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

THE CENTER FOR UNDERSTANDING NEW TRIGONOMETRIES – Shapes, For Experts (Strategic Tape Reserve)

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.

Shots: superpolar Taïps – Therapeutische Hörgruppe / Orca, Attack!

THERAPEUTISCHE HÖRGRUPPE – DANCE TILT / TRANCE TILT (superpolar Taïps)

A new cassette single release by the ever-inventive superpolar Taïps comes from Cologne-based Therapeutische Hörgruppe, a group active in the fields of sound art and electroacoustic exploration for over ten years. Information about the group’s membership is scarce, but it apparently consists of four individuals today. ‘Dance Tilt’ feels like there are four individual inputs going on at once, assembled without much heed to whether they neatly integrate with the others – a monotone voice, a wraith-like howl, a crunchy 8-bit rhythm, a faltering arpeggio – making for a wonderfully chaotic two-minute sprawl of a track. ‘Trance Tilt’ is no less messy, but places its attention on a loop of hand percussion, providing a calm centre offsetting the seemingly random sounds that ebb and flow around it. Released March 4 2022.

ORCA, ATTACK! – YOU WON’T REMEMBER THIS (superpolar Taïps)

Another fine release in the superpolar Taïps cassette single series, this time from Orca, Attack!, the New Orleans duo of Elizabeth Joan Kelly and David Rodriguez. Their first release since last year’s C.M.S.O. – the debut album in Strategic Tape Reserve’s highly recommended, educational Learning By Listening series – the two-track single finds two distinct faces of Orca, Attack! ‘You Won’t Remember Me’ sounds like it should belong on a Dirty Projectors or Fleet Foxes album, all languid acoustic guitars, yearning vocals from Rodriguez and haunting, elegiac harmonies from Kelly. Around the halfway mark the track suddenly pivots into a cloud of exultant wordless vocals, a jubilant beat and sounds that seem to soar gracefully skyward. On the flip, the instrumental ‘World Map’ is all low-slung bass, wonky melodies and unfathomable rhythms. Eclecticism rules. Released April 1 2022.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2022 Further.

Isambard Khroustaliov – Shanzhai Acid

Upon initial examination, the latest album from Isambard Khroustaliov (Sam Britton) is a sprawling, incoherent, fundamentally unnavigable mess of wavering sounds, tense discordancy and angry pulses. 

Even after a few listens, Shanzhai Acid is nigh on impenetrable, enveloping you in a sticky latticework of cross-crossing sounds and faltering non-melodies that bounce, spin and agitate uncontrollably from ear to ear. I played this on a walk through London’s rush-hour streets and somehow the chaos of the ten pieces here felt like the perfect accompaniment to the rabid, focused, bloodthirsty commitment of thousands of commuters trying to get home. 

These observations are not criticisms. Shanzhai Acid is intentionally presented thus. Britton’s latest work takes two disparate inputs as the basis for what is essentially a conceptually auditory study: the inventive Chinese manufacture of cheaply-produced electronic devices, and the cultural hyper-legacy left behind by acid house music. 

Not that you will hear any metronomic beats or aggressively-filtered 303s here. What can be detected, on ‘The Hand Of Mutt’ or ‘Quixotic Algorithmic Hubris’, is a freneticism and restlessness, expressed through algorithms, homegrown artificial intelligence and overlapping parameters. If you squint, you can feel the loved-up embrace of late-80s club music atomised into splinters of uncompromising electronics, assembled together like a badly-soldered printed circuit board. Those sounds rapidly cluster like Instagram ‘likes’ on an advert for a piece of hotly-tipped electronic gadgetry from a brand that you’ve never heard of; they then fall away as quickly after said device arrives in the mail, doesn’t work, and is promptly discarded. Like, buy, receive, replace; like, buy, receive, replace. 

This is not an album for those with a nervous disposition. It is an intense listen from the opening gestures of ‘A History Of Cybernetics’ to the sudden stop of ‘Meanwhile Cephalopods’. It reflects back the manic world we live in, our increasing device dependency and the twitchy, restless state of mind that comes with pixelated overstimulation. Another fine release from Britton which casts electronic sound as the only obvious vehicle for his anthropological observations. 

Shanzhai Acid by Isambard Khroustaliov was released March 4 2022 by Not Applicable. 

Words: Mat Smith 

(c) 2022 Further. 

