Ringing The Changes The Ringing – An Accidental Ambient Classic

Hello you. Thought you might like to see the latest post on the London’s Sound Heritage blog that I’ve written in collaboration with the artist and curator Kirsty Kerr. It pertains to a serendipitous encounter with an small and unassuming spool of tape I chanced upon while working in my capacity as an Audio Preservation Engineer for the nationwide Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project. Originally a simple recording of a handbell performance stretched across two mono sides of a tape, I discovered that playing it back on a modern two-track reel to reel machine would cause both sides to play simultaneously, inadvertently revealing work of gently undulating ambient bliss not too far from the works of Terry Reilly or Brian Eno in the process. You can read more about the creation of this new work and our efforts to digitise the audio collection of Britain’s oldest manufacturer by clicking below:

….click above to read more

Or if you’re in something of a hurry, you can just listen to the recording below. The Foundry owners themselves have heard it and given their blessing and the general consensus of the feedback received elsewhere so far has been that it really should be at least half an hour longer! Surely be the most glorious piece of tintinnabulation your ears will encounter today?:

It’s also undoubtedly the finest example of a ‘Treble Bob 16 In’ that you’ll hear all week and will hopefully be now be heard far and wide to the delight of campanologists everywhere. Why not share it with that special bell-ringer in your life? Then head back to LondonsSoundHeritage.wordpress.com to read of some of our other adventures in audio heritage. It’s been an incredible trip!

Here We Go Loop The Loop – Into The Galaxy Electric

Hello you. It is my absolutely pleasure to announce that I’m appearing as ‘special guest’ on the latest episode of the Cosmic Tape Music Club Podcast with my awesome new friends The Galaxy Electric!

Better known as Jacqueline and Augustus, the US-based duo combine an obsession with early experimental music with a bit of a knack for creating swirly psychedelic electronic space age synth pop of their own; with album titles such as Music For Teleportation and Everything Is Light And Sound offering big clues as to the kind of sonic magic they trade in. They’re also absolutely delightful company!

Over the course of an hour we talk tape loops, accidents and errors, growing up with weird sounds, Radiophonics and the Delia movie, Mystery Science Theatre, David Hasselhoff… It’s get PRETTY nerdy, as you can well. imagine. This is the video interview, but to be honest you’d be doing me a favour by listening to the audio version instead which can be found here. It’s exactly the same content, but without my blurry silhouetted head and endless gesticulating hands that suddenly seem absolutely massive for some reason. Perhaps it’s a perspective thing? Whichever medium you go for, if nerding out about electronic music is your thing, then this series will be very much in your wheelhouse. Dive right in and then go nab yourself some Galaxy Electric vinyl or perhaps one of their highly covetable mugs that would be so perfect for a cup of British tea.

Damn, that B77 looks a lot less dented than mine!

And then just to completely maximise my exposure this month, I’m also chuffed to bits to have a double page spread in this month’s edition of The Wire, discussing the wonderful world of contemporary artists that use tape as a key part of their creative practice, in support of the legendary Aaron Dilloway – a tape loop tinkerer of much repute himself, of course.

Obviously any piece on contemporary explorers in tape can’t really begin without William Basinski, with whom I was lucky enough to go on tour back in 2015 (seems like a very long time ago now, doesn’t it?) and the wonderful Beatriz Ferreyra. But the real joy was discovering so much new music while writing it, such as the work of Australia’s Alexandra Spence and Marsha Fisher from the US. I received quite a few pointers from members of a Facebook group that I’ve subsequently been ejected from (long story), but two of those members were Jacqueline and Augustus, so really my short tenure on those pages proved to be quite fruitful. My only regret was not being able to include George Raynor-Law’s superb Cantonese Tapework, a copy of which was handed to me at the IKLECTIK Experimental Music Fair and that I’ve been blasting ever since. If only I’d come across it a couple of weeks earlier!

IKLECTIKA was incredible, of course, just like we all predicted. So lovely to make new friends, bump into old ones and pick up a bunch of exciting new releases from adventurous new labels. Combine it with the previous weekend’s performances by Tasos Stamou and Left Hand Cuts Off The Right at Cafe Oto and things almost move into the realm of feeling normal again. Fingers crossed it continues. All this weird music is so much more fun when we can all share it together, right?

