Happy New Year! Here’s A Massively Overdue Review

Hello You. In all honesty, now is probably not the best time to be unveiling my freshly-minted 2018 Retrospective Mixtape, containing some of my very favourite music from the last 12 months. With 2019 now well underway and the majority of goodly folk returned to normality, this second week of January should really be a moment for us all to lift our collective noses to the skyline, bid the old year goodbye and stride purposefully into the future (though in our current climate you could be forgiven for striding purposefully into the nearest cave instead). Unfortunately this time I don’t have much choice as I’ve just spent the last fortnight in bed as sick as a dog, which caused seasonal productivity to take an almighty downward swing. I had hoped to have this mix finished in time for Christmas, but my immune system had some disagreeable festive plans of its own. With this in mind, I ask for you to join me in looking back over the year one last time before we all get on with our lives. Especially as this year’s mix is something of a whopper – a marathon 56 tracks! Pop on the kettle, draw up an armchair and cancel all plans for the next three hours and forty minutes:

A couple of minor disclaimers – it was mixed on a cheap pair of crappy headphones purchased in Brampton Post Office (my own pair having gone walkabout / been eaten by the dog) and as I’m still on my way home following my enforced convalescence in Cumbria, there might be a couple of discrepancies in the track info. All will be double-checked and corrected once I get back to Fog Towers. In the meantime, because Mixcloud seems to be a complete jerk about such things nowadays, here is the tracklisting in full:

People Like Us – Nothing
The Heartwood Institute – Broadcasting
Soundhog – Newtown Parkway
The Twelve Hour Foundation – Analogjam
Daphne & Celeste – Sunny Day
The Go! Team – Chico’s Radical Decade
Juniore – Magnifique
Christine & The Queens – Girlfriend
Daphne & Celeste – Alarms
Edan & Homeboy Sandman – Unwavering Mind
Sink Ya Teeth – I Do, I Do
Sculpture – Nite Flite
Graham Dunning – Way Too Much Time
Pascal Say – Allow The Light (Extract)
DJ Enfusion – Dubness
Dan Hayhurst – A Creak Retimed, Part IV
Simon James – Shanghai (Extract)
Ore – Silicate
Tune Yards – Hammer
Uwalmassa – Untitled 02 (Bumi Uthiri EP)
Ryoji Ikeda + Eklekto – Body Music (For Duo), Op.4 – III
Mohammed Reza Mortazavi – Birth Of A Whale
Uwalmassa – Untitled 01 (Bumi Uthiri EP)
The Hands – A Mind
Meat Beat Manifesto – In C, Part III
The Heartwood Institute – Sun Wheel
Concretism – New Governments For A New Nation
Spaceship – The Stones Speak Of Short Lives
Orbital feat. Professor Brian Cox – The End Is Nigh
Reed & Caroline – Before
The Radiophonic Workshop – Mind The Gap
X-Altera – Holotyd Neo-Optika
Proc Fiskal – Hoax Nos Trinit
Langham Research Centre – The Terminal Beach
Max Richter – Iconography (Knox-Om-Pax Remix)
Sproatly Smith – Ethelbert And Mary
Vic Mars – Dinedor Hill
David Colohan – On Stormy Point
Listening Centre – Clarion Of The Collapse
Proc Fiskal – Mourn Non Did
Langham Research Centre – Roadside Picnic
Moon Gangs – Sea Circles
Dolly Dolly – Soil
The Advisory Circle – Scuba
Merkaba Macabre – Iridescent (Extract)
Ipec Gorgun – Seneca
Tom White – A Creak Retimed, Part 1
Radionics Radio – Frequency Cluster
Chips For The Poor – Benylin Beep Beep (Extract)
Psychological Strategy Board – Stranded Here For All Eternity
Psychological Strategy Board – Out Of Formation (Out Of Duration)
James Murray – Falling Backwards
Anne Garner – Unhand
Daniel John Williams – Bells
Field Lines Cartographer – Coldbarrow
Yann Novak – Casting Ourselves Back Into The Past

