It’s official: Howlround will be at Kings Place on Sunday 8th December, unveiling a brand-new and unique performance of secret sounds recorded in the bowels of this gleaming and futuristic structure, situated on the banks of the Canal in the recently modernised Kings Cross area of Central London. Tickets and event details here. There’s also a Facebook Event Page for those social-networkingly-inclined amongst you.
The press release: Howlround will be unveiling a semi-improvised composition/performance played on reel-to-reel tape machines using the ‘hidden’ sounds of the building itself and the analogue tape manipulation techniques of musique concrete to create an alternative portrait of the space, exposing hidden and mysterious depths. With all artificial effects and additional reverb strictly forbidden, the raw sounds will be allowed to tell their own story, often becoming impossibly strange and otherworldly within a few passes of a tape loop across a play-head, creating a spatial exploration at times akin to an aural séance.
It should also be quite a spectacle as we desperately try to get our increasingly temperamental vintage Revox tape machines to do our bidding live on an actual stage in front of a seated audience without imploding spectacularly. It’s our most ambitious work yet and will NOT be repeated, as well as potentially being the final outing for our increasingly fragile dinosaur collection, so make sure you catch it.
For anyone unfamiliar with Kings Place, it’s a multi-purpose labyrinth of a place consisting of performance spaces, galleries, a rather classy restaurant and lots of office space belonging to The Guardian and The Observer (which are newspapers). Armed with nothing but a hand-held recorder and a contact mic, Howlround were granted access all areas and recorded everything from pianos being moved, harpsichords being tuned, sculptures creaking, wine glasses, metal poles, mic stands, squeaky doors, a leather sofa and a sandwich toaster from the cafe. We shall be playing these sounds and nothing else inside Hall Two friom 4pm. At the time of writing everything is in its early stages but is sounding most beguiling. There will also be an interactive session after the main performance, where we’ll be playing with sounds donated by you, THE FANS. Can you think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in December? Nope, me neither.
Rather a hurried post this evening as I have been given strict instructions to ensure tonight’s Cottage Pie doesn’t burn and it’s rather tricky to write and watch for signs of imminent crust-browning simultaneously. So I’ll keep it mercifully brief and begin by drawing your attention to a decidedly postive review of our recent performance at The Kirkcaldy Testing Museum (along with Oscillatorial Binnage) in this month’s issue of The Wire:
A great big thank you to Louise Gray for her support and encouraging words. Hopefully this bodes well for our performance at Kings Place on Sunday December 8th, where we’ll be unveiling a brand new and exclusive one-time-only live performance, featuring 100% previously unheard material. A full HOUR’s worth, providing our machines (and our audience!) can take it. There’s a Facebook Event Page here for those of you so inclined.
In other news I’m very pleased to have made a small contribution to the first issue of a new digital zine entitled Wyrd Daze, the brainchild of writer, musician and blogger Leigh Wright, often known as The Ephemeral Man. An Englishman abroad with a finger firmly on the pulse, Wyrd Daze Issue 1 is literally crammed to bursting with brand new and exclusive content, including writing, music, artwork and film, all available in one hefty-yet-managable download.
For my own contribution I’ve put together a 40-odd minute Wyrdmix which is included amongst many other delights in the download. It’s perhaps a departure from the nature of my usual mixtapes, but does consist largely of current tracks that I’m very excited about, with an extra smattering of older tracks that I haven’t stopped being very excited about yet. Other than that there’s video, short films, photography, comics, illustration, stories a 5-track EP of exclusive tracks from Wyrd-Daze approved artists and lots more besides. It’s basically an embarrassment of riches for a paltry sum, and who honestly wouldn’t like a little more of the former and a little less of the latter in these straightened times?
As Leigh himself puts it ‘There’s a great community of independent artists creating extraordinary things, and Wyrd Daze is a way to bring some of this work together as a communal celebration of this creativity. The zine is available via a subscription of 5 Canadian dollars, which is about £3, which is a very small amount considering the wealth of content in the Wyrd Daze download, and the aim is to raise a revenue with subscriptions with which to pay artists for original work for the zine – a worthy cause, I feel’.