IKLECTIKA Experimental Music Fair – A Return To Paradise!

Absolutely delighted to be returning to one of my very, very favourite places this weekend, Iklectik in Old Paradise Yard, Lambeth, who are celebrating their seventh birthday and the return of live music by throwing a mammoth Experimental Music Fair. It’s a huge programme of pioneering experimental labels, publishers and magazines to take part in a 2-day event full of talks, interviews, panel discussions, live acts and DJ sets. I’ll be there both days running the Touch stall and hawking a few rarities and bargains, so why not stop by and say hello? Further details can be found by clicking on the image above, but here are a few extra details of what’s in store, just to tantalise you further:

GUESTS:
Aloes books / Brachliegen Tapes / Café Oto / CHAMPION VERSION / Chinabot / CLOT Magazine / Colliding Lines / Earshots Recordings / La Plaque Tournante / Flaming Pines / Fractal Meat / Goldsmiths Press / isolariiLinear Obsessional / Nonclassical / Paradigm Discs / Psyché Tropes / Repeater Books / Salmon Universe / Sig’il Records / StudioC+ / The Word Bookshop / The Wire / Touch / Weight of Wax / Virtual Ground
more TBA

PROGRAMME:

DAY 1 – Saturday 17th of July
NONCLASSICAL – DJ Set
CLOTmag Talk – Hybrid Spaces (guests TBA)
Graham Dunning – DJ Set [Fractal Meat]
A’Bear – Live Performance
Jon Wozencroft – Timescale: Sound Seminar [Touch]

DAY 2 – Sunday 18th of July
Deep Learning: Richard Pike & Joe Quirke – DJ Set [Salmon Universe]
Psyché Tropes – DJ Set
The Future of Record Labels – Panel aDiscussion (guests TBA)
o.utlier – DJ Set

Mulholland Drives: Fog Cast Heads Down Hob’s Lane

A very special edition of Fog Cast this week as the controls of Resonance FM’s finest slice of Isolationist Deep Listening are handed over to Scottish artist, first-generation Hauntologist, ‘Godfather of Psychogeography’, academic and researcher Drew Mulholland. It’s a highly charged brew containing a broad sweep of the extensive back catalogue from the man who first entered many of our orbits as the shadowy figure behind Mount Vernon Arts Lab. That back catalogue includes tape loops, field recordings, haunted electronics, ghostly perambulations, private dreams, public nightmares… you get the idea.

Finding strange connections that lurk in the unconscious has become an obsession for Mulholland.. It certainly sums up the strange connections and coincidences that give Mulholland’s work such resonance. Whether it’s bloody battlefields or icons of psychedelia, the ghosts are out there. You just have to listenThe Guardian

If all this isolationist intrigue has left you hungry for more, then a small section of Drew’s deep dark discography can be found at his Bandcamp page, so why not do the right thing and bung a few quid his way? You can also show your support by supporting him on Patreon by clicking right here.

Thanks for taking us on such a trip, Drew! Now any chance of a new LP that doesn’t sell out before I can get my my grubby mitts on it?!

MSCTY, Mechanics And Masks

WHAT IS MSCTY? from MSCTY on Vimeo.

Absolutely delighted to have been asked to soundtrack the new MSCTY new promotional video, directed by Tim Iloobia and commissioned to promote the work of Nick Luscombe’s multi-limbed agency exploring the interplay between sound, space and architecture across the globe. I believe he’s thrilled to bits with the results – as am I!

Regular followers to these irregular tape loop updates may recall that I made a contribution to MSCTY’s project exploring various locations around The Barbican complex a couple of years ago, along with several other artists including Emma-Kate Matthews and the sadly departed Kassia Flux. All of those tracks can be found here – or indeed by visiting the actual locations themselves if you happen to be into geo-caching?!

