New label Titrate took over South London’s IKLECTIK for a night of modular electronic adventures interspersed with a drones ‘n’ tones DJ set from Sybil.
Pagan Red’s set, featuring material that will form an upcoming release on Titrate, was all about that bass. After beginning with ghostly voices that are possibly about physics, a pulse emerges like a heartbeat rendered like a dub riddim, eventually replaced by quickening pattern that approximates rave or techno. The unbroken composition features undulating bass tones that fuck with your sense of perception, being focused and resolute yet open-minded enough to permit gentle, almost imperceptible changes to appear.
The last time I came upon Steven McInerney was with his film ‘A Creak In Time’, featuring a soundtrack from Howlround. ‘Trilateral Descent’, his performance as Merkaba Macabre, combines 16mm projections and modular synth patterns, in part triggered by three light sensors affixed to the wall of the performance space. The result is a suite of rapid fluctuations and intense, bass-heavy pulses gathering pace, while the imagery alternates between shots of woodland and twisting, mind-melting geometric lines. Imagine Disney’s Fantasia hacked by Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable set to a vibrant modular score and you’ll be somewhere close.
The headline from Hems set begins with a conversation, about what or who I can’t tell, before evolving into a shadowy, indeterminate soundfield. White noise and gradually intensifying sound waves give way to a soft whooshing, a singular crash providing a precursor to a rhythm that only arrives much later. From where I stand at the sound desk someone bites into a crisp; someone’s wristwatch advises that it’s 2300; a person orders a drink at the bar outside. These sounds are somehow integral, though accidental. An intensifying crackle, like a transmission from elsewhere, is sparse and spooky. A nascent kick drum reaches rave-y intensity before falling back into nothingness, replaced by a snarling, intense pattern that seems to appear out of nowhere, set to a recurrence of that solitary kick drum. In contrast to his debut release for Titrate, Chaotic Affair, Henrique Matias’ set is unnervingly brutal yet intensely subtle.
Based on the performances tonight, Titrate is definitely a label to watch.
Three new ferric masterpieces from the endlessly-uncoiling Tapeworm imprint.
Can I Hear The Sound Of A Falling Branch is the latest missive from Alex The Fairy (Alexander Catlin Freytag), who manages to sidestep the expected norms of minimal electronic music by offering a series of mostly canapé-sized pieces. ‘Waking Up In Your Bed’ is a fast-paced electro cut whose crisp and frenetic rhythm is offset by murmuring synths and drones that recall the fogginess of a gap-filled night.
The brilliantly-titled ‘There’s A Cashier On The Beach They’re Scanning Pebbles Very Quickly’ is full of layers of crisscrossing bleeps that sound like saxophone blurts over a beat that lurches along like a sunbather with heatstroke, while ‘Green White’ offers woodblock percussion, a low-slung bassline and wobbly, indecipherable vocal interjections. Final track ‘User Sale’ is the Double Big Mac to the sliders elsewhere, a hypnotic, eleven-minute, restless banger built from a relentless, sinewy synth sequence and crisp, resolute techno beat.
The second cassette comes from The Howling – broadcaster and writer Ken Hollings and Robin The Fog’s Howlround project. Both sides feature a short snippet of narrated text from Hollings looped, processed and manipulated in real-time using to reel-to-reel tape machines. The result is like an updated take on Alvin Lucier’s ‘I Am Sitting In A Room’, except that Hollings wasn’t at home but at the Wimpy Bar on Streatham High Street. After listening to approximately 360 brilliantly evolving iterations of the b-side’s single enquiry – “Are you man enough for Mega Force?” – pushed through Howlround’s macho manipulations, I can confirm, regrettably, that I’m probably not.