Goodparley – Meditations Vol. 1

PRESS RELEASE

Meditations Vol. 1 is the new album from Goodparley, the alias of Cardiff-based sound artist Oli Richards. Bathed in a calm but powerful quietude, Meditations Vol. 1 collects together five single-take improvised guitar pieces, each one recorded in the very first waking moments of Richards’ day. These are pieces of great lightness and subtlety, each one unfolding with a gentle, euphoric awareness.

The origins of the Meditations project can be traced back to 2020 with the release of Green Into Blue (Recordiau Prin). The album consisted of three long guitar improvisations selected from around seventy recordings that Richards made in the wake of a relationship breakdown, but which he never intended to release. They were personal moments in Richards’ life, designed more as a practice or discipline than a recording session. Using loop pedals and effects, the recordings that eventually appeared on Green Into Blue were live, unedited and freighted with deep contemplation.

Last year saw four releases from Goodparley – Canvas (Submarine Broadcasting) and Mist, Rain, Dust: Dissected Frequencies (TQN-aut), followed by two collaborations, Enjoying Nature with Poppy Jennings (Strategic Tape Reserve) and Surroundings with Ioan Morris (Subexotic). The upshot of that release schedule, as well as beginning the recording of a second album with his band Silent Forum, was that he barely touched his guitar for most of 2021, something that started to trouble Richards as the year progressed.

“Playing guitar is one of the most meditative things that I have in my life,” he says. “It’s literally a practice of meditation. I do meditate as well, and I also started doing yoga in the pandemic, which came about from struggling with my mental health. However, I enter a flow state the most when I’m messing around with pedals and playing the guitar.” The need to release new albums wasn’t something Richards felt he needed to do, so after a period of reflection late last year, he decided to find time in his day to start experimenting with his guitar again. 

Like many people, the pandemic forced Richards to manage his day job from home. “I’ve never been a morning person,” he admits, “but when working remotely, I soon found out that I needed some time before switching the laptop on and starting work.” To deal with that, Richards constructed a morning routine of meditation, yoga and journaling before starting work. Even then, he realised that he was dozing for ten or twenty minutes after his alarm went off, and contemplated using that time – when most people are still fast asleep – to play. 

“I set up my guitar and amp in front of the window that I tend to look out of when I’m meditating, and I just left it there,” he explains. “It means I’m good to play within 30 seconds of getting out of bed, even though I’m still half-asleep. I switch on the amp, plug in the pedals, plug in the guitar and play. Instead of either dozing or looking at The Guardian website and depressing myself, I’m already in a better mind state. It’s become my favourite part of the morning routine.” The results are imbued with a sort of inquisitive serenity, developing with a natural, unhurried tone; minor imperfections become important components of the way that the pieces unfold; melodies emerge, evolve then dissipate beneath new clusters of notes.

Richards began uploading these private recordings of his early morning practice to Bandcamp in November 2021, five of which are collected on the Meditations Vol. 1 CD. When it came to deciding on an image to upload with each piece, he turned to a batch of secondhand postcards picked up from outside a house in Cardiff. Richards had originally intended to use these as part of an elaborate project involving manipulating recordings of old pipe organs through a Moog Grandmother synthesiser. Instead, the postcards – faded, decades-old images of churches and bucolic landscapes – seemed the perfect accompaniment for Richards’ delicate, overlapping guitar loops. “Doing the improvisation and then taking the picture of the postcard just became an important part of the process,” he says. “I’ve been looking at these postcards for two years since I found them. I intuitively know what they feel like; I know what they look like. In a way, I think they’ve subtly influenced the way I approach the pieces.”

Postcards act as a useful analogue for what Richards is doing with the ongoing Meditations series. A postcard is a private method of communication between two people, yet anyone can turn a postcard over and read whatever has been written there. Similarly, the Meditations pieces began as private moments in Oli Richards’ life which are now available to anyone. Nevertheless, the pieces collected on this CD and those Richards continues to release remain uniquely personal documents of his own meditation, which is why the series is simply titled Meditations rather than a more directive Music For Meditation.

“I would be terrified of setting myself that grand intention of making these tracks so that other people can find solace in them,” he says. “A lot of ego can get into there and that’s not what I was going for. For want of a better phrase, I’m just jamming with myself on these pieces. If someone else wants to use them in some sort of meditative practice, that’s really great.”

Pre-order Meditations Vol. 1 at Bandcamp.