I agree as I’m sure you will. For those of you hungry to learn more, Leigh has put together an online Sampler of Issue 1 and the accompanying Podcast. He’s also very keen to source all kinds of material for future issues, be it writing, drawing, artwork, music, video, and is encouraging submissions via the Wyrd Daze website. As of yet all proceeds from subscriptions are to be ploughed back into the magazine, but Leigh is confident that as word spreads he will be able to generate enough revenue from subscriptions to properly remunerate his contributors. In the meantime some considerable exposure in some talented company is hardly something to be sniffed at.
Speaking of sniffing at things, I think I’m going to have to sign off and go put that Cottage Pie out. Mumsie will not be pleased…
(I was going to entitle this post ‘A Doc-Who-Mentary’ before a sense of pun-related shame got the better of me.)
I’m sure it won’t have escaped your attention that there is currently an awful lot of excitement being generated about the imminent half-century of a well-known televisual doctor. Therefore it’s most right and fitting that ABC Radio in Australia should unveil a brand new documentary on the work of the organisation that gave the programme it’s world famous theme tune. Which is just as well because that’s exactly what they’ve done:
Produced by Iain Wilson of FOTW Audio Productions and presented by Robbie Buck, That Dr Who Sound! is a brand new documentary produced for ABC Radio’s ‘Into The Music’ programme that explores the impact of the Workshop on modern electronic music, as well as mainstream pop and rock sounds.
Generations of kids – not only in the United Kingdom, but abroad – seated in front of that perennial babysitter, television, would hear these strange Radiophonic sounds, the impact of which would take years to unfold, and in the most interesting ways! That Dr Who Sound! explores these interesting relationships, as well as hearing stories of the legendary women of the Workshop; the mystery of Pink Floyd’s disappearing Doctor Who theme; the talking walls of Bush House; and how Genesis of the Daleks inadvertently helped with the birth of techno.
Featuring the music of Pink Floyd, Belbury Poly, Pet Shop Boys, Howlround, Other Places, Peter Howell, Dalek I, Ray Cathode, the Delia Darlings, and Model 500, as well as original interviews with workshop members, music writers, and the “descendants” themselves – musicians creating music in the spirit of the workshop.
As a “descendant” of sorts myself, or at least someone who works for the BBC while wearing his radiophonic colours with pride, I was interviewed for the programme via satellite and, thanks to the time difference, at some ungodly hour in the morning. We talked rather sleepily about the genesis of the Ghosts Of Bush project and ruminated on the effect that hearing strange and futuristic sounds at tea-time on Saturdays had on generations of children the world over. (Then I bombarded him with youtube links of classic Public Information Films for two days solid, but that’s another matter).
‘I knew of the Radiophonic Workshop because I had loved Doctor Who as a kid’, writes Iain in the programme notes, ‘and had bought the Doctor Who theme on cassette when I was twelve. On the B-Side was an upbeat remix that a friend and I would do robot dances to! I soon realised that this would make a great radio documentary, because of all of the music that was involved, and so I started contacting people for interviews – and then all of a sudden, earlier this year, the anniversary of Doctor Who rolled around, and that was it: I had a deadline!’
Created with all the enthusiasm that the above paragraph suggests, That Dr Who Sound! has been made to coincide with the Timelord’s 50th Anniversary and will be broadcast on ABC Radio National’s Into the Music program on Saturday the 9th November at 4pm and then repeated on Monday the 11th at 9pm Australian time. Iain has also very kindly worked out the local broadcast times for other parts of the world so that you and I don’t have to:
Saturday 9th November – 4 pm
repeating Monday night 11th November – 9 pm
United Kingdom times:
Saturday 9th November – 5 am (missed it already!)
repeating Monday 11th - 10 am
United States – West Coast:
Friday 8th November – 9 pm
repeating Monday 11th - 2 am
United States – East Coast
Friday 8th - 12 midnight
repeating Monday 11th - 2 am
Congratulations and three cheers to Iain Wilson and Robbie Buck as well as Executive Producer Cathy Peters and Sound Engineer Mark Don for a most enjoyable hour. For more of Iain’s work visit his website here and follow him on Soundcloud. Apart from producing a fine body of material, he’s living proof as to just how far youthful robot dancing can take you!
