective albums. Not dark, per se, but certainly more questioning and reflective than some of his other material. Pieces like ‘Everything We Leave Behind’ and ‘Kaleidoscope’ have an unresolved, restless and often thwarted dimension to them. Central to those tracks, and in fact every track on the album, is an undulating, queasy edge to the sounds as if each one has had its pitch changed in real-time. A a plot device, that technique is a useful way of evoking how memories become less certain over time, how they change, and how we question their accuracy through the lens of contemporaneity. For me, that sound nostalgically reminds me of buying a battered 7-inch of ‘(Keep Feeling) Fascination’ by Human League. The electronic horn melody on that song sounds a little out-of-tune at the best of times, but when your copy of the single is warped so badly that the vinyl looks like a circular walk through hills and valleys, any sense of euphoria in that riff is brutally suppressed. It remains one of my most disappointing charity shop purchases.

‘The Lost Places’ finds Lally recounting a dream where he revisits the town of his childhood – the architecture, the restaurant he’d visit with his father, the supermarket he frequented with his mother and the basement carpark beneath that still fills him with fear. His delivery is detached and uncertain, reflecting that recurring idea of a disappointed nostalgia and how our memories deal with joy and trauma over time. It is a deeply personal – yet completely relatable – moment, and one that seems to unlock the critical sentiment of this ruminative album.

Forgotten Futures by Rupert Lally was released May 6 2022.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2022 Further.

The Eternal Chord – Bis dat

Bis dat (Give more) is the latest release from the long-running Spire project, which celebrates the venerable organ and the long shadow cast over the development of contemporary music, from its Roman origins to its divisive association with the architecture of Christian churches. This collection is the second to feature various artists creating new pieces using The Eternal Chord ensemble’s Semper Liber (Always Free) album from 2018 as their source material, and finds artists as diverse as Faith Coloccia, BJ Nilsen and Zachary Paul offering tracks that further invert any commonly held misconceptions about the organ.

The Eternal Chord is curated by Touch’s Mike Harding and consists of Marcus Davidson, Hildur Gudnadottir, Charles Matthews, Clare M. Singer, Maia Urstad, Anna Von Hausswolff and others. Live performance is a critical aspect of The Eternal Chord, and Semper Liber was compiled and edited from various Spire events that have taken place around the world since 2009. Generally being custom-built for the specific location into which they were going to be installed, the players are just one aspect of Semper Liber – the other is the distinct sonic personality of the organ which is being played, whether that be the 1877 ‘Father’ Henry Willis organ at London’s Union Chapel or the comparatively modern 1967 Karl Ludwig Schuke instrument at Berlin’s Passionskirche.

Very often, it’s not really possible to identify anything resembling an organ on these pieces. Even allowing for aggressive processing and atypical performance, the instrument has a distinctive character which manages to cut through any alteration process. Brief moments of that character emerge in Faith Coloccia’s ‘Voice IV Sarcode’ or in the frozen stillness in the background of strom|morts’ ‘Absolute Magnitude Hermetism’, but for the most part what the organ provides to these pieces is a suggestion of its tonal familiarity.

One of the organ’s technical innovations was the ability to create infinitely held tones, and these pieces are filled with such drones – static, immovable blocks of texture that are anything but still. In the hands of Rhodri Davies’ ‘HAARP’, he deploys his e-bow to his harp to create layers of squalling, overlapping drones over the course of his 31-minute contribution. His piece is, at first, aggressive and uncomfortable, but listen to the delicate microtonal shifts sitting just on the edges, and what emerges is strangely hypnotic and uplifting. Something similar happens on Zachary Paul’s visceral ‘Sunken Cathedral’, where his scratchy violin rests on top of a a shimmering, impenetrable blur of rapid oscillations and drones so ephemeral that they could be sonic approximations of heat haze.

The Eternal Chord is a collaborative project in its own right, and Bis dat is broad minded enough to accommodate collaborations within that collaboration. Alcibiades is a pairing of the elusive radio static-manipulating venoztks and Jay Glass Dubs. Their ominous ‘Omicronology’ exists as a combination of skipping, hopping waves of intrafrequency growling and unfathomable vocal bursts, over which an inquisitive gamelan-style melody is interwoven. We hear echoes of the piece’s background radiation in a concluding piece from The Eternal Chord – ‘Omnia transeunt’ – which is many steps removed from anything resembling an organ, a ringing synth pulse and whistling sound approximating an unpredictable melody.