Meditations Vol. 1 by Goodparley is released March 25 2022 by Wormhole World

Press release text: Mat Smith

(c) 2022 Mat Smith for Goodparley / Wormhole World

Shots: Sullow / The Silver Field / Johan Lindvall Trio / Bugge Wesseltoft / Eberson / The Night Monitor

SULLOW / THE SILVER FIELD – BETWIXT & BETWEEN 8 (Between & Betwixt)

A split cassette release from Sullow (Jacken Elswyth, Daniel S. Evans and Joshua Barfoot) and The Silver Field (Coral Rose and friends), each side dealing with the darker characteristics of folk music. Sullow’s seven banjo-led pieces are short and punchy improvisations full of fragile dissonance and stirring half-melodies, in thrall to a more complete form of traditional music that isn’t simply about pretty maidens running through fields clutching posies of wild flowers. The four Silver Field tracks continue Rose’s exploration of a unique sound world, fusing tapes, vocals and diverse instrumentation. ‘Godless/Doglegs’ begins with a squall of electronic noise before evolving into a rapturous, ritualistic piece full of euphoric vocals and bluesy cello melodies, while ’Chase’ is like a musique concrète interpretation of folk music for jaw’s harp and murky tape rhythms, alternating freely between the real and the ephemeral. Released January 28 2022.

https://betwixtbetweentapes.bandcamp.com/album/betwixt-between-8

JOHAN LINDVALL TRIO – THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU (Jazzland)

Jazz curiosities from Oslo courtesy of Johan Lindvall (piano), Adrian Myhr (bass) and Andreas Skår Winther (drums). The group are more than able to offer a classic presentation of the trio form on pieces like ‘Getting Out’, but it’s moments like opener ‘Imagine Something Different’ – with its unusual rhythmic time signature – suggest an interest in pushing the form from the polite background of the café to somewhere more radical. ‘Give Up’ has a pretty, memorable melody which will happily lodge itself in your brain for weeks, and a cover of Karen O’s ‘Rapt’ manages to stay recognisable while also highlighting Lindvall’s interpretative nous. The album concludes with a brilliant live recording of ‘Break’ from Stockholm’s Glenn Miller Café which finds the group at their most persuasive, the tight, measured playing hinting at early rock ‘n’ more than the group’s normal jazz furrow. Released February 18 2022.

https://johanlindvalltrio.bandcamp.com/album/this-is-not-about-you

BUGGE WESSELTOFT – BE AM (Jazzland)

The new album from Jazzland Recordings founder Bugge Wesseltoft is probably what we should all be listening to at this time of geopolitical anxiety. A profound serenity and hopefulness can be found in Wesseltoft’s pretty musings, which force you into a deeply soothed and contemplative state. Eschewing his usual eclectic array of keyboards, it is the venerable piano that prevails here, only occasionally accompanied by a wider set of instrumentation. ‘Life’ is a duet for piano and kalimba, the interaction between which leads to one of the more uncertain moments on the whole album, while ‘Emerging’ and ‘Roads’ benefit from the gentle saxophone interjections of Håkon Kornstad. To me, pieces like ‘Sunbeams Through Leaves Softly Rustling’ and ‘Resonate’ are the sound of the horrors of the pandemic coming to an end, being both reflectively subdued by the toll it took on all of us, but optimistically placing their attention on the future. A listen to this might also quell your existential fears, even if for a moment. Released February 25 2022.

https://buggewesseltoft.bandcamp.com/album/be-am

EBERSON – BETWEEN TWO WORLDS (Jazzland)

Between Two Worlds is the second album from Norway’s Eberson, the pairing of guitarist Jon Eberson and his daughter Marte on keyboards. For their new album together, they are joined by Jo Berger Myhre (bass), Rune Arnesen (percussion) and Axel Skalstad (drums). ‘Strange Highway’ is the album’s dynamic highlight, a fast-paced rush through incisive guitar riffs that weave in and out of insistent keyboard motifs. ‘Dancing With The Big Fish’ swims forth on soft keys, melodic sprinkles and a churning, rich bassline, over which Eberson Sr. offers a warm and evocative guitar riff that belongs in an episode of Miami Vice before fragmenting into a series of dextrous solos. The album’s title track is principally a vehicle for Marte Eberson’s playing, opening with a flute-style riff offset by ripples and soothing pads over an irrepressibly smooth rhythm section that sounds like The Funk Brothers chilling in Norway. Released March 4 2022.

https://eberson.bandcamp.com/album/between-two-worlds

THE NIGHT MONITOR – THEIR DARK DOMINION (Fonolith)