On a similar note, Radiophonic aficionados are warmly invited to check out The Lighter Side Of Concrete, the new album by Bristolian producer Jez Butler. Inspired by the distinctive work of Workshop legend John Baker, it’s an album of instrumentals composed entirely using domestic objects such as bottles, glasses, electrical appliances, the human body and a single guitar string.
While wearing its influences quite clearly, it’s a long way from mere pastiche, though it is quite remarkable how closely Jez has captured the Baker sound, particularly his patented ‘croaky frog’ bass notes. The album rounds off with three electronic demos which are so close to the sound of the BBC Schools Programming interlude music of the 1980s that I keep expecting Sheelagh Gilbey to turn up and start lecturing me on the Bayeux Tapestry or something (this is a good thing – she was my first schoolboy crush). Why not visit Jez’s website and get yourself a copy? It will certainly appeal to fans of the likes of Ghost Box’s Belbury Poly, and indeed features on their latest Radio Belbury podcast. Surely no more convincing is necessary?
Oh, Doctor, Oh, Sheelagh, where did my childhood go?
A few week’s ago I was approached by Cardiff’s Sŵn Festival Radio who asked if I would be interested in curating a programme for the ‘Experimental hour’, part of their week-long transmissions on 87.7FM (and online) for this year’s Sŵn Festival. I didn’t need to be asked twice, particularly as fellow curators included Messers Robin Rimbaud and Connor Walsh aka ‘Scanner‘ and ‘that In The Dark chap’. The Festival may now be over but the archive of transmissions has now been put up on Mixcloud to be enjoyed and savoured FOREVER AND EVER, so I thought you’d appreciate a link.
As with life in general, the hour can be divided roughly in two, the first half bouncy and upbeat and the second rather more sinister. For all the amusing clippped voices speaking to you from the antique past, the moment Ken Nordine apparently phones himself up you just know that you’re in for a decidedly spooky time. There’s some misappropriated instructional recordings left over from my recent ’Looking Good, Feeling Great‘ series for Resonance FM, an extract by Oscillatorial Binnage of an amplified Baptist Church and the hour ends with an exclusive 15-minute work entitled ‘The Foggy Transmitter’. It’s my salute to the secretive world of Numbers Stations documented so beautifully by Irdial’s Conet Project recordings, to Guglielmo Marconi‘s pioneering radio experiments at nearby Lavernock Point in 1897; and finally to the very modern development of online speech synthesisers and language translation engines, perhaps the latest ripple created by that enormous splash the great Italian inventor made on these shores 116 years ago (if you’ll forgive a clumsy metaphor – and a very long sentence). I was originally going to try and pass the whole thing off as a fake recording of a Welsh Numbers Station, but quickly realised nobody would be fooled for a second.
On a sombre note I’d like to dedicate this hour to fellow doyen of the mixing desk and expert speaker of Welsh, Mr. David March who provided me with some pointers when looking for Welsh language recordings and then suddenly and tragically died in Snowdonia on the week it was transmitted. The World Service has lost a warm smile and a firm arm on the tiller. We will miss him greatly.
Another recent development I completely forgot to mention – new Howlround album Secret Songs Of Savamala featured as part of Monocle’s Culture Programme a couple of weeks ago. You can hear the interview here, alongside a full hour of other stimulating stuff including Mark Kermode, Laura Cantrell and Massive Attack. What distinguished company I keep these days, albeit in ‘pre-recorded playlist’ form. And then that affable fellow Strictly Kev of DJ Food fame went and reviewed it on his blog as well!
— DJ Food (@djfood) October 24, 2013
I haven’t been this excited since I was “book-ended” by Cliff Richard and that Jar Of Hearts woman, the name of whom I can’t be bothered to Google. I did have to Google Marconi’s first name, however, and use an online translation engine to work out how to pronounce it: ‘Goolie-Elmo’, apparently. Sounds horrific…
As a child of the 1980s and an apparent member of what some are still calling the ‘Hauntology’ movement, it would hardly come as a surprise if I were to ruminate on the part played by Public Information Films in my cultural awakening. Indeed if you grew up in Britain at any point during the past forty years, there’s a chance that a number of these classic commercial-length dramas would have made a lasting impression on your psyche as well.