Hands-down my favourite album of the year by a country mile was Daphne and Celeste Save The World by Daphne and Celeste with Max Tundra, just in case you’re of the small number of people that I haven’t already bored to death on the subject. Life-affirming, joyous dream-pop that I felt was rather cruelly slept on by press and mainstream broadcasters alike, in an age when so much music feels incredibly dull and homogenous (at least to this grumpy old cynic), this felt like a much-needed shot of mischief. The best pop was always the weirdest, surely? Plus ‘Alarms’ might actually be my favourite music video of all time, even beating that other Max Tundra effort from 2009 where he played battenburg cake as if it were a synthesiser. Order your copy of the album here.

Belated thanks to everyone who came to Winter Solstice Soundscapes at Carlisle’s Vinyl Cafe just before Christmas, to enjoy performances from The Heartwood Institute and Howlround, as well as to officially launch new Howlround LP The Debatable Lands in the shop that inspired it all. With mulled wine and festive nibbles provided by ever-affable host James, a striking new set from fellow performer Jonathan (watch for a new Heartwood Institute LP in 2019!) and Howlround’s machines on surprisingly exemplary form, it was a fantastic evening and a brilliant way to round off our most amazing year yet. With all machines functioning somewhere in the sweet spot around perfect-imperfection, the result was, to my ears, one of Howlround’s strongest sets of recent months; a surprisingly heavy workout that apparently reminded a couple of punks in the crowd of Cabaret Voltaire – a compliment I shall take with pleasure! My Christmas bug has meant that I haven’t had a moment to listen back to the recording yet, but I’ll be sure to put something online in the near future. Must also thank Warwick Bazaar for having me on DJ duties the previous evening, in support of a superb set by AHRKH, a fellow Cumbrian and member of GNOD that I met several years ago in Salford while on tour with William Baskinski and Kepla. Weirdly the subject of our sharing a home town never came up back then – it’s a small world indeed. Anyway, do check out his very fine body of solo work here. It really does make me very happy to see places like Vinyl Cafe and Warwick Bazaar springing up and flourishing in my old home town. I’d have been in much less of a hurry to leave if they’d been around back when I was a permanent resident. Long may they reign!

Oh, and what of 2019? Loads to look forward to, not least Howlround’s next live shows at the end of the month. But more on those later, for the moment I’m still fighting off the last ravages of the flu, so I’m off for a cup of tea and a nice sit down. Wishing you all the best for a sonically invigorating 2019!

Advertisements

Back To The Lands: Final Shows Of The Year

Hello you. Just wanted to put in a plug for the last handful of Howlround live shows for 2018, before I mothball the tape machines and retire for a week at the parental hearth involving dog walking, London Transport Films and Knight Rider re-runs when nobody is looking (don’t judge me). The excitement starts this Tuesday 11th with a live set at Dalston’s Cafe Oto alongside mighty fellow tape manipulators Langham Research Centre. Both parties will be performing separately, before combining for a realisation of the 1955 John Cage composition “Speech for 5 Radios and Newsreader”. Cannot wait!

Just back from touring Japan and with two new releases in tow (in addition to Tape Works vol.1 which is one of my favourite albums of 2018), those Langham chaps are certainly experiencing a purple patch right now, so the stage is set for a very special evening indeed. Plus I might even have some shiny new Howlround vinyl for sale. Further details and tickets here.

Looking a little further ahead to December 22nd, I’ll be DJing at Warwick Bazaar in my hometown of Carlisle in support of a live set by AHRKH, a side project from GNOD’s A.P. Macarte incorporating Modular synths, field recordings and vocals, which could not be further up my street if it tried. It’s only my second ever DJ set in the land of my birth, the first being some 22 years ago when I played oldskool hardcore at a birthday party (using one of those weird old hi-fi turntables that has the stylus in the lid for reasons that baffled me then and now), before getting turfed off for refusing to play Celine Dion. I’m entirely confident that I shall be much more in my element for this second appearance, but feel compelled to include the caveat that my self-imposed ban on showboating French-Canadian divas is still very much in effect. Further details here.