Continuing his adventures through the world of the unexplained and paranormal, Their Dark Domininion finds Blackpool’s Neil Scrivin exploring the mystery of Clapham Wood in Sussex. The story goes that the area was home to a cult purportedly including elite members of society called The Dark Hectate, and the skies above the wood were known for their UFO sightings and other strange phenomena. As ever, the back story provides the ideal inspiration for Scrivin’s unique brand of electronic composition. Pads float up from the ground like fog, melodies present themselves with unresolved open-endedness, leaving more questions than answers, and the whole thing feels like its drenched with sinister inquisitiveness. ‘The Pit And The Pentagon’ stands out for its creepy hook and choir textures, while the title track hitches a chilling synth riff to a strident drum pattern bespeaking ominous foreboding. No one does brooding electronic music quite like Scrivin, and this is undoubtedly one of his best releases to date. Released March 4 2022.

https://thenightmonitor.bandcamp.com/album/their-dark-dominion

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2022 Further.

Tracks: Letters From Mouse – Tarbolton Bachelors Club

Tarbolton Bachelors Club is the latest album from Edinburgh’s Steven Anderson (Letters From Mouse). The follow-up to 2021’s An gàrradh, which drew its sound architecture from Anderson’s back garden, Tarbolton Bachelors Club again finds Letters From Mouse exploring localities. This time the connection is between the country park of Polkemmet near Whitburn and the village of Tarbolton, the common thread being Scotland’s Bard, Robert ‘Rabbie’ Burns.

The Polkemmet estate was acquired by the Baillie family in 1620, establishing a country house there which eventually became a hospital in the Second World War used by Polish soldiers escaping the Nazi occupation of Poland. The house was demolished in the 1960s but its grounds – including its mausoleum – were re-established as a country park.

Anderson included a track named after Polkemmet on 2020’s Proto Human. “The atmosphere in Polkemmet Country Park is pretty special, the history of the place is palpable and my family spend a fair bit of time there,” says Anderson. “I used to play at Polkemmet as a kid, and I was always mucking about in the river, sailing boats and stuff. I was too young to know or appreciate the history of the place and it’s only recently that I have really started to realise it’s significance. The atmosphere in the park is magical, especially in the woodland and it’s this I have tried to tap into with the music on Tarbolton Bachelors Club. I use a modular synth setup, which I think this can sound very organic, atmospheric and emotional. It’s perfect for a project like this.”

The album is named after the club, founded in a small thatched house in the village of Tarbolton, that appointed Burns as its first chairman when it was formed in 1780. Burns was then an unpublished poet and the bachelors’ club was intended as a place for local single men to come together, talk, dance and debate the issues of the day. The Tarbolton group would go on to inspire many Burns Clubs around the world, its membership observing one founding rule that stated members were not permitted to acknowledge the existence of the club, where masonic virtue was pre-eminent. In keeping with other lodges or clubs, the Tarbolton club issued ‘pennies’ to mark initiations or to celebrate members.

“The Masons are something I don’t know much about to be honest,” admits Anderson. “I can remember being in a hotel bar near Stranraer 20 years ago and the owner mentioned the Tarbolton Penny. At the time I had no idea what he was talking about but for some reason it stuck in my head. I remembered this when researching Burns for the album, and I even ended up buying a Tarbolton Penny on eBay.”

Anderson’s music is well-suited to exploring these sorts of narratives, something that shone through brightly on An gàrradh. “I’m definitely a bit old school here. I dislike the whole streaming culture and one-off songs or singles. I like to listen to an album from start to finish and a good story helps, I think. Telling that can be more challenging with instrumental music as opposed to using singing and lyrics which spell it out for you. Having a theme or concept just feels right to me.”

That being said, diving into the legacy and importance of Burns felt a little risky to Anderson. “I wasn’t sure how cool it would be,” he says. “However, I avoided bagpipes and Dan from Subexotic didn’t use any tartan in the artwork! I really only started to appreciate Rabbie later in life, and when I was putting this album together it has been amplified considerably. I’ve started to see what an impact he has had, not only in Scotland but across the world. Not bad for a cheeky chappie who was fond of the ladies.”

Stephen Anderson’s tour through the Tarbolton Bachelors Club

Elizabeth

“Elizabeth Bishop (1785 – 1817) was Robert Burns’ first child, conceived during an affair with Elizabeth Paton. Elizabeth married John Bishop, factor to the Baillie of Polkemmet and I believe they lived in Halfway House which is situated on the edge of the estate grounds.”

