Laura Agnusdei – Laurisilva

Laura Agnusdei is an Italian saxophonist, electronic musician and all-round deep thinker, whose musical endeavours range from studying electronic music in The Hague to playing sax in psych groups to producing complex melodic music fusing together all of her seemingly incompatible disparate interests. Laurisilva, her debut full-length album takes its name from ancient subtropical forests, the first part of its name providing a link to the Latin etymological root word that begat her first name.

Recorded in The Hague where she completed her Masters in electronic music and her Bologna bedroom, Laurisilva is an absorbing suite of six pieces that seek to evoke the natural environments of the forests that inspired its creation. Here, on tracks like the mesmerising title track or ‘Epiphyte Blues’, you find Agnusdei’s sax playing providing effortlessly evocative motifs, augmented by gurgling analogue electronics, intricate sound design flourishes and delicate processing, occasionally seeing a range of collaborators dropping in jazzy reeds, flutes and trumpet. The result is a sort of wonky electroacoustic big band music somewhere on the continuum between jazz, exotica, Warp electronica and modern classical (whatever that is).

The departure from woodland concerns arrives in the form of ‘Shaky Situation’, a skittish, randomised composition that finds Agnusdei layering in insistent spoken word instructions from what sounds like a particularly curmudgeonly jazz band leader about the need to practice playing daily. Here the sound palette moves from hooky electronic passages that nod to both Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works and Terry Riley’s In C, blurry sax lines and dissonant clashes of instrumentation, the result being something unpredictable, intentionally messy and gleefully disjointed.

The standout moment ‘Jungle Shuffle’ is the closest Agnusdei gets to a form of traditional jazz, her playing running the gamut from early 1920s swing to wild free jazz, underpinned by a fractured rhythm belonging on a long out-of-print Disney album of Polynesian sounds subjected to a precision-sharp digital scalpel. By the track’s conclusion, all traces of reverential jazz reference points have become buried, mere distant aural memories beneath a forest floor carpeted with broken beats and splintered percussion.

Note to listener: to unintentionally evoke the legacy of Mr John Peel, this album also sounds superb at 45rpm.

Laurisilva by Laura Agnusdei was released November 29 2019 by The Wormhole. With thanks to Don Wyrm for coffee, comversation and cassettes.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Marcus Hamblett – Detritus

The second album from Brighton-based multi-instrumentalist Marcus Hamblett is a significant departure from his debut LP, 2015’s Concrete. Featuring six tracks of diverse styles ranging from jazzy balladry through to scratchy electronica, Detritus hangs together through Hamblett’s dexterous ability to assimilate himself into often incompatible genre reference points, ably switching between guitar, synth, cornet and vibes across the course of the album.

Hamblett is joined by a cast of similarly-minded sonic adventurers, including LNZNDRF’S Ben Lanz, synth maverick James Holden and saxophonist Etienne Jaumet, a fellow member with Hamblett in Holden’s Animal Spirits and one half of French electronic duo Zombie Zombie. These extra musicians add counterpoints to Hamblett’s own, many-layered vision for Detritus, the result being far from the trashy leftovers implied by the album’s title.

The central piece of the album is ‘Ghost Socks’, which features Hamblett sparring seamlessly with Colin Stetson’s clarinet and saxophone. Running at over eleven minutes, ‘Ghost Socks’ has a journeying, restless quality, effortlessly flicking between passages of languid jazz guitar, rigid electronic sections, noise rock and a concluding moment built out from stacked circular loops of Stetson’s playing that owes a debt to the effervescent cycles of Terry Riley’s In C. To cram this many ideas into one track is, on paper, a recipe for a dizzying, capricious sprawl, yet it feels entirely logical in Hamblett’s hands.