For those who are reading these words from afar or those who actually spent their childhoods engaged in wholesome outdoor pursuits in spite of the dangers, a classic PIF scenario would generally involve some young upstart in drainpipe trousers spotting an abandoned football in an electricity substation and advising his young upstart friends of his intentions to retrieve it and return a couple of uneventful minutes hence to instigate a kick-around. The only difficulty is that to get to said substation he has to cross a railway line, a busy intersection, a frozen pond and a sinister looking man brandishing sweets and puppies. Got the idea?
Aimed largely though not exclusively at children and screened during commercial breaks of the 1970s and 80s, they broadcast dire warnings about the manifold dangers of ever leaving the sofa (though in hindsight a few well-placed warnings about the implications of our increasingly sedentary lifestyles on our health might have proved more useful). Suffice to say that several generations of British children grew up just a little bit afraid of everything. For my part, the sight of a pylon still conjures up the sound of a sinisterly warbling modular synthesizer, while my fear of escalators persisted for years into my childhood after watching this as a toddler:
Anyway, the cultural legacy of these short films and their influence on artists such as Broadcast and labels such as Ghost Box (‘Nuclear Substation PIF’ from Mind How You Go by The Advisory Circle is a particularly fine example) has been documented many times before by people better qualified than me to do so. Why, then, am I mentioning all this now? It’s because last week I made a thrilling discovery. Public Information Films are BACK! And thanks to the involvement of some key players from the UK’s grime scene, they’ve been given a streetwise new twist!
Thank heavens that train wasn’t carrying a knife.
Previous generations might have had Alvin Stardust and John Pertwee escorting children to-and-from the Ice Cream van, but our modern yout-dem (if I may be so bold as to use the term) require a little more bang for their buck. Hence we find ourselves confronted with an expensive-looking sound system in a dimly-lit aircraft hangar, some synthesized heartbeats, an edgy voiceover with lots of glottal stops and a smattering of firm handshakes. Not a single kite to be found. This is how we roll in 2013.
While I’m very pleased to see the genre return, it’s hard to imagine just what kind of tragedy this film is intended to anticipate. Call me unsympathetic, but if you’re hare-brained enough to stand in the exact centre of eight inter-connecting railway lines then you deserve everything you’re going to get. More to the point, is this track design based on an actual, existing part of our railway infrastructure? If so, I think we should be worrying less about the safety of one law-breaking deliquent and more about the hundreds of innocent lives that will be lost in the event of a monumentally horrendous-though-admittedly spectacular eight-train pile-up catastrophe.
But returning to the matter in hand, both Wretch 32 and George The Poet fail entirely predictably and are killed to bits, though as the narrator thoughtfully reminds us, this was a controlled test, and therefore not quite as fatal as the real thing. To borrow another Hip Hop metaphor, they are slain virtually, like when MCs battle-rap. ‘I thought this was going to be easy’ offers Wretch, who had clearly been operating thus-far under the misconception that Network Rail was making this film to promote some kind of extreme form of trainspotting. [I’m] not bragging or anything’, he confides, ‘but […] they told me I got 97% hearing which is like… the hearing of a brand new species‘.
No need to worry about bragging, Wretch, that’s a perfectly fair statement and only underlines your modesty and humility in defeat. You are, as your appropriately-titled hit single ‘Unorthodox’ reminds us, a new kind of restlessly creative genius fearlessly taking Hip Hop to epic new heights by sampling the catchy hook of an already very popular song by The Stone Roses and layering your pop-rap visions over the top. Using other people’s already very popular tracks to make your own hits is the kind of staggeringly original, game-changing idea that hardly anyone else in rap has EVER DONE, and the term ‘brand new species’ barely even scratches the surface.