We all have a perception of what organ music sounds like. With Bis dat, and indeed all the various Spire activities, we are encouraged – forcibly, noisily and occasionally uncomfortably – to rethink that perception.

Bis dat was released May 6 2022 by Spire / Touch.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2022 Further.

Arun Sood – Searching Erskine

In the last few years, the music that’s resonated with me the most has tended to have a connection to Scotland: Andrew Wasylyk’s Eastern Scotland trilogy, Erland Cooper’s Orkney triptych, Letters From Mouse’s Tarbolton Bachelors Club, Emeka Ogboh’s Song Of The Union and Simon Kirby / Tommy Perman / Rob St. John’s Concrete Antenna.

Scotland is in my blood and an important facet of my everyday life. My mother was both in Stirling’s Royal Infirmary and lived in Scotland until she was twenty-five years old. Every year of my childhood we’d travel up to see relatives near Falkirk. I was aware, appreciative and proud of my family tree and my connection to Scotland. Great aunts, cousins, friends of the family that were positioned as relatives yet weren’t – all of these figures, and their myriad accents and pasts appeared prominently in my childhood and left me with an unbreakable fondness for a country that, though I have never lived there, feels like where I am from. We took our two teenage daughters to Scotland for the first time in 2020, during a period of heightened awareness of mortality and the value of family bonds, and I attribute the way I have gravitated to these Scottish-related releases above others, in part, to that.

Unquestionably, to this can be added Arun Sood’s stirring Searching Erskine.

Sood is a Scottish-Indian academic and artist operating in the disciplines of sound art, music and writing. While Sood is currently based in Devon, the focus of Searching Erskine is some 700 miles away, namely the uninhabited small island of Vallay, just over a strand from North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. For Sood, this is not a romantic far-flung location upon which to base a project; this is where the Scottish side of his family’s history lies, and it has proven to be a source of creative inspiration for him since 2011.

Sood’s grandmother, Katie Maclellan, worked as a housekeeper on the island until she left in 1944. Her employer was one Erskine Beveridge, a wealthy linen manufacturer and archaeological historian who had erected a grand house, Taigh Mòr, on the island in 1905. Sood made field recordings while camping on Vallay in 2019, some of which were recorded in the ruins of Beveridge’s crumbling house. In his introductory essay to a book accompanying the twelve musical pieces, Sood recounts the moment he became very aware of the sounds of the island. “The geese, the gull shrieks, the grassy whispers,” he muses. “I began to wonder if my grandmother might have heard similar sonic tapestries to the ones I was hearing, only in a different time.” This question prompted Sood to explore the idea of sounds “triggering memories and re-imaginings of the past.”

Vallay’s remote location puts it on a direct collision course with climate change. It is already changed from when Sood’s grandmother walked across the strand at low tide to North Uist for the last time, and in truth it had already changed through successive ice ages, evidence of which was uncovered by Erskine Beveridge’s archaeological excavations. The fading island topography and the ruin of Beveridge’s house is an allegory for Sood’s personal history, and all of our personal histories. Disney’s Coco reminds us that departed people only live in so long as our memory preserves them. In this way, Searching Erskine can be viewed and heard as a poignant document of his own family lineage, made immortal so long as digital and physical media endure.

Searching Erskine begins with ‘Katie’, setting a verse delivered by Sood to a backdrop of delicate synths, sprinkles of piano and cello from Alice Allen, suffused with field recordings of his 2019 camping trip. His words are, in part, recollections from his grandmother, but also questions about whether the sounds surrounding him in 2019 might in fact be the long-range echoes of what his grandmother herself had heard. On ‘Land Seeps’, Sood recorded inside the remains of her cottage, setting his words to a bed of intense accordion drones, while Alice Allen’s cello gives the many-layered ‘Taigh Mòr’, prompted by recordings inside the sad ruin of the Beveridge house, a mournful, wistful tone.

This is not just Sood’s rumination on his own family connection to Vallay. His own ancestry is inextricably linked to the Beveridges, and their own histories appear vividly in some of the pieces here. ‘He Was Drowned’ and ‘The Cairn’ are responses to the story of George Beveridge, Erskine’s son, who drowned crossing the strand to North Uist, while ‘Vasa’ features spoken extracts from Erskine’s book North Uist: Its Archaeology And Topography read by his grand-nephew.