I do hope that I’ll be working with Cinema Iloobia again before long. In the meantime, Tim’s website and an impressive catalogue of work can be found here. I think this one might just be my favourite:

In other news redoubtable artist, producer and fellow New Obsolescent Strictly Kev aka DJ Food has released a vinyl edition of the Celestial Mechanic LP Citizen Void produced last year as an accompaniment to Rian Hughes‘ book, ‘XX – a novel, graphic’.  Tasked by Rian with creating the actual music for a fictitious album review featured in the book, DJ Food and Saron Hughes have produced a soundtrack worthy of champions – and there’s even a handful of appearances by my Foggy self here and there on tape loop action! Available to order now as a lavishly packaged LP + 7″ on yellow vinyl with original artwork, inner sleeves and art print. It’s a thing of beauty!

In Obsolescent news, the re-press is coming along nicely and from the shots I’ve seen the new sleeves are looking magnificent. In the meantime, Kev rustled up this rather spiffy quartet of limited edition pin badges to hand out to friends, trusted advisors and other members of the wider ‘strange sounds circle’. For my own part I announced online that anyone was welcome to a badge but they had to come and find me in person – an antidote of sorts for so many months of isolation. I’m very happy to say they disappeared quite quickly – apologies to anyone who missed out, but I think more badges may soon be on the way…

Speaking of random bits of fashionable merchandise, check out these Unlocking Our Sound Heritage face masks, here modelled by my esteemed colleague and Psyché Tropes label boss Steven McInerney. I’m not actually sure how you go about getting one of these, but if you happen to be passing through Farringdon I might be able to smuggle one or two out.

Sadly, my role in the UOSH project is entering it’s final few months, but what an amazing journey it’s been! Thousands of tapes, sounds, stories and memories safely stored for future generations – and I consider myself hugely privileged to have been the hands they’ve all passed through. Guess it will soon be time to start planning for the next adventure.

While isolation is now hopefully coming to a close, my weekly Resonance FM show Fog Cast continues to gently and soothingly pulse on. Here’s a recent personal favourite, put together to celebrate the release of the superb new documentary Sisters With Transistors. Have a listen and then go and check out the film for yourself if you haven’t already done so – it’s a triumph!

And finally, this very amusing and very well-observed piece of satire has been making me laugh all week. I have just a few suspicions as to the hands that might be involved as well!

One Year Of Deep Listening – Happy Birthday Fog Cast!

Hello you. Time to softly and ethereally blow out the single candle on the cake marking Fog Cast’s first birthday. It was exactly one a year ago last week that Resonance FM’s series of deep listening soundtracks designed for isolated listening kicked off. And I’ve been celebrating the run-up to this anniversary with a month of very special guest-curated episodes by some of my favourite artists and selectors. First up was a Persistence of Sound Special, put together by label head Iain Chambers and featuring tracks from all five releases to date, including the newly released split LP from Beatriz Ferreyra and Natasha  Barrett – a most worthy addition to the canon.

Speaking of worthy canons, the following week saw raxil 4 take the reigns. Better known as multidisciplinary sound artist Andrew Page, it features 21 extracts from his remarkable and extensive back catalogue, the first 400 releases of which now reside within the British Library Sound Archive. raxil4 specialises in analogue electronic dronescapes, acoustic audio phenomenon and installation, and he has performed live all over Europe, in caves, churches, crypts, prison cells, psychiatric hospitals and water towers. I have shared stages with this man on numerous occasions and I can confirm that 400 albums of this sort of thing isn’t nearly enough! 

Deep listening of a more abrasive nature occurred came next with the arrival of ‘Spirit Level’, an exclusive new work, by venoztks, who has commented simply “all is found, everything is lost”.  Their recent release How It’s Not Meant To Be on the ever-dependable Tapeworm label is also very worthy of your time. 

Which brings us to the final episode in this special birthday month, a beautiful selection from a shadowy individual known only as tpwiikatj. Check out that tracklisting – perhaps one of the finest editions yet!

