Final Howlround gig of the year and I’m playing my dear old hometown for the first time EVER! Live in-store at Carlisle’s excellent Vinyl Cafe alongside The Heartwood Institute. An evening of mulled wine and wintery sounds to warm your cockles. Hope to see some of my northern contingent there?! In the meantime, further information can be found at the Vinyl Cafe Website and Facebook Page. Go, have a click and befriend them, won’t you? I certainly never ever thought I’d see the day when you could walk into a shop in Carlisle andbuy Meredith Monk LPs. What a world!
Rather a hasty update once again, thanks to the delights of faltering wi-fi and a frustrating lack of elbow-room (first world problems!) but there’s a few things I wanted to draw your attention to before I start my yearly tidying of my Foggy affairs in preparation for the festive season. Firstly, world-building collective Quantum Natives are celebrating their recent appearance on the cover of The Wire with this special label mix of Native classics from their ever-expanding back-catalogue. It’s exactly the kind of rich sonic stew we’ve come to expect from this label and I’m rather proud that it concludes with my remix of Brood Ma’s ‘ESTEEM’ from his r e – P O P U L O U S album of 2014. I’ve always had a soft spot for that track, so chuffed to see it included in such fine company. Fill your boots below and then enjoy the full length original remix (if that isn’t too much of an oxymoron) on their Soundcloud page here.
On a similar note, you may also remember Howlround’s inclusion on the Front And Follow 10-year anniversary compilation LESSONS that I posted on these pages a few weeks ago – a very fine double CD of killer jams from Pye Corner Audio, Leyland Kirby, Time Attendant and more. Now label co-founder Justin Watson has compiled a special retrospective mix for respected online periodical A Closer Listen, featuring a smorgasbord of audio intrigue from the label’s rich back-catalogue; including ‘Unnatural History’ from Joseph Stannard’s 2013 compilation The Outer Church. It’s one of my earliest ambient works and also a rare example of a track actually released under my own name, though I have to confess its existence had rather slipped my mind until this timely reminder. Find it below – and many more goodies besides:
I must also draw your attention to the latest edition of Touch Radio, a 2016 live performance from the Iklecktik archives by genius ambient composer Pascal Savy. Having recently posted links on these pages to a couple of his feedback works, Pascal now tells me he is shopping around for a label to release his latest album Dislocations. Interested parties should form an orderly queue over at his Twitter page. Touch Radio enthusiasts might remember that there’s also a Howlround edition in the archives, which is an extract from our first ever live appearance way back in… was it 2013? Guess it must’ve been. Forgive the uncertainty, but I don’t trust the integrity of the wi-fi signal I’m on to make a proper investigation. Besides, I’m not sure I want to be reminded of our first faltering steps into the live arena, or the various injuries to property and person caused by carting four full-size Revoxes to the south coast and back. I still bear the scars from that time I tripped and took a chunk out of my kitchen wall, which then went on to put a sizeable dent in the return on my deposit – even though it was clearly just a polyfiller job. Still, no guts, no glory, eh?
And finally, please enjoy this recent live set from Simon James at West Norwood’s Portico Gallery. Better known as the man behind The Simonsound, Black Channels and this year’s magnificent Akiha Den Den soundtrack (selling fast, grab one here while you can), here he is performing a live set on his magnificent buchla synth at the latest Further event. I arrived late to the party, so I’m extra glad he’s popped it online for our enjoyment. It’s a gorgeous chilly sound, matched perfectly by Strictly Kev and Peter William’s far-out visuals. My only criticism at the time of writing is that it’s not quite loud enough to drown out the Karaoke Khristmas Karnage I’m currently enduring. That’ll teach me not to leave the house in December! And if I have to listen to ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ one more time I can assure you there will be both guts AND glory!