Seriously, if a minor celebrity with a major label deal and THE HEARING OF A GOD can’t play safely on the railways, what hope do the rest of us have? It’s a sobering lesson, though I must say I would have liked to have seen a third round of this test, where both rappers were asked to identify where the train was coming from and then forced to wait twenty bloody minutes for it to show up. Or perhaps we could programme some sort of ’First Capital Connect Couldn’t Run A Sodding Tap’ feature and cancel the whole thing at the last moment. I fear that such a scenario would be a much more accurate simulation of the state of our nation’s railways in the twenty-first century.
Minor criticisms such as these aside, this is an interesting new direction for the Public Information Films and a worthy addition to the canon. And in the spirit of progress I’ve helpfully taken the liberty of coming up with some fresh new takes on classic public information films, re-designed to appeal to the modern urban youth of today. Any production companies interesting in discussing these ideas further are advised to send a cash-stuffed envelope to the usual address:
- Lethal Bizzle neglects to don gloves while handling a sparkler (that’s a firework, not street-slang for jewellery)
- Chipmunk leaves his Chip-pan unattended while polishing his floor and then puts a rug on it.
- Example neglects to stand still on an escalator and makes an Example of himself. (very clever, that one)
- Wiley, attempting to return to his ‘Eski-Boy’ roots, acts irresponsibly on a frozen pond
- Dappy from N-Dubz attempts to rescue a frisbee from a substation (with surprisingly graphic-yet-cheering results).
- Tinchy Strider goes kite flying near a pylon, while an elderly Bernard Cribbins looks on from the tree-tops, concerned..
Despite all this talk of new directions, it’s worth noting that incorporating Hip Hop into public safety announcements is not quite as recent a development as one might assume. Marvel at this classic 1980s PIF in which Grandmaster Flash & The Sugarhill Gang’s grim ode to the violence, poverty and lawlessness of 1980s New York is re-appropriated to soundtrack little Jonny’s close encounter with a Vauxhall Astra.
It’s like a jungle sometimes.
Sadly the movement then took a wrong turn by investing in the briefly hip New Jack Swing sounds of the early 90s and serving up this turgid little stinker, an ode to the education system’s obligation to keep it’s charges fed that even at the time (and as part of the campaign’s intended demographic) I considered one of the most poorly-judged attempts at getting down with the kids ever. Even Kurtis Blow would turn his nose up at this:
Clearly nobody involved in this nationwide campaign had ever been to Belah Primary, a school whose canteen was so bad that they were forced to bulldoze the entire place. Even incorporating a Kool & The Gang drum break while wearing a baseball cap sideways – usually the ultimate youth password – fails to convince. Did you notice the kid in the Hawaiian shirt who, unlike his table-mates, fails to meet your eye in the freeze-frame at the end? It’s because he knows that he has just implicated himself and all his friends in the DEATH OF HIP HOP.
‘Ghetto pass revoked’ as Blackalicious might have put it. No wonder it’s taken them over twenty years to have another go.
In closing I thought I’d share this highly amusing escalator safety video I found on youtube. It’s not quite a public information film but it is interesting to watch how our stateside cousins handle similar subject matter and to speculate as to how anxious the video editor was to try out the new vision mixer he got for Christmas. Groovy soundtrack too.
An illuminating video, but nobody seems to have thought of covering the dangers of mounting an escalator backwards in order to film the person behind you, or indeed allowing out-going scenes to float out of the window, where they could pose a danger to pedestrians. While watching, I am struck by two thoughts. The first is that if I had only had access to this video as a toddler directly after being so horrified at the crushing of that wellington boot in the UK PIF mentioned earlier, I might have been spared years of nightmares The second is the realisation that perhaps America’s rap community should make their own railway safety video? Partly because of Hip Hop culture’s long record of trespassing on the lines in order to ‘bomb whole cars’ with their graffiti tags, but mostly because having recently read a rather unpleasant interview with angry narcissist Chris Brown, I reckon putting eight trains on top of him would improve the gaiety of the nation no-end.