It’s been a terrible year for pretty much everyone, but these 42 programmes (43 by the time you read this) have been tremendous fun to work on and I hope they’ve provided some listening pleasure and perhaps even some respite from, as someone adroitly put it to me recently, ‘all the NOW that’s going on’. With luck the next 42 programmes will be produced in an atmosphere of slightly less awfulness. We shall see. But in the meantime, don’t forget that Fog Cast continues to go out every Wednesday night, 23:00BST on Resonance 104.4FM and that all previous editions can be streamed here. I’m always on the hunt for new artists to feature and new sounds to play, so do get in touch through the usual channels if you’d like me to bend my ears in your direction. The only rule remains ‘no beats’ (although ‘pulses’ are often encouraged), but even this is starting to feel a little dogmatic!  

In other news, thanks very much indeed to Electronic Sound Magazine, not only for giving The New Obsolescents’ LP such a glowing review, but also for allowing me to wax lyrical (no pun intended) in their regular ‘First, Last And Always’ column, which makes for another item to be ticked off my life bucket-list! Also includes all the usual goodness, including cover star Hannah Peel, so make haste to the newsagents! Or order online here.

Hope you’re all well and jolly and managed to have an enjoyable Easter. I kept myself busy, as you can see, working on tracks for a purported eighth LP that should hopefully surface later in the year. A trusted advisor recently declared that one of the new works sounds ‘like John Inman getting his knackers caught in a cash register’, which I’ve decided to take as a compliment and develop further. I mean, who else is working in those kinds of area at the moment? Nobody, that’s who! Not even Hannah Peel!!

Rare Wares For Resonance -‘Final Vinyls’ Auctioned For Fundraiser

Hello you. It’s that time of year again where the greatest radio station on Earth asks you to put a hand in your pocket and help them to stay on air for another year. Continuing to broadcast 24/7 throughout a turbulent 12 months and providing an invaluable lift to lockdown life, we need them more than ever – and as 2021 has already seen the station moved to new premises they’ll be needing us more than ever too!

With live events obviously suspended and all us programme-makers continuing to send in our shows remotely, the usual gala fundraiser events and online auction have had to be suspended in favour of individual guerilla-style efforts to raise some cash. To that effect, I’ve had a rummage in the archive and am auctioning off a couple of super rare and highly covetable items in aid of the station. To be honest it wasn’t really much of a rummage as both items were released quite recently and therefore near the top of the pile. Actually this first one arrived a mere fortnight ago:

The New Obsolescents – The Superceded Sounds Of… (Castles In Space, 2021)

Super limited ‘moonrock-coloured’ vinyl inside unique hand-cut foil sleeve – the last of its kind. All 300 sold out in less than 25 minutes when placed on pre-order a couple of weeks back, so this really is the final copy! Now live on ebay until 22:00 GMT, Wednesday 3rd March. Let the bidding commence!

A brand new deep space travelogue from the collective minds of DJ Food and Howlround. Improvised live at the Museum Of London in 2016 and now heading off into the uncharted territories of 2021. Strange new worlds conjured from obsolete media, a vision of the future constructed live using nothing but vintage analogue technology and a sense of adventure. The album is presented in an extraordinary sleeve, hand assembled by Strictly Kev, who explains, “Since discovering the Philips 21st Century Prospective series of French musique concrete LPs on tour in European the 90s I’ve been fantasising about one day making a record with a Héliophore patterned silver foil cover. The patterns etched in the covers are achieved by minute differences in the angles of the foil coating which then reflects the light and appears to animate when moved. These legendary and increasingly expensive LPs contained critical works from an international array of leading artists in the tape and electro acoustic field, spearheaded by Pierre Henry who also released many of his own works on the label. Tracking down the company who made the original Philips covers in France led to a dead end as they had long ceased to exist so I gave up hope. Unknown to me a British company had managed to replicate the process under the name Dufex in the UK. Sadly they’d also wound up business in 2019 but via a chance encounter on a separate project I managed to find the final stocks of card from the business at a lighting company”.

Howlround – Rec And Ruin EP (The Fog Signals, 2020)

4-track lathe cut 7″, plus bonus digital content. The original 30 copies of this release sold out in under 10 minutes back in December 2020, this is a secret ’31st Copy’ saved especially for the Resonance FM Fundraiser. Mint, unplayed and the last one ever. Now online and available for your bidding pleasure until 22:00, Tuesday 2nd March. Place your bids here!

