Howlround at Cafe Oto Project Space With Leafcutter John and CTRL FREQ

Hello You. Before I get to the main thrust of that headline, allow me to stir in some additional intrigue by inviting you to enjoy this extract from my set at the recent Tapeworm 100 event at Iklectik; where that fine label celebrated their centennial emission – the whopping 36-track compilation A Can Of Worms,  featuring amongst other delights an exclusive Howlround track and artwork by Savage Pencil – by throwing an extravaganza at one of my very favourite venues. Featuring live performances from such luminaries as Dale Cornish and Phil Julian, Simon Fisher Turner, Marta De Pascalis and more, for my own part this might well have been Howlround’s noisiest set to date, as I decided to use the venue’s excellent sound system and the presence of ever-patient sound engineer Ilia Rogatchevski to give the equipment a bit of a push. Though in truth it’s not as if I need too much of an excuse to go heading down the noisy rabbithole at the moment – I’ve been getting really into pure feedback lately and thankfully it seems my neighbours are quite into it as well. Three cheers, then, for the Tapeworm, for label heads Mike and Philip and of course for Eduard and the Iklectik posse. If you haven’t yet visited this brilliant little corner of Lambeth yet, do so with haste. It’s rapidly becoming the Cafe Oto of South London!  

Which brings me semi-seamlessly to the Cafe Oto of North London, aka the actual Cafe Oto, where Howlround will be heading back down that rabbithole again this Friday in their Oto Project Space, alongside Leafcutter John and CTRL FREQ. Details and tickets here. It promises to be a mighty event, not least because it marks a rare UK appearance from legendary self-styled ‘circuit bender, sonologist, vagabond, improviser, music producer, audio-hacker, instrument designer, nomad, radio presenter, workshop leader, squatter’ Kacper Ziemianin, a man more often found making mischief around The Hague. And it’s not as if Mr. Leafcutter’s work is in any need of an introduction, is it? Take full advantage of their presence!

Brighton friends! A Creak In Time, the critically-acclaimed film by Steven McInerney for which Howlround provided the soundtrack is screening at The Green Door Store this Sunday as part of Splitting The Atom XXXIX experimental/free/noise all-dayer. And it’s free! Further details here.

 

 

 

And lastly, thanks to everyone who ventured down to the Crypt at the all-day electronic music festival that was 22rpm, to check out the Howlround tape loop installation stretched across the tunnels beneath the historic church of St. John. This proved yet another perfect location for my programme of haunted drones and wonky loops – which was just as well as the increasing humidity caused them to contract, resulting in things getting even wonkier than usual and causing some frequently beautiful happy accidents – plus the gradual death of both loops, all captured on my recorder for prosperity. I will put an official extract online at some point soon, once I’ve had time to properly go through the material (due to various commitments my life is currently about a week behind schedule), but in the meantime huge congratulations must go to Léigh and the Bit-Phalanx team for putting on their finest event yet.  And not forgetting to send big Martian love as ever to my old pal Coppé, visiting us once again from Mars and this time rocking a show-stealing costume that for some reason put me in mind of a giant squid, with a hat in the shape of a giant tooth completing the look. Naturally you’d don’t spend an hour backstage being helped into this kind of attire for nothing, and while I missed the set due to my subterranean untangling duties, I’m told the tracks from new album Milk went down a storm. It’s out now on CD and ‘puddle’ coloured vinyl. Order it here. It’s good to have her back!

Ben from Lightrhythm Visuals, Coppé from Mars and me from, er, Penge.

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The Original Cutting Edge – Making A Weird Kind Of History In Reverse

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Those of you who like to be tucked up nice and early of an evening might have missed my latest BBC report for Radio 4’s evening news programme The World Tonight a couple of days back on the subject of Mike Dixon, his lathe cutting empire and his current accompanying of Michael Nau on tour; so I’ve decided to upload it to Soundcloud for your listening pleasure:

A native of Arizona, Mike has a reputation as a sort of ‘Lathe-Master General’, having cut literally thousands of records in the last decade or so – his releases endlessly varied not just in style but in shape, size, colour and substance, many pressed on ‘up-cycled’ junk and surfacing on his own labels such as PIAPTK and Soild Gold. Marketed largely at bands looking for short runs, limited editions and unusual items to sell on tour, each of Mike’s discs are cut by hand in real time and usually come with homemade artwork to match.