Well, that about does it for now. If anybody wants me I’ll be at the shunting yard. It’s a stupid name for a pub but they have a good jukebox…
Presented for your approval, some sounds and images from last week’s top secret Howlround performance at Southwark’s Kirkcaldy Testing Museum. Top secret in the sense that I hadn’t actually been informed we were playing until the night before, which gave me little time to whip up my usual promotional storm. Short notice, perhaps, but the chance to play alongside the behemoth machines housed inside this most fascinating Victorian testing site was irresistible. And that’s before we even mention our supporting of event hosts Oscillatorial Binnage as they prepared a very special site-specific performance.
As you can perhaps hear from this short extract, it proved to be one of our more ‘eventful’ sets, largely due to the mic stands we use to keep the loops taught proving less than stable on the uneven floorboards and the fourth Revox that serves as an echo unit proving inexplicably silent despite all our efforts at sound-checking. However, when you’re performing live improvised tape-collages using forty year-old reel-to-reel machines and an increasingly battered selection of loops, them’s the breaks; and the response from the surprisingly numerous crowd was most positive. Among them was music critic Louise Gray who has written some very complimentary things about us as well as uploading some photos of the event on her blog, ahead of a reported review in next month’s Wire magazine:
…[C]an I also plug Robin The Fog and Chris Weaver’s Howlround’s two site-specific albums, Ghosts of Bush and, released last month, The Secret Sounds of Savamala, in all their strange and wonderful glory. They are the sonic equivalent of Rachel Whiteread’s casts of empty spaces.
Anyway, before our heads get too big after such an accolade, please enjoy some video highlights courtesy of cameraman Tommo and his Three Trousers blog. I particularly enjoyed the slow-motion bit at the end where our performance appears to have left the audience glassy-eyed and shell-shocked:
After we’d finished and bundled our sorry-looking loops back into the various Rover Biscuit Assortment tins they’d arrived in, it was time for the main act. Oscillatorial Binnage is/are Dan Wilson, Toby Clarkson, Fari Bradley and of course my Howlround counter-part Chris Weaver (though I still can’t quite work out which one of us he’s moon-lighting). For this one-off performance, the group presented a series of sonic works exploring and utilising The Kirkaldy Testing Museum machines as electro-acoustic instruments. Piano strings were stretched, wood blocks crushed, metal grilles vibrated and everyday materials placed under extreme stresses to draw out their unusual musical properties. The highlight of the performance was the amplified action of the 450-tonne Kirkaldy machine itself going to work on a plank of wood while a well-placed contact mic captured the sound of it’s demise. It was loud, abrasive and really quite thrilling. It’s probably easier just to show you, so we turn once again to the documentary skills of Tommo:
I certainly can’t remember the last time a room full of people got this excited about wood. Thanks very much to the Merge Festival for helping to organise such an unusual event, Joe for these rather groovy photographs, and to the good folk of the Kirkcaldy Testing Museum for having us. They’re a registered charity run by volunteers and surviving entirely on donations, so do please dig deep and help preserve this fascinating piece of our industrial heritage. Then perhaps we can come back and play again next year! We could even find out what would happen if we subjected our quater-inch tape to such tensioning experiments?! A very short performance and a lots of angry demands for refunds, I’ll wager…
It’s hard to believe that after months of planning, cutting, splicing, and editing, swearing at photoshop, agonising over test pressings and pestering friends and trusted advisors for assurances that this whole project wasn’t a gigantic mistake; the vinyl LP Secret Songs Of Savamala is finally out today.
Well, it was actually yesterday if we’re going to be picky, as I’ve only just got back from my inaugural visit to the Post Office. No time to rest on those laurels, the album has incredibly sold more than half of it’s stock on pre-order alone and today has been spent shipping freshly minted vinyl all over the world, from London to Dundee, The USA, Portugal, Norway, Germany, Poland and even a house on Eureka Terrace, which sounds like a truly fantastic place to live. Unfortunately I failed to take into account that it was pension day and so performed these tasks to a backdrop of continuous tutting from a queue of griping oldsters that had transformed into a sort of depressing conga line by the time I’d got my first consignment safely through the hatch. Negotiations are currently well underway to arrange some proper distribution and let the old folk alone, but for the time being it’s just me and my trolley. So if your record doesn’t turn up immediately, please exercise patience. I’ll be sending the download edition to all my customers in the next few days, so that should give you something to listen to during your impatient vigil by the letterbox.