The following day I’m heading to my joint-favourite record shop, Carlisle’s Vinyl Cafe for the second of their Winter Solstice Soundscapes event. Once again Howlround will go head-to-head with Lakeland ‘Hauntronica’ pioneer The Heartwood Institute, whose Secret Rites LP on Polytechnic Youth was another of my favourite longplayers of 2018. It’s a highly anticipated rematch following last year’s inaugural event, though I am hoping the machines behave a little better this year: Daphne in particular was rather stubborn and unyielding the last time around, despite all the whispered oaths I used in trying to convince her to behave – hopefully on the return visit she’ll prove a little more pliable. Sadly Simon will be sitting this one out altogether after spooling all over the floor at the recent Palace Electric show. Needless to say my new year’s resolution is to put all the machines in for a service…

And that’s almost it for the year, but I’ll be popping up on your feed once more in 2018 to drop my now-traditional, hotly-anticipated ‘Best Of Year’ mixtape, which I’ll be putting together sometime in the next week. As ever, it’s going to be a hard slog trying to include all of the fabulous releases that have come my way in the past twelve months, but it’s a challenge I always relish. In the meantime, please enjoy the above 2017 mix one more time. That was a pretty vintage year too…


Bad Lands: New LP Plus Cumbrian Resonance

teaser terror peek at the eerie eruptions emanating from a new Howlround happenings. Culled from an imminent chiller entitled ‘the debatable lands’ this is the unforgiving power electronics bleakness of (what we take to believe is called) ‘a melt saetr’. A scalding slice of isolationist harsh noise gouging that scowls, scars and skirts the defiant and damaged terrains of the likes of Sissy Spacek and  Tayside Mental Health, happy pop this isn’t, sheer brutal bludgeoning it is. Approach with due care and trepanning deflecting headwear Mark Losing Today

Howlround are delighted to announce that sixth studio album The Debatable Lands (for studio read ‘Mum and Dad’s dining room table’) will be released at the end of the year and is now available to pre-order from Touch.Expertly cut by Jason at Transition and impeccably mastered by Stephan Mathieu, it’s a surprisingly abrasive four-track vinyl LP, but if you order it directly from the Touchshop, you get an additional six tracks, one of which ‘a-melt-saetr’ can be heard here. And that track has already gained the above review from Mark Losing Today, for which we’re much obliged!

Photo by Inga Tillere

Official PR blurb: In December 2017, Howlround (Robin the Fog) was invited to perform at “The Winter Solstice Soundscapes” event for the recently opened record store “Vinyl Café” in his home town of Carlisle, Cumbria. Inspired by the reception to his first ever performance in the great border city, he covered his parent’s dining room table with the same equipment, stretched loops of tape around his mum’s seasonal candlesticks when she wasn’t looking… and this LP is the result. The only equipment used on the album is two 1/4” reel-to-reel tape machines and one microphone. The sounds created are entirely at the discretion of the machines (much of them derived from ‘closed-input’ recordings) and all tracks were produced in a single take. There are no edits, no overdubs and no additional effects.

Photo by Inga Tillere

This marks a new, heavier direction for Howlround, a project better known for more ambient work. Described as ‘Tapeloop Techno’, thick knotty tangles of dense, pulsating bass are an echo of Robin’s early days making bad dance music, while the abrasive snarls of feedback swirling around these tracks point to his more recent embrace of indeterminacy and chance composition. Previous vinyl releases on Psyché Tropes, The Wormhole, A Year in the Country and Front & Follow as well as his own label The Fog Signals have shown a deep understanding of the possibilities of tape manipulation. On The Debatable Lands Howlround eschews the usual field recordings in favour of exploring the interior world of the machines themselves.