Michael Nau lathe-cut tour souvenir

As Michael Nau is currently on tour around Europe promoting his rather fine second solo LP Some Twist, the scheme was hatched to have Mike and one of his lathes accompany him, documenting the tour and making Alan Lomax-style field recordings at various historic sites around Europe such as Stonehenge, the Brandenburg Gate and so on. Furthermore, as well as a limited series of tour-only lathe singles like the one in the above picture, a special invitation would allow a small number of fans to stay around after each show and pay to have a song of their choosing performed and cut to disc in front of them; resulting in a one-of-a-kind record that would be theirs to keep. An absolutely brilliant idea, I thought when I first heard about it, especially as Michael’s delightfully wonky acoustic numbers seem to particularly suit this lo-fi approach. It doesn’t require too much of a conceptual leap to imagine how excited I was at the mere thought of all this, so I’m sure you wouldn’t have been at all surprised to spot me a short time later helping to wheel a large amount of heavy equipment onto London’s South Bank just outside of the Tate Modern.

The original location of choice had been The Houses of Parliament in order to capture the chimes of Big Ben, but when a mutual friend reminded us all that the bell was currently ‘bong-free’ and would remain so for the next four years [#FAIL], it fell to this long-term Londoner to nominate a alternate spot. I chose the grounds outside the Tate Modern because you can pick up the chimes of St Paul’s quite well from its position on the opposite bank, while secretly being slightly relieved that we were to avoid Parliament Square –  you can readily imagine how quickly setting this lot up in that area would get you moved on – and moving anywhere with this much equipment is enough of an undertaking already! In the end, however, all went well and Michael made the first of what will hopefully be numerous field recordings throughout this tour, all to be compiled into an album and accompanying documentary at a later date.

The actual BBC report being cut. The inner ring you can see is a stream of lacquer that that cutting head removes from the disc as it makes the groove.

Having edited and mixed the report before sending it over, I caught up with the pair a few days later for their show at the Lexington in Islington – and for the grand cutting. I was told that the lathe – a restored model from the 1950s – had only broken down several times in the intervening days, and so was considered to be putting in a very strong performance. Nonetheless, it was a rather nail-biting process. Would it co-operate at this crucial moment? Would the resulting disc play back properly on unfamiliar equipment – especially  a BBC turntable (that had probably been gathering dust for a while) during a live programme? Would we even have time to cut it with Michael’s band waiting impatiently in the wings, and… actually now on stage and tuning up? ‘Hurry, Mike! But no sudden movements!’, I thought.

Insta-Gramm!

Thankfully, as appears to have been a continuing theme on the tour thus far, everything came together at the last possible moment.  The report was cut in a single take from Mike’s place at the side of the stage, while signalling ‘two more minutes!’ at an impatient crowd and imploring assorted drummers and bassists not to ‘jump around too much’. The resulting disc, signed by both Michaels and labelled ‘SUPER FRAGILE’ by me was delivered to New Broadcasting House the following lunchtime. It closed the programme that evening and was, as presenter Ritula Shah points out, the first BBC radio report ‘on an analogue disc’ for at least fifty years. ‘Of course we asked Robin to cut his entire report onto vinyl so we could be part of the experiment too’, she says in her cue (technically it was my idea, but let’s not split hairs), ‘so bear with us and just forgive the crackles and the static’. Forgive? Really?!