Howlround end 2020 in typically noisy and abrasive style by flipping this accursed year a massive bird in the shape of the REC AND RUIN EP. Four tracks of primal ooze and sonic sludge, plus digital bonus content, all recorded during lockdown. 7″ lathe with laminated cover featuring exclusive ghostly artwork, each hand-cut and assembled by Ben Soundhog @Plastidisc, Deepest Wales. Some of our fiercest material yet, all created using a wineglass, a microphone and four reel to reel tape machines. As ever, absolutely no digital FX or artificial reverb have been used in the making of this EP and no downstairs neighbours have been upset – I waited until they were out. Track 3 sounds uncannily like Tristam Cary’s original sound effects for Quatermass And The Pit, but I can assure you it’s pure sonic coincidence. It truly is astonishing the distances you can travel on a spool of tape and a sense of adventure!

Field Limes Cartographer – Leaving In Storms​/​Coordinates – 7″ + Test Pressing (Castles In Space, 2021)

Limited edition clear vinyl 7″ in a beachcombed plastic bag with 4 inserts, 2 stickers and a Field Lines Cartographer badge and artwork by Nick Taylor, plus an exclusive test pressing. Contains two magnificent new Field Lines Cartographer tracks from “The Spectral Isle” universe, with thanks to Colin at Castles In Space for this very generous donation! Now on ebay, Bidding ends 22:30 GMT, Wednesday 3rd March. Get bidding here.

All kinds of other exciting activities can be found this month and beyond via Fundraiser.Resonance.FM, and of course you can make a private donation at any time by simply visiting ResonanceFM.com/Donate and doing whatever feels natural, perhaps even setting up a regular payment to help the station meets its monthly running costs. Resonance is a force for good in an increasingly fraught and difficult world and all the programme makers and engineers willingly give their time and service for free – but even keeping these hardy souls supplied with occasional hobnobs and teabags doesn’t come cheap.

Good luck, everyone – now let’s raise some money!

Let’s Get Obsolescent! Brand New Castles In Space LP Flies Off Shelves

 

Presenting The Superceded Sounds Of The New Obsolescents, a brand new deep space travelogue from the collective minds of DJ Food, Robin The Fog and Chris Weaver. Improvised live at the Museum Of London in 2016, it’s now heading off into the uncharted territories of 2021. Released last week by Castles In Space on limited edition moonrock coloured vinyl in one of five magnificent hand-cut foil sleeves designed by our very own Strictly Kev, all 300 copies sold out in an unprecedented 25 minutes! Fortunately the digital is still available here. It’s just as trippy and far more portable!

This album began life four years ago when the trio were tasked by Jonny Trunk with providing an all-night immersive soundtrack for the mammoth ‘Museum Of Last Parties’ extravaganza in the Museum of London’s Torch Room. Setting up their vintage reel to reel tape machines, turntables and various FX units in the very shadow of the torch that became the icon of the 2012 Olympics, the trio set about creating a soundtrack worthy of champions. It was quite the occasion!

Strange new worlds conjured from obsolete media, a vision of the future constructed completely live using nothing but vintage analogue technology and a sense of adventure. With a constant stream of revellers stopping by to lounge on moon-shaped cushions and enjoy this interstellar soundtrack being woven right before their ears, the trio amassed almost four hours of improvised oddities over the course of that evening. It wasn’t until the spring of 2020 when they suddenly found themselves at home with all plans cancelled and a LOT of spare time that the tapes were resurrected and the album started to take shape.

Now almost five years later, our cosmic drone power trio hhave finally brought home the trophy. The album has already been described by Ghost Box’s Jim Jupp as ‘Perfect Snow Music’ and it’s certainly the fastest selling LP I’ve been involved with! Profuse apologies to all the people who missed out – and I know you were legion – but the fact that this was among the very last stocks of the etched silver foil used for the hand-cut sleeves means that a second pressing is pretty much out of the question. However, The New Obsolescents shall return. Nobody can quite work out how yet, but plans are being made…

WATCH THIS DEEP SPACE!

Best Of 2020 Mixtape – Almost Five Isolationist Hours!