Photo by Inga Tillere

The album was officially unveiled last Friday on Resonance FM’s Bad Punk show, though in actual fact only one track from the LP was debuted, along with another from recently issued Psyché Tropes LP A Creak Retimed. The rest of the show was performed as a live session, with regular host Johny Brown and special guest Dolly Dolly reciting great works of poetry from the region with Howlround tape loops providing a live backdrop. Have a listen below if you missed it or would like to listen again:

Thanks to Johny and Dolly Dolly for another splendid performance – our first together since Gallery 46 in Whitechapel last August. Thanks must also go to engineer Matt and Inga Tillere for these fabulous photographs (as usual)! Further information can be found on the Bad Punk website. Tune in every Friday at 10pm, it’s always worth a listen!

Photo by Inga Tillere

Photo by Inga Tillere


Bad Punk: The Debatable Lands, Live On Resonance FM, 30.11.18

I’ll be rolling out the tape machines for a live performance on Resonance FM’s Bad Punk show this Friday 30th November, alongside the ever-redoubtable Johny Brown and special guest Dolly Dolly. This auspicious occasion will occur in celebration of Howlround’s forthcoming 6th studio album The Debatable Lands, the release of which was finally announced officially by the Touch Twitter account last week. It’s going to be a Cumbrian Poets Special, as much of the LP was recorded in the region – to be more specific on my parent’s dining room table during the Christmas break between lengthy dog walks and re-runs of Knight Rider. More details to follow, but I’ll be debuting extracts from the album exclusively on the show – first time they’ve ever been heard outside of Brampton! It’s something of a departure from previous releases, but having been freshly mastered by the legendary Stephan Mathieu, the album is sounding fit and lean – and really quite abrasive in places!

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Tune into Resonance 10pm Friday night on 104.4FM and DAB in London, plus worldwide via Resonancefm.com. Industrial strength tape loop action plus Cumbrian poetry from two of my very favourite raconteurs. It’s going to be heavy!

Dolly Dolly

The Boot Fits: Dolly Dolly prepares for our performance at ‘Liminality [Cacophony]’ back in August


Moog Symposium And Palace Electrics

**UPDATE: Regret to announce that Saturday’s Moog Symposium has been postponed until the new year. Sorry about that, but will be sure to keep you posted with news of the rescheduling!**

Hello you. First post in a while. Weeks, in fact. Sorry about that. But one mustn’t assume that just because there’s been some tumbleweed blowing around these pages that there hasn’t been a significant amount of nose-grindstone interplay in the real, offline world. In fact things are manic as ever: I’ve been dashing across Europe again making podcasts (four countries in two weeks – a new personal best), running some tape loop workshops, assisting with the sound design for a new Radio 4 documentary (of which more hopefully later), and attempting to clear the decks for the brand new forthcoming Howlround LP, which I’m hoping to have my tacky little paws on any day now. But all that is for another time. The most pressing news to impart for the moment is that everyone’s favourite purveyors of improvised tape loop shenanigans have a busy weekend lined up, with live shows in Guildford on Saturday 24th and Crystal Palace on Sunday 25th November, both as part of a wider programme of exciting events.

First up, we have the 2nd Moog Symposium at the University of Surrey in Guildford on Saturday, where Howlround will be performing alongside the legendary minimalist composer Eleh, one of two performances described as ‘a meditation on tone’ and perhaps surprisingly their first ever shows in the UK. There’s also a wider day-long programme of talks and discussions including David Stubbs (whose Mars By 1980 has been my favourite book so far this year) and Richard Norris of Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve / The Grid and more, as well as host and curator Professor Tony Myatt. Very much looking forward to taking part in this one – and being in such auspicious company! Limited tickets are apparently still available and further details can be found here.

