Rather a treat for lovers of banging tunes from The World Service this week, as the latest instalment of it’s on-going Global Beats series is now available for your listening pleasure – and this time I’m pleased to say it was my hands on the faders. In this edition, DJs from Denmark, Brazil, Russia, Thailand, Spain, Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan share their stories, clubbing tips and their current favourite floor-fillers, with quite a few surprises along the way. First broadcast last Sunday, those who missed out have some 28 days at the time of writing to listen again.
The programme is presented by 1Xtra’s DJ Edu, hastily juggling his voiceover duties around his current job of travelling all over Africa sampling some of it’s finest nightclubs and actually getting paid to do it, which sounds like a fantastic job, though I’m informed is actually quite tiring. It was produced by Catherine Fellows and mixed and edited by myself in a marathon, 15-hour, caffeine-fuelled, deadline-thrashing super-session. In fact, far from travelling to Africa, swanning around in nightclubs or hobnobbing with our global selection of tastemakers, Catherine and I barely got to leave the studio or see daylight for about three days, except to fill up on coffee and crisps. I realise that it is possible to shave a few hours off these sessions by just doing basic fades in and out of the music, but as you’ve probably worked out long ago, that really isn’t how I roll.
Anyway, we we’re both very pleased with the resulting programme, which we’ve tried to make sound as close to a DJ set as possible, with all the music punching through nice and loud and neatly slotting together – with perhaps the honourable exception of the bouncy techno from Bishkek, which is in a class all of its own. I certainly picked up on a few fantastic tracks that I otherwise would most likely have never discovered and am at this moment seriously considering emigrating to either Copenhagen or Bangkok; torn as I am between the strident electro of the former and the vintage Thai funk of the latter.
It would hardly be necessary at this point for me to launch into some sort of rapture about the glories of music bringing people together, but I will say that it’s a truly great thing that even in these straightened times there is still room for this kind of cultural feast on the World Service. Where else am I going to find out what they dance to in the clubs of Kyrgyzstan? Long may it continue.
Just in case you haven’t had enough of my recent demands for fundraising cash, what with the Resonance FM auction and all (with thanks to Mr. Nick Stone for a very generous winning bid on my tape-loop editing workshop), I’d like to draw to your attention another most worthy cause; this time set amongst the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles, California (rather than just opposite the Pret-A-Mange on Borough High Street). You may recall a few weeks ago my mentioning the publication of Drink The Rest Of That, a collection of short stories by Foggy-collaborator and genius raconteur Guy J. Jackson? Well, a few weeks is a long time in Hollywood, possibly the only city in the world -as I discovered last year- where you can be heckled for walking; so now Guy has another project on the go, as the writer for a contemporary film-noir currently in development entitled ‘Day For Night':
(Obviously this video is embedded from the Kickstarter page, so instructions to scroll down and sideways should be taken with a pinch of Hollywood salt)
If Alfred Hitchcock, Raymond Chandler, and a desperate actress/waitress had a love child, it would be Day For Night. A tightly wound psychological thriller set in present-day Hollywood, this film examines the fine line between nurturing a dream and fueling an obsession—and what happens when you cross it. Populated with distinct and dynamic characters, Day For Night comes from an award-winning team of filmmakers who have been inspired by the L.A. Noir genre.
Fans of Guy’s amiable surrealism and dark, twisted comedy will already have a pretty good idea of what to expect of this collaboration with Tasmanian director Michael Chrisoulakis. Those wishing to learn more can find further information on the film’s Kickstarter page, as well as Facebook or Twitter accounts. The film is already partially shot and has reached 50% of it’s funding target, but there’s still quite a way to go on this ‘all or nothing’ Kickstarter campaign and just over two weeks to reach their goal, so please go to their funding page and just do whatever feels good and right.
OK, that’s the hard sell over. Here’s another story from Drink The Rest Of That as a reward:
It’s #FundRaisingWeek once again at Resonance FM, which means another seven days of special broadcasts, one-off events and lots and lots of highly desirable items up for grabs in this year’s Ebay auction, with all money raised helping to keep the greatest radio station in the world on air for yet another year. And in these straitened times they need your help more than ever. So, what’s up for grabs in 2015? Here’s my own contribution:
‘A Howl-To Guide’: A Day Of Tape-Loop Creation With Robin The Fog
“A glorious morning spent searching for extraordinary noises in ordinary places in the company of sound artist and composer Robin The Fog, followed by an instructive afternoon dubbing those sounds onto magnetic tape and creating and editing wondrous tape loop compositions, with the results to be broadcast on Resonance FM at a later date. Recording and editing equipment, including tape machines and razor blades, will be provided and the lucky winner(s) will be sent home with a tape spool of their handiwork”.