Hello you. Time for one last look over our collective shoulder as we stand on the threshold of another trip round the sun. I’ve prepared my now-traditional Best Of Year Mixtape and it’s my longest one yet, edging towards five hours and packed to the rafters with as much awesome music from 2020 as I could possibly cram in. Of course it arrives with the usual caveat that I could have almost certainly created a couple more mixtapes of equal length from tracks that didn’t make it – really I should start just marketing these things as ‘Best Stuff I Actually Managed To Get My Hands On This Year’. Still, it’s been online for a few days now, apparently long enough for it to nab the coveted 7th place in the Global Experimental Chart (I’m guessing Covid-restrictions will mean the cancellation of any kind of Awards Dinner); though I must confess I’ve been a little slack in posting it here because embedding Mixcloud onto WordPress never ceases to be a kerfuffle. I always end up with a vast expanse of white empty space directly below the link, which no amount of clever coding can seem to get rid of…

…See what I mean? Thoroughly tiresome. Although perhaps imbibing this mixtape over the course of several hours while staring into a white void will create an agreeable way of passing the time during Lockdown 4 or whatever the hell we’re up to now. The tracklisting should be readily accessible to all on the Mixcloud page itself, but as I’ve had a number of queries about this already, I can only assume the site is playing silly-buggers with that as well – if in doubt get in touch and I’ll point you in the right direction. Minor layout issues aside, you certainly can’t fault the musical content, a whopping 63 tracks which includes shimmering ambience, agit-electro, pounding techno, super wyrd folk and a suitably apocalyptic howl of anguish from my favourite new musical discovery of the year, Kenyan Grindcore duo Duma.

In a year so full of tension, the cathartic blastbeat rush of their self titled debut on Nyege Nyege Tapes felt like a revelation. All the stranger then that it shares the runner-up spot in my 2020 top three with practically its polar opposite: Puzzlewood was the long (very long!) awaited second album from Plone on Ghostbox, arriving right at the start of lockdown like a pastel-shaded rainbow illuminating a rapidly darkening world – and providing the perfect soundtrack for a government-endorsed sunshine break during a Spring suddenly rendered eerily bucolic. Two sharply contrasting albums from very different corners of the world – but I couldn’t possibly choose between them!

2020 was indeed a fantastic year for music, quite possibly because for much of it there wasn’t much else anyone could do but sit in the studio and muck around (and as an aside I must briefly salute the powers behind the #BandcampFridays, which have surely done more to support struggling independent artists during the pandemic than your average Record Store Day or corporate streaming platform). But curiously the album that encapsulated this cursed year for me above and beyond any other had already emerged kicking and screaming into the world back in February, a full month ahead of lockdown when it seemed the only things we needed to worry about here in the UK was the ruinous fallout from Brexit, the onset of catastrophic climate change and an increasingly unhinged right-wing government. Gosh, it seems a lifetime ago, doesn’t it? 

Rakka by Vladislav Delay felt almost precision-engineered for 2020, its relentless, pummelling drums, howling synths and blasts of visceral noise the perfect soundtrack to fear, confusion and exhaustion, mixed with ever-increasing rage at the ineptitude of various governments. I’ve never believed the old adage that the darkest times produce the sweetest tunes and for this reason and more I’ll wager this equally thrilling and terrifying album has plenty of mileage in it yet. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? YES! 

Fruit Body

Must also put in a word for the top three albums that I feel were rather slept on this year: another blast of ferocious electro in the shape of Fruit Body by Franziska Lantz, the sublime wok-tone-drone experiments of Agitations: Post Electronic Sounds by Oscillatorial Binnage on Sub Rosa and Inwards Opened The Floor, a thick stew of freaky magnificence from ‘British-Israeli Krautfolk Collective’ Staraya Derevyna. Three very different records, yet each somehow perfectly encapsulated by their respective choices of artwork:

Inwards Opened The Floor

Let’s hope 2021 brings us just as much extraordinary music in slightly more ordinary circumstances. As for myself, I have a couple of irons in the fire, including the newly-mastered next album from Howlround and hopefully an EP or two along the way. And I’m also very excited to announce the imminent arrival of another little project started during lockdown, the debut LP by The New Obsolescents on Castles In Space, featuring two of my closest cosmic kin, Strictly Kev aka DJ Food and Oscillatorial Binnage backbone and longtime Howlround ally Chris Weaver. Based on a long-form, improvised performance a few years back in the shadow of the 2012 Olympic Torch at the Museum of London (were you there?), 2020 finally gave us some free time to dust off the tapes and knock them about a bit.