Crucial to the emotional impact that these pieces possess are Sood’s wonderful and evocative arrangements. In addition to his many field recordings and captured conversations with his family, these pieces are filled with strings, chanter, organs, guitars and delicate synths from his friend and collaborator Alastair Smith. Identifying individual instruments – with the possible exception of Allen’s austere cello – is virtually impossible thanks to looping and processing, all of which deliver the gauzy, sepia-tinged sonic personality that gives this body of work its personal and emotional impact.

Though it is possible to listen to Searching Erskine and get a measure of the narrative, the accompanying book is essential for unlocking its secrets. Alongside Sood’s wonderful, evocative introductory essay are visual responses to Vallay by photographer Emile Kees, artist and academic Rosalind Blake and Outer Hebrides-based visual artist Meg Rodger. Each of these artists draws something unique from the idea of Vallay. For Kees, his approach was to digitally process old photographs, including one of Sood’s great-grandfather, leaving visual ghosts and intentional obfuscation. Blake centred her attention on the the various impressions of the island’s tidal geography through vibrant colour schemes and repeated lines. For Rodger, the idea was to use abstract skyscapes to evoke the gulf between art (imagination) and archaeology (facts).

Most crucial are Sood’s own notes for the musical pieces, revealing the inspiration, intention and story behind each. It is always intriguing to peek inside an artist’s motivations, and Sood leaves no detail hidden. Through these descriptions we alight upon the intense personal connection he has to his family history, and to Vallay, including in the naming of his daughter, Vallya. “Our children are ancestors too,” he explains of ‘Crossing’. “They bind our future with what came before us.” Vallya’s heartbeat, recorded while still in the womb, is just audible in this piece, beneath a stirring translated version of the Gaelic song ‘Cailin Mo Ruinsa’, something that Sood’s uncle Colin – possibly the last to be born on Vallay – was to be heard singing after a wee drop of firewater every night.

Searching Erskine might be deeply, intentionally personal in nature, but its ultimate conceit is to make such a personal story relatable to anyone aware and appreciative of their own history. Our lineage may not be as interesting or storied as Sood’s, but his sensitive recognition of the importance of how we got here – and the legacy we bequeath to those who come after us – is what makes this release resonate so strongly, and Sood’s understated technique so powerful.

Searching Erskine by Arun Sood was released March 4 2000 by Blackford Hill.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2022 Further.

Shots: Strategic Tape Reserve – The Center For Understanding New Trigonometries / Chorchill


More bonkers electronic music from Cologne’s Strategic Tape Reserve and their Learning By Listening series. Shapes, For Experts by the mysterious Center For Understanding New Trigonometries* purports to be an academic study of the humble shape and its hidden dimensions. Using spoken word segments delivered by a pair of professorial types, as well as bursts of rapturous – if slightly uncomfortable – vocals, all set to fizzing, science documentary electronics that remind me of soundtracks in the Epcot pavilions. Even if shapes like the tolstoyanmetaphoria, hemi-helix or appalonian gasket don’t actually exist – though who can honestly say that they don’t? – the presentation here is convincing, tapping into themes of conspiracies and wonky YouTube-delivered science theories. The Center are keen to offer shape assistance to anyone looking for it – however, as they readily admit, their website doesn’t work. Released March 18 2022. * Not to be turned into an acronym.

CHORCHILL & APEL OKUYAN – Modern Tavla (Strategic Tape Reserve)

In a moment of genius, the seventh volume in the Learning By Listening series turns out to be about something that actually exists! Whereas previous releases have traded in the vague, fantastical and simply outlandish, Modern Tavla by Germany’s Chorchill places its attention on an actual Turkish board game. Tavla is a slight variation on backgammon and Chorchill’s cassette is neatly split between one side focussed on the traditional form of the game, and another focussed on its modern modifications. These ruminations on the board game are delivered through narrations by Apel Okuyan, also known as Nachtfisch, a figure – unlike tavla – who probably doesn’t exist outside of Chorchill’s imagination. The musical accompaniment is delicate, inquisitive and full of wonder, comprised of sprinkles of electronic melody and sparse sound design that evoke the notion of a sedate, leisurely game played outside Turkish pavement cafes. Released April 1 2022.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2022 Further.