Hello you. How was your weekend? I do hope it was a bit less dramatic than mine:
— Howlround (@Howlroundmusic) November 25, 2017
Curiously, the above is not an edited version of some longer video, I’d literally just started filming at that exact moment because I figured the centre wouldn’t hold for very long and that I’d better capture it for prosperity quick-sharpish. The aforementioned centre held for a further ten seconds before unleashing mere anarchy on the studio. But one snarled-up tape loop, a Buddha-shaped dent in the floor and a quick flash of my bare knees on social media (you’re welcome, ladies!) wasn’t the worst of it. Far more disturbing was the distinct burning smell and coils of grey smoke coming from one of the Revoxes when I switched her on. I’m hoping it’s just some rogue dust smouldering, but smoking machinery is never really a good omen, is it? My guess is that another expensive repair bill is on the way – plus the usual attempts to try and bribe my old chum Lucky Cat Zoe into driving me to Southend again. Hopefully the pull of seaside crate-digging and a fish and chip supper in the shadow of the longest pier in Europe will still be as strong for as it was the last time…
Speaking of the perils of vintage technology, check out Running On Air’s new collection More Than Machine – Remixes, which came out last week. Better known as longs-standing artist, producer, composer and promoter Joe Evans, the track ‘More Than Machine’ originally surfaced last year on Running On Air’s self-titled collection of unreleased 90s electro nuggets via Patterned Air Recordings. Now he has gathered together a collection of friends, colleagues and associates to re-interpret the track, including Howlround, Clive Henry, Ekoplekz, Farmer Glitch, Kemper Norton and more. My current favourite in a crowded field is Lo Five’s squelchy ‘Pain Deconstruction’, but I’m also a sucker for Stephen Christopher Stamper’s ‘Rave Tape Amnesia’ – though that might partly be because I’m sad enough to be able to tell you exactly where he found the sample. Oh, those mis-spent teenage years…
‘Each artist was asked to push the track in whatever direction they wanted and encouraged to take it as far away from the original as possible’, as Joe explains in the album’s liner notes, ‘Lost summer raves, machine intelligence, and jack-booted tyranny are some of the themes that emerge. The result is an extraordinary collection of surprises that almost develops its own narrative, easily standing as an album in its own right.’ Can’t argue with him there – plus all profits from the release are being donated to Freedom United, an organisation dedicated to combating modern slavery throughout the world. A great listen and a worthy cause, so click on the above image to order your copy.
Continuing on the theme of new releases by small-but-mighty labels, just check out this forthcoming missive from Buried Treasure, home to Revbjelde, The Dandelion Set and the ever-growing, many-headed beast that is The Delaware Road. Currently finishing off a strong year that has seen releases by Alan Sutcliffe, Yuri Morozov and the self-titled Revbjelde LP (one of my very favourite releases this year), plus the multi-sensory take-over of Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker back in the summer; Buried Treasure now has it’s sights on 2018 with the announcement of the release of Logic Formations by Jerry Siedler, a DVD promising ‘over 2 hours of vintage 1970’s style video graphics & modular atmospherics inspired by the super rare 1970’s EMS Spectron video synthesizer’. Plus you get a 10 track download of modular music designed to accompany the videos. Out in January 2018 and already available to pre-order here. Shut up and take my money!
And lastly, special mention must go to the latest release from the ever-superb Ghost Box label, Outward Journeys by The Belbury Circle – a collaboration between Belbury Poly mainstay Jim Jupp and synthesiser wunderkind Jon Brooks of the Advisory Circle, Cafe Kaput and much more. Entirely predictably, it’s a gorgeous work of warm synth fuzz and crisp tick-tocking drum machines, plus a couple of guest vocal turns by the legend that is Mr. John Foxx.
Sounding to my ears not unlike a punchier, stripped down version of Oxygene, or perhaps some great lost library LP soundtracking a British Transport Film commissioned to demonstrate how sleek and sexy Intercity Rail Travel was going to be in the 1980s, Outward Journeys might wear it’s beating electro heart on its sleeve (quite literally, with Julian House’s superb artwork which appears to be channelling an entirely fitting Commodore 64 vs. Ceefax aesthetic), but as ever with this label, these chaps have too much pedigree to ever lapse into parody. Plus Jon Brooks has already released one of my other favourite LPs of this year, Autres Directions on Clay Pipe music – like most of his back-catalogue, already long sold-out and looking likely to sell for ‘Bugs Bunny Money’ on Discogs. Better jump on this one while you can!