Speaking personally, a day spent doing this sort of thing is my idea of heaven, and I’m hoping lots of you will agree at least enough to make a decent bid. Further details (including an important disclaimer against razor-related loss of thumbs or other injuries) plus innumerable other delightful items available at the Special Resonance FM Fundraising website here. But the vast majority of you who require no more persuading to support this worthiest of causes can simply whizz straight over to the item’s Ebay page and BID NOW!
— Robin The Fog (@RobinTheFog) February 9, 2015
Please make the bids nice and high, because 100% of the money raised goes straight to Resonance, and of course because playing with tape is tremendous fun and I’m reliably informed that I’m reasonably affable company. If this workshop ends up being even half as profitable as last year’s ‘Howlround Haunts Your Home’ project, the lucky winner is in for a very enjoyable experience indeed:
Another item currently up for grabs is an old favourite – ‘Play OST For Me‘, in which the highest bidder wins the chance to present their very own bespoke edition of The OST Show, with all their favourite soundtracks and every whim indulged by that redoubtable broadcaster, smutty raconteur and general man of letters Jonny Trunk, who has promised to be on his very best behaviour for the occasion. This item always proves surprisingly popular, so GET BIDDING QUICKLY! I shall be popping up on this Saturday’s show to promote both this and the aforementioned tape editing workshop, plus we’re also expecting a visit from the brilliant Pete ‘Monsterism’ Fowler; who has very kindly donated this completely awesome original work to the cause:
My sources tell me there may also be a four-year-old guest on the show, but he is purely there for entertainment value and most certainly NOT up for auction. More details on all of this as we get them and I might even be able to shoe-horn in some new tape music by Howlround that’s currently in production. Unless Jonny pulls that face again. You know the one:
Presented for your approval, my report on the magnificent Konono No.1‘s three-day residency at Cafe Oto in London, as broadcast this week on the BBC World Service programme ‘Focus On Africa‘. Freshly arrived from Kinshasha, and with translation provided by Ata Ahli of BBC Afrique, band leader Augustin Mawangu talks about his reaction to London crowds and the history of the band he now leads, originally founded by his father back in the late sixties:
I was lucky enough to snag a ticket for the opening performance before their unprecedented five-show run sold out, and to interview this relaxed and talkative chap enjoying an entirely justified after-show high – who could blame him? But the path of the broadcast journalist is seldom paved evenly and this first commission of the year came with a minor caveat: along with my usual list of questions, I had been asked by the Focus editorial team to obtain ‘vox-pops’ from members of the crowd after the group came off stage, just in case the following afternoon’s interview should fall-through and the package need fleshing out. Now, I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I am most certainly not a fan of our on-going mania with soundbite culture, encouraging random passers by to engage in idle conjecture in lieu of actual meaningful or factual content. In fact, I object to it all rather strongly. But, as you may have noticed, the BBC are all for it, and I like to think I’m mature enough to put my own mis-givings aside and go with something vaguely resembling the flow, especially when finances are tight and my editor is calling the shots – ‘bitch gotta make rent’ as Caitlin Moran might have put it.
Of course, walking up to complete strangers brandishing a recorder is seldom an agreeable position to find yourself in, so as I strode semi-purposefully through a venue packed to capacity with post-gig revellers, I resolved to ease myself gently into the proceedings by starting with someone I recognised. Quickly spotting an old acquaintance whom I knew to be something of a music expert, I reasoned he would be as good a place to start as any.
Or so I thought. In hindsight, my polite request for his thoughts on the evening proved to be quite an error, for they opened up some kind of internal flood-gate, resulting in a rather unexpected torrent of vitriol about just how much he hated soundbites and interviews of this nature and mainstream broadcasting in general; finishing with the suggestion that I go stick the whole endeavour up my proverbial – not quite what I was looking for. Attempting to pour oil over these ridiculously over-troubled waters, I explained that I wasn’t terribly keen on this approach myself, but had an editor to answer to; which was met with the snarky riposte ‘No you don’t. You design your life how you want it to be!’ While I was momentarily trying to figure out what the hell that actually meant, my subject then delivered what he clearly considered the killer blow by proceeding to ruminate for the benefit of my recorder on just how harrowing the holocaust must have been – his idea of a compromise, presumably. Such thoughts off his chest, and with no apparent plans on the horizon to design a life other than that of the pretentious, self-righteous ass-hat he had apparently become since our last meeting, I decided to leave him to it. Surely one of the strangest ever responses to a polite ‘How did you enioy the show?’