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I thought it sounded smashing, personally – and certainly better than many of the poor quality phonelines and Skype connections that I had to endure passing through my mixing desk during my tenure with the Corporation. ‘I have to say I can’t cope with the static’, Ritula comments as the piece concludes with Michael’s performance outside the Tate Modern; to these ears a lovely acoustic number transformed into a vintage blues lament with just the right amount of crackle. I wonder how many listeners would have spotted much difference if they hadn’t had their attention drawn to its unusual delivery mechanism? Or maybe I’ve just been playing around with degraded tape loops for too long?

Anyway, fidelity-based quibbles aside, the programme is still available here at the time of writing, so have a listen to the pre-cut version on Soundcloud and then the broadcast version on iPlayer and see if you can hear all that much difference, considering.  The tour continues with the two Michaels still lugging a surprisingly heavy amount of equipment around Europe and Some Twist is available now from all good record shops. Travel safely with your precious cargo, gentlemen!

In other broadcast-tastic news, I shall be helming the Sunday 12-2pm slot on WNBC this weekend, broadcasting live from The Book And Record Bar in fashionable West Norwood. I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to play yet, but of course it’s going to be massive – so please do tune in, or better still come down to the shop to say hello and have a browse. As well as the records, there will be beer and coffee served by amiable host Michael, and as it’s West Norwood’s monthly FEAST event, the shop might be running their famous CAKELAB as well! Come on down!

Must also briefly say a huge thanks to The Tapeworm and Iklectik for Friday night’s event celebrating the launch of their 100th release, the mammoth 39-track A Can Of Worms and featuring performances from Laura Agnusdei, rough music, Simon John Fisher TurnerMarta De PascalisDale Cornish & Phil Julian as well as a rather noisy Howlround set from yours truly, based largely on pure feedback, which seems to be where I’m headed at the moment.

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I will certainly be writing more on the event (and hopefully digging out an extract) in the coming days as it was one of my favourite shows of the year thus-far, I just need a bit more time to go back through the recordings first! For now, here’s a picture taken immediately post-soundcheck and pre-dinner, which will hopefully whet your appetite (mo pun intended). With all that equipment between us it’s a wonder we managed to squeeze such a big crowd in!

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Live at Bad Timing, Cambridge, 2016

In other news, if you happen to be in the vicinity of Cambridge this Tuesday, October 3rd, I’ll be giving a talk about my work and a short demonstration from around 5pm as part of the series of Alchemical Landscape lectures at the University’s Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (or CRASSH). Very much looking forward to meeting up with curators Yvonne and James again – and hopefully a few of the people I met last year while playing at one of the city’s long-running Bad Timing events. Do come along if you’re in the area – it’s free there might even be a little audience participation!

And lastly, news of next weekend’s 22rpm, a marathon all-day electronic music festival with a stellar line-up at St. John on Bethnal Green, a magnificent live music venue as well as a fully-functioning church, and the scene of Howlround’s recent live score of the film A Creak In Time. Headlining the Psyché Tropes event for the East End Film Festival back in the summer, that performance was memorable for the church kindly allowing us to use candle-stick holders as impromptu tape-loop restrainers (not the wisest of moves in hindsight) and for the moment when Daphne exploded. Perhaps mindful of these dramatic incidents, for this event the powers that be have banished us down to the crypt, where we’ll be creating an appropriately crepuscular and haunting soundtrack to counter the techno titans doing electronic battle over our heads. It is a seriously impressive line-up, have a look at this poster then click on the image to get tickets while you still can!


Triple Threat: A Cosmologist Tape Lesson

Hello, you. Compilation albums are like buses, aren’t they? You wait simply ages and then an unprecedented three of them turn up at once! Back in action after a couple of weeks recuperating from a busy summer, I’m now delighted to announce a trio of new and exclusive Howlround tracks, each part of an different long-player imminently about to drop on one of my favourite labels! Despite the pure coincidence of these three releases occurring within a few weeks of one another, the new works are actually about as varied and differing as our output has ever been, running the gamut from cold, dark ambience to armageddon operatics and back again. Further proof of just how easy it is to fall down rabbit holes then turn them into wormholes when you’re working with tape!