Hello you. First off this week, I’m attempting to clear the decks in preparation for the next Howlround project, due sometime in early 2018, so it seems like an appropriate moment to share this youtube video of a work in progress that I uploaded several months ago and then promptly forgot ever making:
If memory serves correctly, I was testing out some new material with footage I’d made during a trip to Sri Lanka earlier this year and I remember thinking that the sound and image made surprisingly natural bedfellows, despite having very little in connection with one-another. I have absolutely no idea what the source material for the soundtrack was, but I would imagine it was from creaking recordings similar to the ones used on the Psyché-Tropes LP. I also have the feeling there was some birdsong thrown in, but I honestly can’t remember – I’ve had a sleep since then, as my dear old Gran used to say. One thing I can tell you is that no voices were involved, even though it might sound like a drowning opera singer in places…
I’ve also just been sent some images of The Quiet at Abney Park Cemetery Chapel from a couple of weeks ago and thought I’d share them here. A memorable event, another unique venue to add to my ever-growing list and a great pleasure to be involved, particularly the moments where myself, Jenni Roditi, Charlotte Chw, Adam Kinsey and chief strategist Sam Enthoven all improvised live together for the finale. Thanks must also go to Rucksack Cinema for the projections, Zoe Plumb for rolling up her sleeves and making things happen (as usual!) and of course Lucy Brady for the super photos:
It’s been a quiet week on these pages as I’ve been away in the Highlands, collecting sounds and soaking up some culture, so the next few days at Fog Towers are going to involve quite a bit of nose-related grindstone action, while I file my latest BBC report and attend to some editing work that’s been simmering on the back-burner during my absence. What’s the subject of my latest BBC mini-feature, I hear you cry? Well, it’s a bit of a surprise, but I’m quite excited about it and will hopefully be revealing all soon (metaphorically). In the meantime, feel free to check out my recent piece on the subject of last week’s Captain Beefheart symposium at Liverpool’s Bluecoat for Radio 4’s ‘The World Tonight’ here (the item starts at exactly 39.30 and closes the programme). I meant to share it with you last week, but it turns out Loch Ness lacks decent wifi almost as much as it lacks any sign of prehistoric beasties.
On a more sensible note, if you happen to be in the vicinity of Edinburgh in the near future, do be sure to head to Scottish National Museum Of Modern Art and check out Susan Philipsz‘ multi-turntable sound installation Seven Tears, on display in ‘Modern One’ until February 18th. A quietly stunning work, in which the drifting glacial tones played on a series of clear vinyl discs randomly blend and beat against one-another, it was one of the biggest highlights of my trip. Well, that and a quick spot of crate-digging in good old Underground Solu’shun on Cockburn Street. It would have been rude not to pop in!
And finally, I must give a quick plug to the latest release from Belgrade’s excellent Discom label, which arrived in the mail while I was away. Run by audio-archivist husband-and-wife team Luka and Vanja and dedicated to giving the forgotten electronic and experimental musics of the former Yugoslavia ‘a second chance’; they’re following up recently issued lost ambient-prog classic Sidarta by 37°C and 2016’s superb Yugoslavian Space Programme compilation with Could You Find Your Analog Mind? by 1980s Serbian synth-tinkerers DATA. It’s out now and available from all reputable outlets. And it’s bloomin’ marvellous.
A collection of electro-pop nuggets recorded by the group between 1981 and 1984, these tracks were once thought lost forever, and it’s entirely thanks to Luka and Vanja’s stubborn determination in tracking them down that they’re seeing the light of day at all. The results are a revelation – it’s astonishing to think that this material has been sat on various shelves for over thirty years, never considered worthy of a release before now. Seriously recommended for fans of contemporaneous groups such as Yellow Magic Orchestra and Telex, or perhaps the early 80s LPs of the Bruton Library, and of course 21st century synth scholars such as Datasette and Max Tundra. Limited copies available, on beautiful heavyweight blue vinyl, so click on the images to order yours before they all fly…
All the trappings of first class: Antimacassar, arm-rest, half-table. Still worth it, even if I do end up with a £1000 fine! pic.twitter.com/3nFoJA9dPe
— Robin The Fog (@RobinTheFog) November 19, 2017
As you can see from the above, I’m now back in London and gradually returning to the standards to which I am accustomed, so normal service should be back up and running before very long. In the meantime, please enjoy this photograph of myself and long-suffering friend Kaitlyn, taken on top of a very windy Arthur’s Seat. For some reason this image puts me vaguely in mind of the sleeve of Hi Scores by Boards Of Canada, so I’m now thinking the two of us ought to make an album of spooky Scottish electronica together. Unfortunately she’s really more of a Garth Brooks kinda gal, but stay tuned and perhaps I’ll be able to bring you some concréte-country developments at some point in the not-too-distant future. Keeping my shortbread fingers crossed…PS If you managed to get through this article without sniggering in a puerile fashion at the name ‘Cockburn Street’, give yourself a pat on the back. I swear that’s not how you pronounce it…
The celebrations for the release of Front And Follow’s 10th anniversary compilation Lessons continues with the unveiling of a new film by Scott Byrne, featuring extracts from Howlround, Swine, BLKwBEAR, TVO and Time Attendant. Having previously made films for Kemper Norton and Exotic Pylon, Scott’s latest is now streaming over at The Quietus. Or you can just watch it here. Either works And don’t forget to order your copy of Lessons here if you haven’t already done so!