If your vigil happens to be occurring close to the internet, I’d also like to draw your attention to the above video. You’ll have noticed it contains highlights from Howlround’s performance at the FON Festival back in July which was sent to us by festival organisers The Octopus Collective last week. See how earnest we look and marvel at the skill with which we handle those clunky great reels – though thankfully the bit where I somehow get tangled has been edited out. They’ve asked us to promote the video through our ususal channels and wagered us that we can’t beat ‘reigning FON Vimeo Champion’ Hildur Gudnadottir. I HAVE to win that bet. There’s no money, I just really want to be a champion at something. Please watch it ten times. We also have an audio clip from the same performance for added value:
Oh, and did we mention Howlround are currently looking for venues and promoters who would be interested in booking us throughout 2014? Our turn last week at the London Analogue Festival got us hungry for more! Email your list of demands to robinthefog at gmail dot com and perhaps follow the UK’s only improvised tape-loop quartet on Twitter while you’re at it.
Right, back to the Post Office first thing. Best turn in…
Look what turned up on my doorstep this morning:
Actually, that’s a falsehood. When I say ‘doorstep’ I mean the quiet corner of Broadcasting House that I’m secretly running a record label from. And it didn’t just ‘turn up’ of its own accord, I wheeled it there on a hastily-purloined trolley that nearly took a few people’s feet off. And, if I’m honest, it was actually yesterday. But none of this is really important. What I want to impart with all this is the news that the vinyl copies of the second Howlround LP Secret Songs Of Savamala have finally arrived, just in time for the official release date on 16th September. And I have to say they’re looking even lovelier than I dared hope. I honestly thought that nothing could top Lisa Hack and Hannah Brown’s beautiful sleeve art for Ghosts Of Bush, but having finally got my hands on the finished product I really think Milica Nikolic’s highly atmospheric cover shots make it a close call. Take a look for yourself:
I have to confess to being a very proud and happy Fog right now. Thanks to all those good folk too numerous to mention who have already snared themselves a pre-ordered copy at the special-discount-early-bird rate of £10. You surprised me with your enthusiasm and you’re going to surprise my local post-mistress even more with your sheer bulk and volume. Despite this, you will all be receiving your records and accompanying downloads in the mail (and email) sometime in the next week. For the rest of you, this is your LAST CHANCE to take advantage of this extremely reasonable price, because from the release date on Monday it gets more expensive! And apart from the cost-factor there are only 300 copies for the world, which are selling fast. And this time there will be NO REPRESSES! Click here to get your copy before it’s too late!
Thanks also to those who came down to The Spanish House in Belgrade last week and made the official launch event such a memorable occasion. If you’ve been following my antics over the last few months you might remember that this is where this whole thing started, down in the flooded basement beneath the ruins listening to my new friends conjuring up ghostly echoes armed only with voice and spanner. To be able to return months later and play the sounds back into the very space where they were recorded was for me a very special and symbolic moment, and I was very glad that so many of my Belgrade friends came down and joined me for the occasion. Now transformed into an arts pavilion with the basement safely-but-sadly sealed-off, the ruins have undergone significant changes even since those snowy days back in April, making the album a time capsule of yet another lost moment in it’s long and chequered history. As the unholy metallic chimes and deep bass pulses swirled once again around crumbling walls eerily lit for the occasion, Milica Nikolic’s raggedly beautiful photos building and the local area were projected onto an exposed concrete pillar.
It really felt as if we were bringing the ghosts home…
I would also like to thank a very special group of people, without whom this album simply would not have happened, particularly Leila Peacock, Axel Humpert, Ana Djordjevic-Petrovic and the staff of Camenzind Belgrade for inviting me to take part in their amazing project. The first issue of their magazine, featuring essays and photographs of Savamala (including The Spanish House in it’s former glory) is now available and issue two will follow very soon. Thanks also to NO-FM, which is rapidly becoming a genuine radiophonic force; and particulalry to Boba Stanic and Nicola Markovic for allowing us to use The Spanish House and trusting us with the keys!