NS92476494

“This is the grid reference for where Polkemmet House used to stand. The footsteps you hear at the beginning and end of the track are me and my daughter walking to that exact spot.”

South Church Beastie

“Elizabeth is buried in the grounds of this church in my home town of Whitburn. The first building here was in erected in 1658 and has had repairs and extension. The reference to ‘Beastie’ links to the famous Burns poem, ’To A Mouse’.”

Tarbolton Penny

“Burns lived for a while in the Ayrshire town of Tarbolton which is where he founded the bachelors’ club, just before his works started drawing attention. At this club he entered into Freemasonry. In orders such as the Masons, tokens – also known as pennies – were issued for a variety of reasons including signifying a pivotal part of the mason’s initiation, celebrating a particular mason, or as proof of membership to a lodge.”

Stephen Anderson’s Tarbolton Penny

Trefoil

“Following the war Polkemmet House became Trefoil School and was run by Girl Guides movement. The school was opened by the Queen Elizabeth (then Princess Elizabeth), who later became the school’s patron. The school moved to Gogarburn which is just outside Edinburgh. After its time as a school, the house was used by the Scottish Police College.”

Cordiality

“Contrary to the pictures in your mind that the term bachelors’ club may generate, the one started by Burns was a civil affair where gentlemen debated the latest issues of the day and learned to dance – all without alcohol. It all sounds most cordial.”

Lily Bonie

“Expressing warm tenderness to his love-begotten daughter and welcoming his child, Burns wrote the following lines:

Welcome! lily bonie, sweet, wee dochter,
Tho’ ye come here a wee unsought for,
And tho’ your comin’ I hae fought for,
Baith kirk and queir;
Yet, by my faith, ye’re no unwrought for
That I shall swear!…
Lord grant that thou may ay inherit
Thy mither’s person, grace, an’ merit,
An’ thy poor, worthless daddie’s spirit,
Without his failins,
‘Twill please me mair to see thee
Than stocket mailens…”

Candles

“Burns was a known romancer and there is nothing more romantic than candlelight.”

Element C6

“Carbon has the symbol C and the atomic number 6. Coal contains mostly carbon and it’s with coal that our connection to Polkemmet lies. The National Coal Board, who operated many coal mines in the area, bought Polkemmet House. My father was a miner back in the day. He hated it, and it was dangerous dirty work indeed. There is no getting away from the historical importance of coal in this area.”

A Man’s A Man For A’ That

“This track was added after the album had been completed. I’ve been working on a project with my brother-in-law Martin Gibbons, who happens to be a really talented musician and singer. I asked Martin if he’d like to record a reading and I was thinking that I could sample it and use it somehow. I liked what he did though so set about adding some music as backing and I thought it worked really well. I think it does a great job of rounding off the album. It’s brilliant to have family involved and hopefully it’ll be a nice thing to look back on in years to come.”

Interview: Mat Smith

Tarbolton Bachelors Club by Letters From Mouse was released January 28 2022 by Subexotic.

(c) 2022 Further.

Uli Federwisch & Chip Perkins – Visiting Places

Visiting Places is the fifth release in Strategic Tape Reserve’s Learning By Listening series, which has so far brought us volumes by Orca, Attack!, Goodparley & Poppy Jennings and bleed Air. The premise, as stated boldly by the label, is a “educational, instructive cassette series designed to bring the information of the world into your home, and your brain”.

No risk warning is attached, but it’s best to approach the series with a degree of casual circumspection. That includes, in this case, whether the artists themselves – Ulrich ‘Uli’ Federwisch (Secretary-General of the Prüm-Eupen Partnership For Success, previously CEO of an Euskirchen producer of parts used in industrial heat exchangers) and Chip Perkins (voice actor) – are even real. Googling their names yields nothing but nondescript corporate types and a litany of previous Strategic Tape Reserve releases, the cover for one of which (One Dazzling Moment) really needs to be seen to be believed.

Caution aside, with the Nordrhein-Westfalen duo at the helm, we find ourselves journeying across Central Europe courtesy of Federwisch’s synths and Perkins’ narration. Well, sort of. The topography may be representative of Central Europe, but what we encounter isn’t. Thanks to Perkins’ engaging, genial but slightly detached and occasionally trippy observations, we find ourselves on a fantastical voyage through strange and weird places, customs and events. A tricycle with one back wheel bigger than the other so that it can only move in a circle and the generous, congenial offer of pea soup by villagers (“They are just being polite; there is no pea soup.”) are just two of the oddest stories told. There is something vaguely reminiscent of the Welcome To Night Vale podcast here, of unfathomable practices, events and people that seem to exist sequestered away from the mundanity of homogenised real life and monoculture.