Completing May’s wormy triptych is Blood Music’s For The Vagus Nerve. The project of London’s Simon Pomery, here we find Blood Music offering two weighty dronescapes, each laden with weighty power electronics and tense guitar distortion. Like all the best drones, there’s two games being played here – the intense fluctuations occupying the foreground and the more delicate, overlapping microtonal oscillations off in the background. Less music to relax meditate to and more music to dissect and dismember to, For The Vagus Nerve is a brutal, all-encompassing listen best played extremely, nay offensively, loud, ideally when your neighbours are having a garden party next door and the smoke from their barbecue is making your freshly-washed smalls smell like burning flesh. Uncompromising, violent and beautiful, replete with a macabre narrative from Pomery not unlike a philosophical Patrick Bateman delivered while draped in a victim’s entrails.
Can I Hear The Sound Of A Falling Branch by Alex The Fairy, All Hail Mega Force by The Howling and For The Vagus Nerve by Blood Music were released May 20 2022 by The Tapeworm: www.thetapeworm.org.uk
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.”
“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’.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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…”
“Burns was a known romancer and there is nothing more romantic than candlelight.”
“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.
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.
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.
Enjoying Nature is the third album in Strategic Tape Reserve’s Learning By Listening series, “an educational, instructive cassette series designed to bring the information of the world into your home, and your brain.” Previous volumes have focussed on obscure, un-Googleable, audaciously false topics: Orca, Attack! delivered an album about Course Management System Optimization and Simon Proffitt’s Instituto Bangara-Rossa Internacional offered up a sonic handbook for a purportedly widely-played card game.
If Learning By Listening has generally operated with its tongue placed firmly in its cheek, the pairing of Goodparley (Cardiff’s Oli Richards) and Poppy Jennings seems to avoid this, at least musically anyway. The album’s narrative describes it playfully as a “mystical guide to the art of experiencing nature… for both those comfortable with outdoor environments as well as beginners,” and Richards readily admits it was started in jest before eventually becoming more sincere.
Taking the form of a series of delicate and quietly uplifting pieces, Enjoying Nature operates authentically in resonance with the spiritual music oeuvre. Both Richards and Jennings offer ruminative spoken word passages that float on top of the music like guided meditation texts or naturalistic poetic reflections, while Richards’ choice of textures carry a questing, transcendent fluidity. On ‘Walking Each Other Home’, cascading zither melodies wrap themselves around the listener with tenderness, evoking spiritual music landmarks like Laraaji’s Day Of Radiance. The opening track acts as a tribute to the work of Ernest Hood, whose obscure 1975 album Neighborhoods evoked a pastoral quietude that has now been all but drowned-out by the clamour of the modern world.
Learning By Listening albums are puzzling affairs. They are meant to be enjoyed primarily through a suspension of belief; once you acknowledge the joke, they can be approached as intelligent, artistic collections. Enjoying Nature is, I think, different.
Heard with an open mind, its pieces can be soothing, helpful and restorative. I’ll readily admit that my mind has all too often been closed to spiritual music, and if you’d handed me this tape two years ago I would have found it a difficult listen. Things changed as the pandemic settled in. With the benefit of hindsight, I now see that I experienced a breakdown that I never would have expected. In the hollow void that it left, I found myself urgently in need of something to help me get myself back on track.
The books that I’d tried to read but couldn’t find a way into (Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind being the most obvious) and the meditation practice I’d always been too closed-minded and uptight to surrender to – these things suddenly became essential, necessary aspects of my recovery. I found myself in a message exchange with Richards where he recommended Be Here Now by Ram Dass, which I quickly bought and digested far quicker than any other book that I’ve bought in the last ten years. I found myself working with my good friends Gareth Jones and Christopher Bono, first on their Nous Alpha album A Walk In The Woods and then with Christopher on his monumental Circle Of Celebration album with Arji OceAnanda and Laraaji. I found myself open-minded for the first time in my life; more accepting; more understanding of my mind’s wants and needs; more prepared to find ways to heal myself outside of the coping strategies I’d used before.
I see Enjoying Nature as part of my toolkit of recovery. A greater personal compliment to what Richards and Jennings have created with this release I’m not sure I could find.
Enjoying Nature by Goodparley and Poppy Jennings was released by Strategic Tape Reserve on September 24 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.