But the most gratitude is reserved for my co-conspirators Mirjana, Anita and Milica for bringing me to their ‘temple’, for providing vocals, percussion, photography; and, above all, their deathless and infectious enthusiasm. Ladies, you are each an inspiration and I’m so glad to have worked with you. This is your album too:
…I’m just sorry I won’t be able to pay you!!
It’s odd to finally be here after so many months of alternate tinkering and procrastination, and with launch date approaching rapidly I do find myself wondering what people will make of Secret Songs Of Savamala. It’s something of a departure from Ghosts Of Bush, but also, in its way, a natural successor. It’s a slightly darker, more minimal record, very much a ‘winter’ album and I think you will get a real sense of just how cold it was inside the building when we were making the recordings; with the occasional howl of a blustery wind, the dripping of melting snow and Mirjana and Anita’s voices hanging in the icy air. Of course what connects these two LPs is that once again, these are simply the sounds of the space. No artificial reverb, no computer effects, just the sound of voices on concrete, metal on rust and ripples on floodwater. It may well be Howlround’s most evocative work yet. Isn’t that right, Scribbleface?
Am i allowed to talk about how lovely @RobinTheFog‘s new record is before it’s even been released? hmmmm
— hannah brown (@scribbleface) August 28, 2013
(Just so you know, I didn’t pay her either…)
What a wonderful thing to have such good friends, eh?
I can’t promise our launch event will ‘bring down the house’ as a combination of poor maintenance and lack of funding has already achieved this. But it’s most exciting to be able to play back the album inside the ruins of the very building where it was recorded! There’s a Facebook Event page too for those of you who enjoy such things. All are warmly welcomed…
Thanks to Ana Djordjevic-Petrowycz for the poster design and, once again, to Milica Nikolic McKitis for the beautiful album artwork!
Unprecedented thanks to the many people who sent such positive feedback after hearing the debut of Whirled Service on Late Junction last Thursday. I’m afraid I was sound asleep with a severe case of ‘Nightshift Punch-Drunk’ syndrome, so it’s gratifying to know it went off without too many hitches. In case you missed it too there are still five days at the time of writing to catch up by clicking here. After that, who knows what will happen to the project? We’ve had a number of enquiries as to whether it’s going to receive a vinyl release and the answer at the moment is a strong and hearty ‘not sure’. It all rather depends on a few factors. In the meantime I thought I’d upload one of the original demos that didn’t make the final cut for various reasons FAR too tedious to go into here. Perhaps it will shed some light on the creative process. Then again, perhaps not:
In other exciting news, I’m very happy to be featured on the current edition of Boomkat’s excellent ‘14 Tracks’ series of download compilations. The selection, entitled ‘Eldritch Electronics‘ also features Young Echo, Carter Tutti, Eyeless in Gaza and Grumbling Fur, so I’m in good company! Click on the link above to find out more.
I’m writing these words having just arrived back in Belgrade where I shall be joining my friends at Camenzind in celebrating the launch of their fantastic architecture magazine’s second issue and also the launch of the second Howlround LP Secret Songs Of Savamala amid the ruins of the very building that inspired it. The launch party takes place on Wednesday 4th September at The Spanish House, Savamala, Belgrade. All are warmly welcomed, assuming you either live here or can get a cheap flight. This will also mark he first time that I’ve ever taken sounds from a space and then put them back into it – a personal triumph!
Last week some of you may have received a long-overdue ‘mailshot‘ which featured news of the release of this second Howlround LP on strictly limited edition of 300 black vinyl with no represses. I included a link for those wanting to pre-order a copy at the early-bird price of a mere £10 and much to my surprise, the aforementioned faithful proceeded to literally bite my arm off. The upshot is that I’m now in the position to advise those of you still wishing to purchase a copy not to dilly-dally on the way. Click here to avoid disappointment. It’s softened the blow of the fact that due to a slip-up at the pressing plant I’ve arrived for the launch party without the finished product. Just a slightly battered test pressing. Ah, well.
I’m not even going to proof-read, just click ‘publish’. Then I think maybe an early night…