First off is ‘East Tower Stairwell Gathering (Alternate Edit)’, part of the double CD compilation Lessons from our friends at Front And Follow. To celebrate 10 years and an impressive 50 releases (including The Blow vol. 2, our 2016 split cassette with Time Attendant), the Manchester label is presenting a bumper 25 exclusive tracks across two discs, featuring the likes of Leyland Kirby, Pye Corner Audio, Kemper Norton, Ekoplekz and Laura Cannell to name but a few. Available for pre-order here, you can discover more by perusing this article from The Quietus and enjoying the video teaser below.

Next up is The Quietened Cosmologists, the latest release from A Year In The Country, adding to the impressive string of lovingly-crafted limited edition albums already under their belt, including Howlround’s Torridon Gate from 2014 (of which there are still a few CD copies left if you hurry). As part of this latest in their ongoing series of themed compilations, we’ve contributed ‘Night Call, Collect’, an ambient miniature inspired by a classic Ray Bradbury short story both in name and in its attempt to conjure up a both the foreboding dark expanses of deep space and the dwindling of humankind’s optimistic dreams of exploring them.

The Quietened Cosmologists is a reflection on space exploration projects that have been abandoned and/or that were never realised, of connected lost or imagined futures and dreams, the intrigue and sometimes melancholia of related derelict sites and technological remnants that lie scattered and forgotten. It takes as its initial starting points the shape of the future’s past via the discarded British space program of the 1950s to 1970s; the sometimes statuesque and startling derelict artifacts and infrastructure from the Soviet Union’s once far reaching space projects; the way in which manned spaceflight beyond Earth’s orbit/to the moon and the associated sense of a coming space age came to be largely put to one side after the 1969 to 1972 US Apollo flights.

It’s certainly one of the more glacial and sombre pieces in our recent back catalogue,  but sits perfectly alongside exclusive work from the likes of Grey Frequency, Time Attendant (him again!), Polypores and Pulselovers. The album is released in October but will be available for for pre-order in the next few days, so why not whet your appetite with this playlist of teaser clips the label has put together?

And finally, legendary cassette-only label The Tapeworm are celebrating their own landmark release with the unveiling of A Can Of Worms, its centennial edition featuring no less than 36 exclusive new pieces from label alumni such as Mark Van Hoen, Philip Marshall, Christian Vogel, John Butcher and many more; spread liberally across a limited edition C120 with cover artwork by Savage Pencil. Howlround contribute ‘Untitled (080417 Demo 4)’, a rather abrasive slice of distorted electronics that will hopefully offer some insight into a newer, noisier direction that I’m currently exploring and may even be the subject of a new LP early next year. But you might have to bear with me, this is one rabbit-hole I’m still digging…

ACanOfWorms

A Can Of Worms will be released in a horribly limited edition of only 150 on 29th September, so the best way to ensure you bag a copy is to come along to the Tapeworm’s launch party taking place at Iklecktik that very evening. We’ll be doing a turn of the loops alongside album stars Dale Cornish & Phil Julian, Simon Fisher Turner, Marta de Pascalis, rough music, Laura Agnusdei and Parker, so it’s a pretty stellar line-up. Tickets come with a complimentary copy of the cassette and can be purchased here. Come hang out with some of ‘your favourite worms’ and help us raise a glass to the next hundred releases!


Super-Bunker: Howlround Heads For The Countryside

Artwork by Nick Finch

Hello you. It’s high time for an update on these pages following a breathless couple of weeks chasing tape loops around the countryside. I had very much intended to blog about all this excitement in real time, but that proved surprisingly difficult when in the middle of a field in deepest Oxfordshire or indeed some forty metres below another field in equally-deepest Essex. Add to that the three cups of Wetherspoons coffee I’ve just imbibed in order to justify using their appallingly faltering wifi and it’s a wonder I’m managing to type anything at all!