One of the newly reworked tracks surfaced last year on Castles In Space’s remarkable Isolation Tapes compilation that has rightly just been awarded Electronic Sound’s Compilation of the Year, but everything else is brand new and exclusive. A feast for the ears – and for the eyes too, thanks to Kev’s meticulous work sourcing and assembling the sleeves. Can’t wait to share this one with the world!

Fog Cast also returns to the Resonance 104.4FM airwaves Wednesday 13th January at 23:00GMT, with a special episode dedicated to a clutch of releases from the Linear Obsessional label. I’m always on the lookout for new music/soundscapes/weirdness to feature on the show, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with isolationist/deep listening recommendations to warm the ears of our lockdown listeners! All previous shows can be found on my Mixcloud page.

Other than that, wishing you all a very happy and healthy 2021. Unless of course you’re Boris Johnson, in which case I hope you get pulled apart by horses…

A Minor Key Christmas – Season’s Greetings From Fog Towers

Hello you. How you doing this festive season? Hope you’re all bearing up OK. It’s been a tough end to a tough year for so many, but hopefully the items below will warm your festive cockles with a modicum of holiday cheer. Starting with my latest report for Radio 4’s Today Programme on the subject of Chilly Gonzales and his magnificent new album A Very Chilly Christmas, in which the self-styled ‘showman in slippers’ sits down at the piano to walk us through his reinterpretations of festive favourites. The haunting version of ‘Silent Night’ is particularly sublime:

Finding appropriate music for the most unusual Christmas in living memory was always going to be a challenge, but a new album from the Grammy-award winning pianist and entertainer Chilly Gonzales just might provide the perfect soundtrack for this sombre season. A Very Chilly Christmas finds the composer and self-styled ‘showman in slippers’ presenting a reflective and intimate take on a mix of traditional carols and well-worn festive pop hits – or ‘From Wencelas to Wham’ as he puts it. With a little help from some special guests, these piano-lead interpretations breath surprising new life into old classics, creating the most timely accompaniment to a minor key Christmas…

It’s been a busy end to the year at the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project as we’ve been putting together our Christmas Audio Anthology, featuring seasonal gems from some of the collections we’ve been working with at London Metropolitan Archives, along with a collection of Christmas songs recorded by The Lookout Band, with vocals by the redoubtable soprano Catherine Bott, better known these days as a presenter on Classic FM. You’ll hear reminiscences of Christmases past, first encounters with snow, a ‘Jonkunnu’ song from Jamaica, a strudel-stealing dog and much more. These are always such fun to work on and invaluable in demonstrating the crucial work of this nationwide, project in preserving these voices for future generations. This is actually the second Anthology in the series after the inaugural edition from a few weeks back – I was supposed to feature that on these pages as well, but the last few months have rather run away with me – quelle surprise! I also wanted to share the image of this Christmas Cookie baked by my #UOSH teammate and fellow tape enthusiast Kate, which is still making me smile a whole week after its consumption. The level of detail is just astonishing – am I over-thinking this or are those are tiny icing spores of mould speckling the compacted tape? Either way, it tasted as good as it looked. Bravo, Kate!

I’ll be back next week to present my now-traditional end of year mixtape, which this time round has some decidedly heavy lifting to do – I’m going to attempt to convince the world that 2020 was actually a pretty fantastic year for music, even if most of it had to be enjoyed in bedrooms and on headphones. In the meantime here once again is the 2019 Mix in all its full three and a half hour glory. There’s two hundred and fourteen minutes just waiting for you to dive in – and not the slightest scrap of filler! Perfect for those new solitary Christmas walks so many of us are going to be embarking on this year!

For now may I wish you all the Merriest Christmas Possible and I do hope that you manage to find some good company and some good cheer in these turbulent times. Unless of course you’re Boris Johnson, in which case I hope you’re torn apart by wolves…