After a segue into Latin guitar on the reflective two-part ‘The Warren’, the second half of which features some beautiful, if mournful, strings, we find ourselves in the fizzing electronics of ‘Gardner’s Basement’. Aside from some horn sections from Mathieu Charbonneau and Ben Lanz, ‘Gardner’s Basement’ is mostly Hamblett at the synthesizer, offering a towering, cinematic piece loaded with rich detail and evolving melodic passages edged with a noir sensibility, twinned with rhythms and beats which seem randomised to the point of chaos.

The album concludes with ‘Vibraphone Piece’, for all intents and purposes an Animal Spirits track given the involvement of Holden and Jaumet, alongside flutes and strings. On this piece we are transported to a distant exoticism thanks to Hamblett’s contemplative vibraphone playing and its elegant string accompaniment, only for the mood to become suddenly unpredictable: echoing sprinkles of electronics appear out of nowhere, rasping horns that are both reflective yet curiously abrasive drift gently to the surface, and a sense of discordancy emerges as a metallic rhythm begins to underpin the whole assembly. At some point along this track’s path you realise you are no longer in a romanticised eulogy to mai tais, sunsets and palm trees but a dangerous, edgy, noisy, brilliant, harrowing vision of what it feels like to be alive right now.

Detritus by Marcus Hamblett was released on November 15 2019 by Willkommen Records.

(c) 2019 Further.

Tears|Ov – A Hopeless Place

When I was a small child my parents bought a copy of a children’s music LP called All Aboard. It had a whiff of a K-Tel compilation about it, containing songs like ‘Right Said Fred’ by Bernard Cribbins, ‘Ernie’ by Benny Hill and ‘Grandad’ by Clive Dunn. Side one of the album opened with a version of ‘The Laughing Policeman’ by Charles Penrose. I suspect because of mishandling on the part of my mischievous toddler fingers, that track was irreparably scratched, right at the point where the jocular copper of the song started laughing. That looped chuckling left an indelible mark on my childhood, running through the fear I felt as I watched the original version of IT, through TV shows with canner laughter and pretty much right up to the point I heard ‘I Stand On The Cable’ and ‘Dancing Without’ by Tears|Ov.

Tears|Ov is a trio of Lori E. Allen (vocals, samples, sequenced percussion, piano, synth, noise), Deborah Wale (vocals, percussion, tube, synth, noise, scratching, spoken word) and Katie Spafford (cello). Although the three performed together as part of Allen’s 2016 album for The Tapeworm, Tears Of The Material Vulture, the catalyst for this LP was a performance commission by artist Wolfgang Tillmans as part of the South Tanks series that ran alongside his 2017 Tate Modern retrospective. These are not the pieces that Allen / Wale / Spafford performed, exactly, as these are tracks formed of a collective after-hours improvisation process wherein each is a discrete moment unto itself. Triggered initially by Allen’s foundation loops, Wale and Spafford are then free to respond as they see fit, creating a feedback loop that allows Allen to alter and answer in return.

The eight pieces here are powerful, driven moments that sound perfectly composed rather than carrying the scratchy, inchoate gestures that one normally associates with freeform music. The tracks mentioned earlier – ‘I Stand On The Cable’ and ‘Dancing Without’ – possess a rich, interwoven tapestry of sonic events, glued together as tight layers (pulsing electronics, clipped instructions reminiscent of ‘Revolution #9’, and that incessant, troubling laughter – which collapses into distress on the latter track). If these found sound layers appear skittish and randomised, Spafford’s cello and Wade’s spoken word, when placed next to Allen’s finely-wrought electronics on moments like ‘Trapdoor Ant’ provide a stentorian focal point to proceedings, even if they are almost immediately sliced through with brief snatches of noisy intervention.

On the whole, this is a dark and brooding album befitting of both its title and the two tracks with the same name that bookend the LP. Surprising, then, to find two tracks that are, at least in part, completely at odds with the prevailing tone of A Hopeless Place. ‘Overstimulated Arcade Rat’ carries a sci-fi edge reminiscent of Don Dorsey’s soundtracks for Disney attractions at Epcot, full of fizzing futuristic electronic energy and perverse optimism, while ‘Family Feudal’ begins with genuinely laugh-out-loud faux pas culled from shows like Family Fortunes, before being taken into a mournful conclusion by Spafford’s cello, angry loops and an oddly unsettling segue into Satie.