The funny thing is that in principle we appear to agree on both the subject of soundbites in journalism and the horror of Hitler’s final solution, but I can’t help thinking that it’s a little unsporting to try and shoe-horn the latter into an item that, given the current state of world-affairs, was presumably one of the very few remotely positive or light-hearted news stories Focus On Africa ran that day. I also like to imagine that I can maintain such opinions without having to resort to being a complete dick about them when probed on the subject. This is after all a report on a concert, an enjoyable and friendly social event, not the scene of some unholy apocalyptic massacre. Thankfully all this nonsense was rendered entirely immaterial the following afternoon, when Augustin gave such a fine interview that everything else was deemed superflous to requirements. I had originally decided that this encounter was the single most ridiculous thing to have happened in 2015 thus far until a bizarre incident this morning in which some mad old trout branded me a ‘Popinjay Hipster’. Now THAT is how you do soundbites! Or at least it would be, had I been recording her…
These minor quibbles aside, thanks must go to Augustin Mawangu for being such a candid and interesting interviewee, Ata Ahli for the translation from French, Kim Chakanetsa for being super and tour manager Michel Winter for his help in arranging everything. I should also thank Vincent Luttman of Nostalgie Ya Mboka for providing an equally fascinating history of the band that was very sadly cut for time. I shall have to make use of his contribution one day, but meanwhile you can take advantage of his expertise on Congolese music for yourself by tuning to Resonance FM every Saturday at 1330. He was also the very first person in the UK to host a live performance by Konono No.1 way back in 2004, though everybody else seems to have forgotten this fact.
Seriously, this band are one of the most incredible live acts I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing and I urge you to go if you happen to have access to any of the cities they’re visiting as part of their European tour this month. It’s a pity we couldn’t have had longer with Agustin as there were so many more questions I would have liked to put past him, but the interview had to be slightly curtailed – partly because it was freezing and partly due to the presence of two middle-aged men dropping C-bombs and borderline racist remarks within earshot of my recorder. Weirdly, they appeared to have actually attended and enjoyed the gig as well, which made their aggressive and confrontational posturing even harder to figure out. What a confusing mix of human nature I’ve encountered while compiling this report. I suppose we shall just have to chalk it up to people increasingly designing their lives how they want them to be, which may prove rather tiresome for the rest of us in the long-run…
POPINJAY HIPSTER x
Another year, another bout of the dreaded winter lurgy, resulting in two weeks of shocking inactivity, where my most productive achievement was alternating between staring at the ceiling and the discovery of several justifiably obscure shades of Glen A. Larson on youtube:
Rather beneath my dignity, I’m sure you’ll agree, but slightly more engaging than the ceiling.
My recovery has been significantly, ahem, ‘energised’, however, by the simultaneous arrival of several new projects from some esteemed friends and former colleagues, and as a token of my gratitude to these brilliant people I’d like to share them with you here and now. It will help to both spread the word and also make me feel less bad about having few of my own 2015 achievements to shout about as of yet. First up is the long-awaited publication of a collection of short works by storyteller, broadcaster and former America’s Got Talent contestant Guy. J. Jackson:
In this collection of rare, hard-to-find, and often too-short short stories, Guy J. Jackson wields his not particularly helpful but still relatively charming (at least compared to being chased) worldview in order to pretty much study and correct all of humanity’s foibles, or at least the ones that need correcting by the end of this year.
More familiar as a performer of stories in the verbal tradition, through innumerable shows on both stage and radio, short movies and a couple of albums (you might remember our collaborative Notes On Cow Life cassette from 2012), Guy’s distinctive mix of creeping intrigue and amiable surrealism loses nothing in it’s translation to the page (though I’ve included a recording of his reading an extract below for added measure:
The stories vary from several pages to the merest few lines and are great to dip into, but better to immerse yourself in – indeed I read the whole thing in one big greedy sitting. Grab your own copy here.