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Anyway, to kick off this mini retrospective, here’s an extract from Howlround’s performance at Supernormal from Friday night, where we rocked the Vortex Stage as the proud filling in a Teleplasmiste and Unica Zurn sandwich. Thanks to Mark Pilkington, sound engineer Jimmy, plus Steve and Janine from Psyche Tropes (and not just for the supplying birthday-related espresso martinis the following morning!). Special thanks must to also go to Nic Finch for these splendid illustrations of Howlround in action, which I discovered the following day pinned to various surfaces all around the festival site. Check out more of Nic’s work here. There was a very complimentary review of the festival in CCQ Magazine (appearing on their site a great deal quicker than this one), which described Howlround as ‘easily the highlight of Friday’, an incredible accolade when you consider the evening was headlined by Wolf Eyes!

The sounds are deep, part natural, part industrial, making me think of a neverending uninterrupted series of tube and train journeys, taken alone; eerie and disconcerting, flashed through with the clacking of the tape reels. CCQ Mag

The previous Friday night had also been a hive of activity as the long-awaited Delaware Road event at Kelvdeon Hatch ‘Secret’ Nuclear Bunker finally came to pass. An audio-visual, multi-sensory experience months in preparation, meticulously planned and taking over the entire complex of operations rooms, dormitories, offices and sick bays with a psychedelic extravaganza of sound and image buried deep within a remote Essex hillside. Featuring performances by Howlround, Teleplasmiste (them again!), Loose Capacitor, Twelve Hour Foundation, Simon James, DJ Food, Radionics Radio and many more. The results were nothing short of a triumph, with the bunker completely sold out and packed to the rafters with revellers excitedly exploring the surroundings. People talk a lot about events being ‘immersive’ these days, but with strange sounds and images penetrating ever corner of this most shadowy relic of all-too-recent history, and with the Churchill-like figure of Dolly Dolly at the helm to tie all the strands together; I’m convinced that a new standard has been set!

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Photography by Pete Woodhead

Howlround’s own performance consisted of a three hour installation in the Telex Room next to the radio studio, with a film programme by Psyche Tropes taking place next door – perhaps the one place in the entire complex where I could envision feeling slightly at home in the event of armageddon. As you can see from the pictures, the installation, including assistance provided by two wordless (and armless) volunteers in black cowls made for a suitably eye-catching affair, captured here in the photographs of Pete Woodhead (colour) and Victoria Hastings (b/w). A big thank you to them both, and there’s plenty more of their photos (and those of others) to be admired by visiting The Delaware Road’s Facebook page.

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Photography by Victoria Hastings

One downside to having to remain in the Telex room and keep a close eye and a firm hand on my semi-trusty machines and two wordless assistants for the duration of the event, was being sadly unable to take in any of the other performances, all of which were designed to occur simultaneously and to last for the duration of the event; providing the audience with a veritable smorgasbord of the uncanny at every turn. However, the information gained second-hand through reports and feedback from revellers constantly passing and re-passing through for their hit of tape loop action assures me that there were no shortage of memorable moments. One person who was afforded a more rounded perspective of the event was DJ Food, who used the time between his sets to take in some of the performances going on around the site and engage in a spot of mingling. The resulting review on his own blog is – as ever – worth a read.

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Photography by Pete Woodhead

That’s me on the right, pulling sinister faces with David from Loose Capacitor. Photo by Victoria Hastings

In short, one of the most memorable nights of 2017 and certainly one of the most remarkable venues Howlround have played thus far, an increasingly crowded field when you take all of our cemeteries, water tanks, reservoirs and Victorian engineering shafts into account. A tribute to the ever-growing Delaware Road story, the community of artists, musicians, DJs, nerds and weirdos that have grown around it, and the tireless imagination of the brains behind it all, Buried Treasure Records boss Mr. Alan Gubby. Can’t wait to see where he’s taking us next, though I expect he’ll probably want a cup of tea and a sit down first. In the meantime, make sure you pick up a copy of the self-titled debut LP by his group Revbjelde, another personal highlight of 2017.

Revbjelde – a slice of weird albion

Bunker-Victoria-16

Best Bud: Delaware lynchpin and chief strategist Alan Gubby keeps things in order.