Taken as a whole, A Hopeless Place leaves an uncertain, unresolved impression on the listener. There are difficult themes at work here, if you search them out, hiding beneath the splotches of sonic colour that dominate the trio’s music. How you elect to interpret those, just as with any work of art, in whatever discipline, is entirely up to you. You can be horrified, despondent, amused, ignorant or – if you perhaps hear the echo of a terror that dominated your early years – deeply terrified all over again.

A Hopeless Place by Tears|Ov is released November 1 2019 by The Wormhole.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Doug Wieselman – From Water

Clarinettist Doug Wieselman is one of those adaptable players that can alternate between New York’s music scenes effortlessly, straddling involvement with artsy bandleaders like Laurie Anderson and Yoko Ono, the left-of-mainstream pop of Martha Wainwright or the freedom of the city’s jazz firmament. From Water is a solo album consisting of several Doug Wieselmans in the form of a many-layered suite of eleven pieces whose melodies were inspired by water, beaches, rivers and hot springs.

Each piece here is led by a fluid, evocative melody operating somewhere on a continuum stretching between classical minimalism, delicate ambience and the most lyrical phrasings of jazz. Those melodies have a lightness of touch yet also a largesse and grandeur befitting of pieces often inspired by the vastness of oceans. It would have been all too easy for Wieselman to leave From Water precisely there, and it would have been compelling enough as an album were he to have done that. Instead, his approach was to add loops, layers, discordancy, drones, and, on ‘Tennessee Valley’, a whole-instrument technique involving vocalising rhythmic sounds through the reed. He also adopted a technique of playing predominantly deployed in Turkish folk music, giving pieces like ‘Gloria Fleur Madre’ an exotic mystique, like detritus arriving on the shores of the Hudson from the cargo of a sunken vessel running the historic trade routes of the Middle East.

The trippy phased effects on the standout ‘Moonhaw’ lend that piece a volatility and turbulence, reminiscent of standing on a beach during a storm, while the plaintive, relatively unadorned ruminations of ‘Salmon’ contain a gentle, laconic playfulness that ultimately concludes with rippling passages of echoing upper register note clusters.

One of the most haunting moments here is a stunning, muted version of John Lennon’s ‘Julia’, its instantly-recognisable lyricism offset by the subtlest of background processing to create a moment of calm, yet pensive, tranquility.

From Water by Doug Wieselman is released October 25 2019 by Figureight Records.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

YOVA – Moondog

YOVA are a five-piece group centred around the hypnotic vocal of Jova Radevska, whose near-whispered delivery is inflected with an effortless, mesmerising post-R&B soulfulness.

On their debut track ‘Moondog’, Radevska’s haunting voice is offset by a shimmering, sparse accompaniment from Alex Thomas (drums), Grumbling Fur’s Daniel O’Sullivan (bass, Mellotron and programming), Martin McDougall (kalimba) and PJ Harvey acoloyte Rob Ellis on Ondes Martenot. The result is something rooted in earthly concerns of forgiveness and emotional upheaval yet positioned with a grandeur that is entirely astral in its breadth.

Presaging a remix EP in November and a full album in 2020, YOVA today revealed the hauntingly noir Christian Barnett-directed video for ‘Moondog’, draped in vintage monochrome texture and jerky motion reminiscent of the earliest silent movies. Watch the video below.

Words: Mat Smith

Ernest Hood – Neighborhoods

A sense of personal yet universal nostalgia runs through Ernest Hood’s Neighborhoods: you overhear the playfulness of children’s voices; the natural birdsong, distant dog barking and cicada rhythms of endless summers; ragtime music playing on someone’s radio through a window; the opening and closing of porch doors that evoke a time when you’d spend all day out of the house, returning only to reload on snacks, grab a water pistol or let your parents know you were gong to be over at so-and-so’s house until it was time to reluctantly go to bed.