The following day, Howlround will be taking part in Palace Electrics, a three day festival of electronic music in Crystal Palace. There’s much to recommend about each of the events taking place over the course of the weekend – not least the fact that entry is free – but I reckon the closing party on Sunday night is a particular highlight, including live turns by Chocolate Hills (a new Orb side-project from Alex Paterson and Paul Conby), Kumo (featuring members of local legends Metamono) and a  performance of Steve Reich’s ‘Pendulum Music’. Excited by both the opportunities to perform and partake and also the fact that the close proximity to home means that I only have to drag my suitcase full of tape machines on-and-off just a single bus to get them home afterwards. Keep that South London flag flying high, Palace Electrics!

In conclusion, an exciting weekend ahead. My only concerns now are getting the machines ready for action in good time and cutting a whole load of new loops in preparation, as I’m hoping to unveil a completely new live show on both occasions.  Speaking of which, thanks to everyone who came down to my recent loop cutting workshop and performance at Kit Records’ Pop-up record shop in New Cross. A tight schedule has meant that I haven’t had a proper chance to go through the loops and recordings we made that afternoon, but with a bit of luck some of them just might sneak into this weekend’s performances.

Incidentally, the Kit shop is open until the end of the month and at the time of writing there’s still time to catch the last few of their extensive programme of instore events and performances (as well as picking up some vinyl bargains) by checking out @WeAreKit on Twitter. I’ve mentioned this most splendid label / radio show / design emporium on these pages before, of course and a visit to kitrecords.com is always a treat, so do the sensible thing and get involved. Mind you, closing party for the shop is on November 23rd, so I’d strongly advise against leaving it too long…

Finally, a hasty thank you to everyone who came down to see the recent show by Howlround and The Begotten at the Courtyard Theatre in Hoxton, especially our most gracious and welcoming hosts who allowed me to test the limits of their impressively tasty soundsystem. I’m reliably informed that the bass frequencies of our set made a nearby vase of flowers jump and bounce around like it was possessed – and how many other sound artists can claim that? To celebrate, here’s a picture of me looking appropriately thuggish:

Photo by Andy Popperwell

…And the aforementioned vase during soundcheck, the calm before the storm. Thankfully nothing subsequently broke or wilted…


A Creak Retimed: Brand New LP Out Now On Psyché Tropes

Hello you. I’m absolutely delighted to be able to finally announce the launch of something I’ve been keeping under my Howling Hat for quite a while: A Creak Retimed, the new collection of original tape compositions and reworks inspired by Steven McInerney’s critically acclaimed 2017 film A Creak In Time. This brand new vinyl excursion draws fresh inspiration from that work and contains original and exclusive tracks by HowlroundDan HayhurstTom White, Merkaba Macabre and Ian Helliwell. Original yes, because rather than the straightforward remix album some might have been expecting, each artist draws inspiration from the film itself rather than the soundtrack, thereby reinterpreting A Creak In Time‘s flickering and hallucinatory images in their own style  –  including my own attempt here to channel just a little bit of Pan Sonic:

The album is out now on 180g ‘Toxic Yellow’ LP, beautifully mastered and expertly cut by Rashad Becker at Dubplates and Mastering, in a limited edition of 275 + Download. Sleeve artwork is by Karl Toomey and Steven McInerney and the film component has been reworked from 16mm film reels that did not make the final cut, resulting in a zero waste film project.‍‍‍ The album actually features two Howlround tracks, the brand new composition above and a previously unreleased outtake from the original sessions – the omission of which had caused a minor fracas in the editing suite, so it’s nice to have it finally see the light of day!

And there’s much more! I love every single track on this LP, It’s a fantastic album and I’m tremendously proud to be featured on it alongside artists that I’m lucky enough to be both friends with and fans of – particularly Steve whose  boundless energy and unwavering attention to detail have made the whole thing possible. Good work, McInerney! Consider this another notch on the Psyché Tropes tomahawk!