Federwisch’s synth accompaniments are full of Moog-y melodic wonder and immersive, intricate detail, evolving episodically depending on where we find ourselves on the journey. A section to accompany a section about a dangerous model railway museum exhibit might have been taken from a Radiophonic Workshop soundtrack for a radio play, all tiny sounds and details that eddy and spin around your ears. Other sections rely on crisp, unswerving but minimalist rhythms and brittle high-end tones, occasionally slipping into psychedelic ephemerality. A section at the start of ‘Part 2’ has the casual motorik pulse of vintage electronic pop, while the accompaniment to the aforementioned tricycle story has a breezy, lolloping, wonky circularity.

Five volumes in, it would appear that the key lesson emerging from the tongue-in-cheek Learning By Listening series and its skewed, surrealist sounds is that we should collectively challenge the excruciating seriousness normally attached to most electronic music.

Words: Mat Smith

Visiting Places by Uli Federwisch and Chip Perkins was released January 7 2022 by Strategic Tape Reserve.

(c) 2022 Further.

The Tapeworm: Evan Lindorff-Ellery / Bill Thompson / Ken Hollings / Opal X

A batch of winter missives from the forever-wriggling Tapeworm label begins with Evan Lindorff-Ellery’s No Water Recordings 2011, taken from an extensive collection of field recordings for hydrophone and contact mics made in Ravenswood, Chicago. On ‘Fringes And Singing’, with a hydrophone placed under a bridge rather than in open water, the sounds are relentlessly squalling, tearing, violent and oppressively over-amped, as if made during a storm. In contrast, on the B-side (‘Meditation’), made with a contact mic, ceramic insulator and brick, we hear a comparative serenity, with undulating currents and the distant, calming sound of estuarine birds atop the water, but to this pessimistic listener it seems to embody the constant threat that unsettled waters could return at any moment.

Bill Thompson’s Black Earth Tongue originates from recordings made for dance unit In The Making Collective’s Edinburgh Fringe performance, Mushroom! (2016), created using laptop, field recordings, found objects and live electronics. With titles named after Japanese misspellings of fungi, Black Earth Tongue is an immediately absorbing listen, with ringing drones, gently oscillating tones, clangs, sepulchral non-rhythms, controlled distortion and earthy bass seeming to evoke the notion of persistent growth and spread. How you’d choreograph for this work of mycological genius I really don’t know.

Bill Thompson performing music for Mushroom! (Edinburgh Fringe, 2016). Photo: Ian Cameron.

Recorded in the summer of 2001 at Brighton’s Festival Radio Studios, Destroy All Monsters finds author and The Wire music journalist Ken Hollings reading from his book of the same name. His engaging, if dystopian, vision of a alternative / futuristic Los Angeles ravaged by actual monsters and abused technology is accompanied by sound design and production from Brighton-based Further. favourite Simon James, an electronic musician and Buchla enthusiast. James’s accompaniment to Hollings’ bleak, detached narration of principal protagonist Sprite’s movements emerges as a low, grubby rumble full of sparse sparks of electronic noise, delicately brushed cymbals and subtly wafting, bubbling tones that remain unswervingly tense and pensive, regardless of what horrors Hollings is detailing in intricate and vivid detail. A section involving a leatherette-seated car suddenly being brutally crushed reverentially evokes Ballard’s Crash, while a simultaneously spiralling arc of M&Ms around a stray puppy carries a sinister, psychedelic effusiveness.

“Goth ASMR Hardcore” is the does-what-it-says-on-the-tin description of Twister by London’s anonymous Opal X, consisting of sixteen tracks of extreme incongruity – quiet spoken instructions about moving toward the light reminiscent of a thousand guided meditation podcasts, only where you might expect soft pads and ethereal new age-y textural accompaniment what you get instead are dark, brooding synths, insistent detuned Autechre-y rhythms, arrays of sci-fi bleeps and bloops, faded rave beats, euphoric vocal stabs, fragments of suspenseful horror film noise and occasional moments of serene clarity. The muddled outlook should be distressing – panic-inducing, almost – and yet somehow its quintessentially delicate character is ultimately what stays with you.

Words: Mat Smith

All four albums released December 3 2021 via the-tapeworm.bandcamp.com With thanks to Philip.

(c) 2021 Further.