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.

Orca, Attack! – C.M.S.O.

Orca, Attack! is a long-running, on-off, whale-admiring pairing of Elizabeth Joan Kelly and David Rodriguez. Both New Orleans musicians have parallel solo careers, and both find themselves dealing with a combination of technology, abject panic and general electronic music subversiveness. Together, their self-proclaimed “swamp-rock-meets-space-opera-and-folk” leanings as Orca, Attack!, in practice, sound nothing like that; it helps to approach their new release knowing that they have a penchant for tongue-in-cheek wryness. 

C.M.S.O. is a compact, six-track album released by the venerable Strategic Tape Reserve. The release is the label’s inaugural cassette in a series called Learning By Listening, purporting to be an educational initiative that builds up almost like a periodical subscription, or the separately-purchased volumes of an encyclopaedia “designed to bring the information of the world into your home, and your brain”. This first release covers something called ‘Course Management System Organization’. 

Fun, right? Try Googling it. 

The thing is, it all sounds plausible. These days you can whack any four vaguely corporate-sounding words together, create an acronym and let it live. In years to come, there may well arise a concept called Course Management System Organization, and Kelly and Rodriguez will be hailed as its lauded originators, but for now you have to accept that this is an educational tape about something that doesn’t exist. We live in a world of misinformation and mistruths; what’s real and what’s fake have become indistinguishable, giving rise to a weird sense of being in both a Kafka novel and an Escher picture at the same time. Once you accept that, see the joke and listen to this for what it is, you can have a blast with the pieces here. Life is way too short to be so serious all the time, after all. 

With academically-infused titles (‘Abstract’, ‘Introduction’, ‘Literature Review’, ‘Conclusion’, ‘Limitations’, ‘Ethical Approval’), these pieces acknowledge the influence of Raymond Scott, beloved inventor of electronic instruments, unlikely jazz band leader and a composer whose distinctive approach leant itself to use in madcap cartoons – in short, the kind of avant garde personality we’re sorely missing in these uptight 2020s. You hear the overhang of Scott’s approach in a sort of playful bounce in these pieces, each of which find itself on an odd frontier between wide-eyed synth experiments and science documentary soundtrack. Both Kelly and Rodriguez contribute vocals, either as spoken-word, instructive lecture-esque monologues, or as angelic harmonies sweeping high above the accompanying electronic backdrops, or as processed, gradually slowed-down, indecipherable non sequiturs. 

C.M.S.O. might lack any sort of educational substance, and its twenty-minute, CliffsNotes brevity might well be a generally pessimistic statement on our ability to concentrate for long periods of time; look beyond what it might or might not be trying to tell you, and its masqueraded seriousness is a huge amount of much-needed, liberating fun.  

C.M.S.O. by Orca, Attack! is released April 16 2021 by Strategic Tape Reserve 

Words: Mat Smith 

(c) 2021 Further.