…While we’re on the subject, let’s not forget the album that started it all: A Creak In Time, featuring Howlround’s original score, is still available, and comes as a beautifully packaged 180g LP with links to watch, listen, download and stream online. Described on its release as ‘Not Unlike Brian Eno Remixing György Ligeti’ by Electronic Sound and praised for its ‘unfathomable oceanic bleakness’ by The Wire, you may remember it was created entirely by manipulating recordings of creaking hinges made in BBC New Broadcasting House, the Mojave Ghost Town of Amboy and a log cabin in Yosemite; causing consternation and confusion to a coach load of tourists, assorted local wildlife and at least one member of the BBC’s Hausa Service in the process – though not necessarily in that order.

Much of this work was created on a single Revox machine that started smoking the last time I powered her up, but I hope you’ll agree the end result was worth any temporary threat to my health and hearth. In fact, it’s an ironic truth that this particular machine happening to be on a wheeled dolly would actually have made it doubly hard to get it out of the house in the event of it spontaneously combusting – and triply hard to throw out the window. But it’s worth all the risk to be able to be able to bring you these sounds – and remembering to periodically sniff the equipment in anticipation of singeing components is now just another part of the production process. And so in celebration of this flagrant disregard for health and safety, I thought I’d close here by once more digging out this video clip of Howlround performing a live score to A Creak In Time at last year’s Further event, just in case any of you weren’t paying attention up to now. What a beautiful mess we made!


A Creak Back In Time With SNS Online

“Those magnificent magicians of radiophonic sound, who can create a symphony from a stairwell, a concert from a creaking hinge or a gargantuan G flat from a garden gate… The possibilities are endless. Howlround – as represented by founder member, Robin The Fog – join SNS Online to discuss the extraordinary lengths they go to create the most incredible, outer-worldly sounds and music.”

Presented for your approval, a very special Howlround edition of the long-running interview podcast series SNS Online, focusing on the work of everyone’s favourite tape-loop quintet. Recorded in July 2017, shortly after the release of A Creak In Time and just before our performance at Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker as part of The Delaware Road, the show is hosted by ever-affable and relentlessly energetic Nick Randell and looks back over a short but eventful career that started back in 2012 in the basement of Bush House. Also briefly features 6Music presenter Shawn Keaveney taking the mickey, but I forgive him.

Never one for doing things by halves, such was Nick’s enthusiasm for this show that he even recorded an accompanying ‘bite-sized’ episode by joining us at live performance in our favourite South London venue Iklectik for their ‘Sonic Waterloo’ series, also in July 2017. Features contributions from our friends Steven McInerney, Pascal Savy, Janine A’Bear and many more.

The resulting interviews capture a moment in time from last summer that already feels somewhat remote, and listening back to this double-dose of tape loop action one year on, I feel there are a few things I should clear up. Firstly, while I confidently describe our output as musique concréte on the show, the intervening months have found me wondering if I actually have permission to describe the music of Howlround using that particular term after all, especially as the past year has seen the project experiment increasingly with more chance and improvisation-based forms of composition. Secondly, since then Howlround has returned to being a solo operation as my esteemed colleague in tape Chris Weaver is currently pursuing other projects – though I fully intend to brow-beat him into working together again at some point. And finally, I should emphatically confirm that Altern 8’s ‘Activ 8’ remains one of my all-time favourite records and one of the main reasons I got into music in the first place – even if their day-glo rave antics might have been a little incongruous on Top of the Pops! Such clarifications aside, thank you for having me, Mr. Nick Randell, and you can investigate the long and varied career of SNS Online in more depth on their Soundcloud page here, as well as following him on his Facebook and Twitter pages. The series is a force for good in the world and I’m certainly very proud to be joining an lineage of guests that includes Hank Marvin, Biddy Baxter MBE and Carol Decker from T’Pau!