Also this week, I would like to here implore you to support this online petition to preserve the home and studio of pioneering composer Pierre Henry, who passed away earlier this year at the age of 89. As the preparations continue for the celebration of what would have been his 90th birthday in Paris (and I’m rather hoping to be able to bring you some highlights from their weekend of events) have a read of this fascinating article from RBMA, including some beautiful photographs of this most unique of living and working spaces. I’d also recommend setting aside an hour and treating yourself to a viewing of The Art Of Sounds, if you haven’t seen it yet – a fascinating 2007 portrait of the great man at home and at work. It’s a humbling thought that he was still composing daily until just a few months ago. A remarkable life and an incredible body of work, surely this is one legacy we should be falling over ourselves to try and preserve?!
And finally, I must once again on a sad note once with the news from Kent, Ohio of the passing of pioneering Egyptian composer Halim El-Dabh. You might remember I interviewed him last summer and we talked about his decades-long career that included changing the face of electronic music for ever in the year of 1944, time spent at the Columbia-Princeton Centre for Electronic Music; and the release of his latest album Sanza Time, a brand new electronic work produced in his 95th year. Possessed of a warm and gentle personality that shone through even down a slightly temperamental Skype line, Halim uttered the first of many chuckles when I suggested that after eight or more decades spent travelling the world and making pioneering music, he had probably earned himself a retirement. ‘I’ve got a whole big job ahead of me!’, he laughed, before going on to reveal the details of yet another commission he was then working on; ‘Still there’s ahead of me so much to know’!
I have mentioned Halim’s work often to groups of students and workshop participants when travelling around various academic institutions talking about the history of electronic music and creative use of sound; and I always got a collective intake of breath whenever my audience discovered that the pioneer behind the 1944 ‘Wire Recorder Piece’ was still composing! Let us hope that by the time you and I reach the age of 95 we will also be able to say with confidence that ‘there’s still so much to know’. Bravo, Halim, and RIP.
Don’t forget to join us this Friday at Stoke Newington Old Church, where we’ll be doing a live score of A Creak In Time as part of Dronica #6, a two-day event with a frankly stunning line-up! Very much looking forward to this one! If you miss out, however, we’ll also be working the magic once more as part of Sci-Fi-London’s ‘EXPeriment’ on the evening of Sunday 5th. Howlround seems to be very much Hackney-centric at the moment, so apologies to any other London boroughs who might be feeling neglected!
Also this week, I’ve been at the Guildhall School Of Music talking to the students there about the joys of using tape, chance and chaos as a compositional tool. Thanks to the hopelessly-inept machinations of London Transport and a Taxi Driver who appeared to be working on a map of London reflected via the back of a spoon, I ended up with slightly more chaos thrown into the mix than I’d counted on. But once again an occasionally bumpy ride lead to a veritable plethora of sonic surprises. I’ll be sure to do something more official with the recordings at some point, but here’s a little snippet of what we got up to in the meantime:
Thanks to my flatmate and impromptu lighting technician Rosie and of course to Mike Roberts and his Electronic Music students for such a warm welcome, although it was plenty warm enough already – thanks to my Taxi Driver I’d been forced to sprint half a mile around the Barbican with 30kgs of equipment in my suitcase! Just look at those calluses!
Beginning to think I might need to get a bionic arm if I’m going to be dragging these machines around for the foreseeable future…. pic.twitter.com/7cN3S0yLXY
— Robin The Fog (@RobinTheFog) November 1, 2017
Hello you. The first piece of big news this week is that Front And Follow’s 50th release, the bumper double CD compilation LESSONS is finally out and looking and sounding absolutely beautiful. Order your copy here and please enjoy Howlround’s exclusive contribution once again while you’re at it. And thanks to Richard from The Quietus for a lovely review!
‘There’s yet more reverb-drenched spookiness from the reel-to-reeling fluctuations of Howlround, whose eeriness quotient here is superbly vibrant and redolent, magnetic tape spooling endlessly into outer space on waves of glorious multi-timbral feedback that devours itself in thunderously looped applause. Richard Fontenoy, The Quietus
Featuring friends old and new such as Time Attendant, Pye Corner Audio, Leyland Kirby, Ekoplekz, Farmer Glitch and many more, it’s currently on the Foggy stereo, providing the perfect soundtrack to writing this missive. Certainly a damn sight more entertaining than the pre-Nov 5th light and sound show my old laptop power supply has just treated me to, shortly before dying forever in a blaze of something far from glory. And it was only two weeks old as well. Sadly, this now means there’s going to be another death tomorrow morning in an electrical goods shop somewhere on Penge High Street. Bloody cowboys!