These are the sounds of youth, of innocence, of freedom, recorded from the purview of a Portland, OR jazz musician confined to a wheelchair thanks to contracting polio in his late twenties. Released in 1975 as a private LP pressing, Hood’s opus developed a long-standing interest in field recordings by augmenting those captured sounds with synthesizer and zither, instruments that he was drawn to when his physical limitations prevented him from playing the guitar with the same intensity that he had previously played.

The combination of the two elements – the captured and the created – is curious. On the one hand, his playing is filled with a vibrancy and clarity of texture and movement, occasionally slipping into the melodic dexterity begat from cutting his teeth in jazz, but mostly offering a sort of wistful, evocative accompaniment to his taped conversations and environmental sound. ‘The Secret Place’ has a gentle, rolling mournfulness, a languid tone full of both promise and regret; ‘The Store’ has a jaunty irreverence, the embodiment of the local, family-run Main Street store that predated the out of town mall and the emptying of traditional town life; the episodic synth interventions of ‘After School’ have a wonky, optimistic energy, full of retro-futuristic hope, redolent of pent-up kids being let out the school gate, homework-free and only the limits of their imagination to stop them.

The oddness of the juxtaposition comes in the sepia-tinted field recordings. These taped elements don’t necessarily lack fidelity, but they sound dated and quintessentially of their time. We are used to life being much noisier, filled with clamour, omnipresent traffic noise, the unholy chatter of incessant FaceTime / Skype / phone conversations and a sort of modern vernacular that seems like the most distant of cousins to that which Ernest Hood was recording in the mid-1970s. In celebrating a certain well-meaning voyeuristic and celebratory now-ness with Neighborhoods, Hood had knowingly created documentary evidence of an age that’s now slipping rapidly out of collective recollection.

Neighborhoods by Ernest Hood was originally released by Thistlefield / Rexius Records in 1975 and was reissued by Freedom To Spend on October 11 2019.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.

Graham Dunning – 1947

The ever-inventive Graham Dunning’s Music By The Metre process involves the deployment of automated machines to create chance-inflected art that sits somewhere between an installation and performance. The method was inspired by Italian Situationist Giuseppe Pinot-Gallazio (1902 – 1964) whose Industrial Painting method employed machines to create large-scale paintings.

Dunning used his Music By The Metre technique on 1947, a new album released as a recycled cassette edition of just ten copies. This is something Dunning has done several times over – he acquires a batch of old pre-recorded cassettes and records over the existing sounds with new music, leaving the title of the original cassette intact. For 1947 the overdubbed cassette was a soundtrack to an Indian film of (more or less) the same name, the new album featuring two distinct sides of Dunning’s music, each lasting twenty-one minutes.

The A-side found Dunning using an automated mixing desk, analogue synth, effects, modified records and flicked springs. The result is a murky soundworld of dubby bass tones and skittish rhythms, held together by a metallic non-melody and echoing sounds. It is at once both entrancing and unnerving, carrying a playfulness that’s offset by a darker, semi-industrial impulse, like an extract from a soundtrack to a movie about corrupted home appliances turned into savage death machines.

On the B-side, Dunning took the game Half-Life and replaced all of the sounds with samples of 90s rave music. A character was then manoeuvred into a specific location to allow the maximum layering of the replaced sounds to dominate the piece. The rapidly-cycling sounds creates an effect that alternates between the disorienting and the mesmerising, your ear trying to identify any recognisable element but ultimately failing – if it wasn’t for Dunning meticulously explaining the provenance of his sounds, we would really be none the wiser.

The recycled cassette edition sold out more or less immediately but you can listen to both sides at Dunning’s Bandcamp page. 1947 by Graham Dunning was released October 4 2019 by Fractal Meat Cuts.

Words: Mat Smith

(c) 2019 Further.