Next up, are you familiar with the work of DCW Briggs? He’s a graphic artist, comic publisher, musician and all round good chap, who has produced a huge body of work over the years, under a number of pen-names [pun intended] such as Hills Have Riffs, which just happened to be the nome de plume he chose when we collaborated on a 2013 mini-album Earl Grey Whistle Test, recorded in Bush House’s Studio S6 in the months leading up to the Ghosts Of Bush sessions:
Dave’s latest exploit is a collaborative exhibition with Andrew Walter at Studio 73 in Brixton Village at the behest of the excellent Indestructible Energy zine, featuring new works, collage, short-press comics and more. This Saturday (17th) sees the closing party, with live music from Mark Dicker, formerly of Trencher playing on a PA system loaned to him by noisy tearaways Part Chimp. Several years ago I found myself on the same bill as Trencher, and seem to remember their set being so loud that those watching in the front row actually appeared to be swimming through a sort of hot and viscous sound-soup. The prospect of one of their number playing on any kind of sound-system that Part Chimp consider fit-for-purpose in a space that small strikes me as a thrillingly brave and foolhardy move.
So, come down on Saturday, pick up some great short-press comics and original artwork by Dave and Andrew, have your ears blasted off and served back to you and perhaps invest in a copy of Indestructible Energy’s latest issue too. And of course you can always visit Dave’s DCWB Website. He doesn’t update it all that often, but it’s always worth the wait.
Moving onto equally exciting news, namely the recent launch of a new collaborative EP from Franziska Lantz and Howard Jacques. Franzi has of course appeared in these pages before, when we collaborated on Whirled Service, a session for BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction that I keep meaning to dig out the archive. Howard you may know from Resonance FM‘s excellent Bermuda Triangle Test Transmissions Department. The duo’s debut 12″, recorded as DPM357x is the first release on Franzi’s Global Warming Records, and while I know it’s a bit early to claim this as one of my records of the year, stranger things have happened! Purchase your own copy direct from the artists after their performance for Club Integral at Stoke Newington venue ‘The Others’ on January 23rd. I shall be there (in my capacity as a fan) and hope you’ll join me. Further information for those of you who are socially-mobile on their Facebook page here, including details of the other acts on the bill – No Cars, Flameproof Moth and Rucksack Cinema. Who says we’re running out of band names? UPDATE: You can also purchase it HERE. Which you jolly well should.
Finally, do you remember my writing last year about the kickstarter campaign to fund the recording of the Synaesthete album Array? Well, I’m happy to say the campaign was a success in more ways than one – this debut long-player from Sarah Tanat Jones’ sophisticated synth-pop project would be brilliant even if you weren’t a complete sucker for multi-tracked vocals, syncopated hand-claps, tick-tocking drum machines and lush, hand-painted artwork (Sarah takes care of that too). Available now from Kit Records and hugely recommended for fans of Tune Yards, Glasser and other left-of-centre electronic pop delights. Jolly good label, that Kit Records…
Right, that’s probably enough to be getting on with and certainly enough to stave off any more forbidden Glen A. Larson-cravings (or ‘Grand Larson-y’, if you’ll pardon the pun). As for my own affairs, I’ve got a couple of rather intriguing tape-music projects lined up for the next couple of months, which could prove most interesting as long as long as my own health and that of my tape machines holds out. They’ve been rather poorly too, of late, but I’m determined that the usual battle between triumph and disaster will resume with renewed vigour next week. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for this, out soon on Buried Treasure:
Standing here on the threshold of a brand new year, it seems only good and right to take a moment to look back over the past twelve months, a truly fantastic year for music and a truly awful year for just about everything else in the world. To that effect I’ve taken the liberty of putting together a special commemorative mixtape of some favourite moments of the former in an attempt to drown out the horrific and enduring effects of the latter:
With so much great music to choose from, it was never going to be an easy task, so I’ve narrowed down my parameters by concentrating purely on new releases over reissues (regrettably leaving out superb releases on Buried Treasure, Public Information and Suzanne Ciani’s wondrous music for Atari in the process) and tried to focus predominately on records that were, in my opinion, rather unfairly overlooked in the end of year lists appearing elsewhere. Now it’s finished I’m constantly being reminded of amazing works I left out, but nevertheless at the time of writing I find myself scaling the dizzy heights of ranking 20th in the Mixcloud ‘Pop’ charts, a truly humbling accolade which suggests I haven’t done such a bad job after all. Wonder if there’s a trophy or cash prize?