Finally, a quick mention of another 2017 highlight, Howlround’s recent headlining of the Psyche Tropes event at St John on Bethnal Green as part of the East End Film Festival, where we performed a live score of A Creak In Time, our film produced in collaboration with director Steve McInerney (and still available on heavyweight vinyl with streaming and download here). That performance and the event in question, featuring performances Sally Golding, Spatial, Ian Helliwell and Steve’s own Merkaba Macabre project, are the subject of a very flattering review in the latest edition of the The Wire, available now from all good outlets. Thanks to Katrina Dixon and again to all at St John for having us – hope we didn’t do too much damage to the candlesticks by using them as loop restraints?* They only fell over a few times, after all. Rumour has it we’ll be returning to the church in some shape or form come the autumn. But more on that later…

As the sound shreds and fades, it leaves behind a cosmic wow to take out into the night – is this the sound and feel of being sucked into a black hole? Katrina Dixon, The Wire. 

*To clarify, we did get permission to use the candlesticks first. I would hate anyone to think we would take any liturgical liberties!


WENT NUCLEAR!

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More photos and a proper review to follow. Just need to have some sleep and a tidy up first!


GO NUCLEAR: The Delaware Road At Kelvedon Hatch This Friday. Final Tickets Going Fast!

One final push for all mankind: After months of preparation The Delaware Road’s fully-immersive audio-visual seance finally takes place this Friday 28th July at Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker, with the last few remaining tickets now released and selling fast. ‘Immersive’ is a bit of a buzz-word these days, isn’t it? Well, rest assured that henceforth nobody will have license to use it ever again unless they too are planning an extensive “occult conspiracy thriller [and] audio-visual treat for fans of archived electronica, far out jazz and haunted folk grooves chronicling [an] obsession with sound, sex & magic” deep beneath a hillside somewhere in Essex, complete with live performances, sound installations, film screenings, fully stocked bar, map, emergency pack of ‘Delatabs’ and a lordly yet slightly terrifying host in the shape of one Dolly Dolly.

Howlround are going to be engaged in a three-hour tape loop installation in the Telex Room, where we’re hoping to conjure up some sound, sex and magic of our own, so do pop over, but try not to become entangled up in our cats cradle of loops. Of course that’s only one corner of the bunker and the event is designed to make full use of this most remarkable of locations, with performances, installations and screenings taking place continuously in chambers and secret spaces all over the complex; encouraging the audience to fully explore this remarkable facility. Preserved exactly as it was at the height of the cold war, Kelvedon Hatch was designed to house the government in the event of armageddon, and had it ever been used ‘in anger’ would have sheltered six hundred people from nuclear winter for a year or more. They would’ve envied the dead within a week. Thankfully your tickets also guarantee your safe departure.

 

He’s a pussycat really. Just don’t call him a hauntologist!


Grenfell Tower Benefit Concert, Cafe Oto, Saturday 15th July

‘A simple title, but it makes the purpose of this concert clear. The aim is to raise a substantial amount of money to donate to charities and groups supporting the victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster. The artists participating are from a diversity of musical genres, they are united by their singular talents and an unswerving commitment to their art’.

MATINEE CONCERT (2pm – 4pm)

Adam Bohman
Pat Thomas
Keiko Kitamura
Beatrice Dillon (DJ set)

EVENING CONCERT (7.30pm – midnight)

Howlround
Aisha Orazbayeva
Kuljit Bhamra
Lee Gamble (DJ set)
Clive Graham of Paradigm Discs (DJ set)
Shadow Justice Crew (DJ set)

Full details here (or click on above image)

There are no advance tickets for each events, so just show up. There is a recommended donation of £10 on the door. Minimum Donation £5 on the door. Free entry for Grenfell Tower residents, firefighters and NHS medical staff.

This event is produced by Richard Thomas with the assistance and support of Fielding Hope and the team at Cafe Oto, Resonance FM and The Wire. Special thanks to Ed Baxter and Jennifer Lucy-Allan.’