Espen J. Jörgensen / Rupert Lally – Stillium Partita (archive review)

Ten years ago, Espen J. Jörgensen and Rupert Lally released Stillium Partita, heralding the start of a vital distance collaboration which produced a rich seam of albums and projects together while never once managing to go over old ground or repeat themselves.

According to Lally, I was one of the first to pick up on the album, reviewing the release for my Documentary Evidence blog. To commemorate its anniversary, the duo recorded a video about the release, its creation and how they feel about it now. The video also features my thoughts on the album, a decade on. An edited version of my original review appears below the video.

Espen J. Jörgensen, a Norwegian documentary film-maker, fan of circuit-bent instruments and one-time collaborator with Simon Fisher Turner on the Soundescapes album that Mute released in 2011, has launched his own label – No Studio – and crafted an album with Swiss-based ex pat Rupert Lally entitled Stillium Partita. Consisting of seventeen electronic tracks that manage to blend together chilled-out Global Communication-style synthetic ambience with some more harsh, gritty sound sources, Stillium Partita arrived quietly and with little notice via Bandcamp in July 2012.

Like Soundescapes, which arose from a chance encounter, what would become Stillium Partita started with a simple question. “Rupert asked Simon and I if he could do a remix of the track ‘Soundescaped’,” explains Jörgensen by email. “I didn’t know Rupert then, but he had done a remix of something which was included in Simon’s score for The Great White Silence. I thought the ‘Soundescaped’ remix was okay, but I thought Rupert’s personal stuff was way better, and I thought, though I was burnt out and all, that his stuff could be interesting with my stuff.”

At this point, Jörgensen wasn’t sure whether to make any more music. “I was tired and I wanted to quit,” he continues. “But I thought, ‘What the heck. Let’s ask him if he wants to do something,’ and Rupert said yes. It was as simple as that.” As with Soundescapes, tracks for Stillium Partita would start with Jörgensen compiling sounds which would then be sent to Lally to add his own ideas.

Tracks like opener ‘Åpen Sår’, ‘Cobalt Night’ or the majestic ‘Gefangen’ have a sort of glitchy, electronic soundtrack quality to them, full of complex layers, burbling synth patterns, delicate melodies and a rich array of almost industrial noise effects; ‘Skallax’ goes further into the noise oeuvre with a central ‘riff’ that could have come from either a transmitting modem or a ZX Spectrum computer game tape loading up. Despite such ear-challenging interludes, Jörgensen confirms that, unlike on Soundscapes where his sounds were processed to the point of unrecognisability by Simon Fisher Turner, the intention on his collaboration with Lally was to allow for more straightforward electronic sources to be incorporated.

“It doesn’t feel like a bad follow up to Soundescapes, as it’s a very different thing,” explains Jörgensen on the different approach taken through working with Lally. “When I record stuff, I’m kind of finished with it. I send it out, and insist that my collaborator only use the best bits, or the bits they connect with. From there I think it’s best that they do whatever they want to do in that moment; it’s best that they give a 100% on their front, and if it means that they only use a fragment from my recordings, then fine, that’s the best decision. So Rupert’s used my stuff as either background ‘noise’, things which he looped, or things that played the main theme. And I’m glad he did, I’m glad he put so much of himself into this. Simon added a few recordings to Soundescapes, but it was 98% my recordings. I’m sure if Rupert just edited my stuff it would sound different, but I´m glad he added synths, beats and guitars himself. He took my recordings to a different level.”

If Stillium Partita has a major reference point, it would be the electronic soundtracks that emerged most prominently in the Eighties, the interest in which has been rekindled and updated through the likes of Cliff Martinez and his pulsing score for Drive. Icy synth melodies converge with slowly-evolving rhythms and layers of more challenging, Rephlex-esque beats, sounds and textures. Whilst not conceived as a soundtrack at all, while listening to pieces like the expansive and ethereal ‘What’s The Film In Your Head?’ or the menacing, deep ‘Structure & Analysis’, you do find yourself wondering how these sounds might interact with scenes in some imaginary movie.

Jörgensen is emphatic that there wasn’t a plan at all for how these tracks ended up. “I approached Rupert because his take on music is very different from Simon’s. Lally’s stuff was more synth-driven. I’m not going to say that Rupert belongs to a category, but he’s this guy who knows a lot about programs and so on, plus is good at playing and arranging. He uses a lot of soft synths and I wanted to have a contrast to my stuff, which can be very harsh or organic, sound-wise. Rupert felt that the music was genre-less, though I think the album hat tips to certain sounds and ideas. That´s Lally´s fault since he actually knows how to play. But I like it. It has a great contrast sound-wise.”