It’s been an eventful year at Fog Towers as well, with much excitement, intrigue and sonic adventure, so I’d like to hereby present my top 10 personal highlights of 2014 in no particular order. I realise that much of the following could be classed as shameless self-promotion, but then this is my own shamelessly self-promoting website, and if I don’t blow my own trumpet, who will? Strap on your ear-goggles and let’s roll:
1. Releasing Howlround’s third album Torridon Gate, to almost universally positive feedback and some truly humbling reviews. Thanks once again to Steve at A Year In The Country for all his hard work and to everyone who listened to, invested in or wrote nice things about it – a long list all by itself!
Not forgetting, of course, to give extra special thanks to gate-owners Tony and Kath of Torridon Road, Hither Green, whose generosity during Resonance FM‘s 2014 fundraising campaign kick-started the whole business. Could they have imagined what a can of worms their winning bid would result in? Could we?
2. A final live performance of the year in a basement in the gothic quarter of Barcelona, complete with standing ovation, encore and late-night tapas. Huge thanks once again to JP and Ale of 4’33” Cafe. Can’t wait to see what they get up to in 2015!
3. Meeting my heroes of the Radiophonic Workshop and actually getting paid by The BBC to do it:
Affable and fascinating characters all. A new album by the group, blending new compositions with re-worked classics is reported to have been completed, a decidedly promising omen for 2015.
4. Boards Of Kanyeda’s ‘Everything You Dig Is A Gold Balloon’, which spectacularly failed to go viral and cause any kind of massively financially-crippling but promotionally-lucrative legal frenzy. Still reckon it’s the best thing to have Kanye’s name on it in ages, though:
5. An extract from Howlround’s first ever live appearance features as part of the excellent Touch Radio series, alongside some particulalry lovely works by Aino Tytti, Philip Jeck, Chris Watson and much more. All available online and for free. You are warmly advised to fill your boots:
6. Performing at both Cafe Oto and The Beacons Festival at the behest of our friends The Octopus Collective. This latter ‘headlining’ performance (we were the final act of the evening in the only tent left open) elicited two of my favourite reviews of the year: ”Uncanny, mesmerising, difficult and sublime’ (Jonny Mugwump, writing for The Quietus) and ‘This is [the] s**t!’ (Anon). Our thanks and gratitude once again to John, Glenn, Jonny and our vocal supporter in the third row. Take a bow, sirs.
7. This picture of my ear by typewriter-artist Keira Rathbone, to commemorate her summer showcase ‘Brink’ at The Vaults Gallery beneath Waterloo station.
The collaborative sound installation was produced by Lolita Laguna and myself using recordings of Keira’s typing played through an amplifier into the cavernous expanses of the gallery over and over again; creating a haunting song of the tunnels that was to become the recipient of my single favourite piece of feedback this year – an incredulous ‘…But this is supposed to be a HAPPY place!’ from a fellow exhibitor. I’m not sure if it’s just my mind playing tricks on me, but I think she might actually have had a tail. For both of these reasons, I’m contemplating asking her to pen the sleeve-notes for the next Howlround LP.
8. Lots of fun with Aleks Kolkowski‘s installation of The Denman Horn at The Science Museum.
You can listen to my interview with Aleks for the BBC here or enjoy the special ‘horn-friendly’ edition of The OST show broadcast live from museum here. But I think this montage of Fog and Ship’s horns from the BBC Sound Effects archive recorded at the gigantic mouth of the horn is as good a place to start as any:
9. Speaking of Foghorns, here’s one of the greats. Immortalised in such classic works as Ingram Marshall’s Fog Tropes (reissued this year on Arc Light Editions) and Bill Fontana’s Landscape Sculpture With Foghorns (not reissued at all, but here’s hoping), the Golden Gate Bridge foghorns remain operational to this day. Part of a huge collection of sound recordings made in the US that I’ve so-far utterly failed to share with you all. Please be patient, all in good time:
10. Remixing a track from Brood Ma‘s excellent second album P O P U L O U S for the equally fine follow-up re P O P U L O U S. Expect to hear much more from this redoutable chap in 2015.
I’d like to close by wishing you all a Happy New Year and to propose a toast everyone who has supported my work in 2014, particularly that large and amazing collection of writers, bloggers, DJs, musicians, nerds, weirdos and other associates that I’m very pleased to call friends. Cheers!