As was the case when recording Soundescapes with Simon Fisher Turner, Jörgensen and Lally have never actually met. “Ironically, Simon and I finally met at the Great White Silence live performance here in Norway, which was after Soundescapes was made,” says Jörgensen. “We said that we could only work together because there was a distance, and now that we’ve met there can’t be another collaboration. Luckily, I haven’t met Rupert which means that there might be another release or two to come.”

Stillium Partita by Espen J. Jörgensen and Rupert Lally was released 15 July 2012.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2022 Further.
An earlier version of this reviewed appeared on Documentary Evidence in 2012

Mortality Tables: Goodparley – Two Meditations For Freya

MORTALITY TABLES
GOODPARLEY – TWO MEDITATIONS FOR FREYA

digital EP released today | remixes by Alka & Xqui

mortalitytables.bandcamp.com

Two improvised pieces for guitar. Recorded by Oli Richards (Goodparley) on 10 February 2022 in response to a concept by Mat Smith.

1. Meditation Twenty-Four (i) (For Freya)
2. Meditation Twenty-Four (ii) (For Freya)
3. Meditation Twenty-Four (i) (For Freya) – Alka Remix
4. Meditation Twenty-Four (ii) (For Freya) – Xqui Remix

Response: Oli Richards
Concept: Mat Smith
Mastering: John@SEODAH
Design: Neil Coe

A Mortality Tables Product
MTP10

CONCEPT NOTES BY MAT SMITH

‘Two Meditations For Freya’ is a sound response to anxiety.

On 10 January 2022, my youngest daughter found herself too scared to sleep. She was never a great sleeper as a baby and toddler, and now, as a teenager, often struggles to relax enough for bed.

This night was different, however. She seemed to be gripped by an intense and unrelenting panic which she could not explain. In context, she had been receiving weekly cognitive behavioural therapy treatment for anxiety and depression through CHUMS, a Bedfordshire charity focused on helping young people cope with mental health issues. She’d had one of her weekly sessions earlier that day and it seemed to have triggered something inside her, but she could not – or perhaps would not – articulate it.

In an effort to help her, I offered to stay in her room so that she could feel safe and reassured enough to drift off. As she tossed and turned, I decided to practice some guided meditation in the midnight darkness of her room. She eventually fell asleep while listening to the rhythm of my breath. For the next week, we practiced short meditations together every night just before bed, and she slept better every night that week.

Around that time I was working with Oli Richards as he prepared his album Meditations Vol. 1 for release by Wormhole World. The album collected five improvised guitar ‘meditations’, each one recorded in the first few minutes after he woke up in the morning. Oli had begun releasing these pieces in November 2021, and I had been struck by their beauty and simplicity. I began seeing them as brief moments of acute stillness in which to detach from the world, and support my own meditation practice.

I approached Oli with the story of how Freya couldn’t sleep and asked if he’d consider recording an improvisation for her, to support the meditations she and I were doing together. His recordings were made on 10 February 2022 at his home in Cardiff. They were originally released through Oli’s Bandcamp page later the same day.

All proceeds from this release will go to CHUMS. CHUMS provides mental health and emotional wellbeing support for children, young people and their families.
chums.uk.com

ABOUT GOODPARLEY

Goodparley (Oli Richards) is a Cardiff-based musician and sound artist. His sounds are largely based around improvised ambient guitar loops and textures, manipulated in real-time using various modulating effects to create inherently experimental soundscapes.
goodparley.bandcamp.com

ABOUT MORTALITY TABLES

“In an effort to circumvent our unalterable mortality, we create. We make SOUNDS, ART, WORDS. These things are our INSURANCE against death.”
– Mortality Tables, On Mortality, Immortality & Charles Ives (2022)

E Peritia Ratio: reason from experience.

Nothing happens without context. Every event has a catalyst. There is no such thing as a blank page.

So it goes that each Mortality Tables Product must begin with an outline of an initial creative concept – a thought; a notion; a moment of serious whimsy; a considered reflection on life, memory, love, loss, trauma, death.

We document those ideas, then invite collaborators to respond freely to them.

They may ignore us. They may say no. They may say yes. Whoever we invite to participate shall be unencumbered by restriction, constraint, expectation, convention, limit or judgement.

There are never any right or wrong answers, because there are no questions. There is nothing more than the idea and the response.

Mortality Tables
Est. Bloomsbury, 2019
mortality-tables.com
Mortality Tables illustration by Savage Pencil

(c) 2022 Mortality Tables

Hems / Merkaba Macabre / Pagan Red / Sybil – IKLECTIC, London 11.06.2022

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

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.

Merkaba Macabre

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.

Hems

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.

Words and bad photography: Mat Smith

(c) 2022 Further.

The Tapeworm: Alex The Fairy / The Howling / Blood Music

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

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.

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. 

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.”

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“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.

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.