Definitely shouldn’t be doing THAT, should it?! pic.twitter.com/BToITYKgh5
— Robin The Fog (@RobinTheFog) October 24, 2017
Ahem. Moving on, I would normally have begun this week’s update by inviting you to Howlround’s next live show, which occurs this week in the hallowed grounds of Abney Park Chapel; but unfortunately I can’t because it’s completely sold out! The Chapel itself is a magnificent piece of Gothic splendour at the heart of a historic cemetery in one of my former stomping grounds, dear old Stoke Newington; and having spent a couple of happy years living in a leaky, windowless hovel just around the corner, it’s long been a dream of mine to return here (the chapel, not the hovel) with my trusty tape machine quartet and perform some kind of aural seance. Up until now my efforts have been thwarted by the chapel being closed off, due to its receiving some unwanted attention from vandals and other undesirables (Abney Park apparently being the kind of burial ground that has more trouble being haunted by the spirits of the living); so I was very excited to be invited to play there as part of The Quiet, a nocturnal ensemble performance taking place this Friday.
The only slight caveat is that the concert has to take place completely off the grid – there is no access to mains electricity in the cemetery, and given the nature of both the surroundings and the performances, a noisy generator would surely prove a disturbing presence. While you would be forgiven for thinking that this would put an insurmountable kibosh on my loop and spool antics, in actual fact the trio of UHER tape machines known as Delia, Elisabeth and Maddalena are actually designed to work on batteries as well as mains electricity, largely owing to their originally being used by broadcast journalists recording interviews out in ‘the field’. Sadly my ‘feedback’ machine Daphne is the one weak link in the chain, due to her having been ‘modified’ (an arcane piece of BBC terminology meaning ‘spoiled’ or ‘unnecessarily fiddled with to make more complicated’) and fitted with a particularly obscure and expensive type of large battery, that was apparently infinitely preferable to the perfectly fine and readily-available D-cells that all the others run off. You know – the kind that can be purchased over the counter at any supermarket. As ever, thanks a bunch, Auntie!
Of course I say that the machines will work on batteries, and so far under special test conditions (me, in studio, alternately issuing vague pleas and threats while gesturing at them with a screwdriver) they haven’t let me down. But of course there’s no guarantee that they will do so for the complete 10-15 minute duration of our performance, or indeed that these elderly ladies won’t act unpredictably when under an alternate power source or outside the confines of a regular venue; thus making this Friday’s gig a genuine step into the unknown. Mind you, after watching my power supply popping and sparking and expiring in that video above, I’m now markedly less inclined to trust mains electricity anyway! They’re using a battery-powered sound system for amplification as well and I’m bringing both loops and spools just in case the former prove unresponsive to wind, atmospheric conditions, humidity, and the constant threat of people daring to breath or look at them for too long – regular visitors to these pages will already be aware of the risks! Incidentally, as I’ve stolen the above image from the Forgotten By The World Blogspot site, it’s only fair that I should encourage you to visit their website and check some of their other photos of the chapel, still a most impressive structure, despite looking rather sorry for itself. I did actually photograph the chapel ruins quite a bit myself during my tenure in Stoke Newington, particularly one wintery day when it looked beautifully eerie and forlorn under a heavy carpet of snow. I was hoping to dig those photos out and present them for you today, but alas, despite a good hour spent rooting through my old hard drives last night, the only image I could find in the archive that harks back to those snowy, leaky, hovel-ly, halcyon days was this:
Yes, it’s a captivating photo of an apparently untouched portion of chips (drizzled in what I seriously hope was just burger sauce) nestled snugly under the seat of a deserted train. Presumably I captured this era-defining image while travelling back to Stoke Newington late one night, though I can’t even begin to imagine what motivation I would have had in doing so. Still, the moquette work on that seating is very attractive, and it’s heartening to discover that I’ve not lost my inherent knack for documenting those details that truly matter…
But that’s quite enough wallowing in the mudflats of nostalgia for now. I do hope some of you managed to get tickets in time for this one, and am really looking forward to performing alongside promoter Sam Enthoven, Jenni Roditi, Charlotte Chw, Adam Kinsey and Rucksack Cinema. For those of you who didn’t manage to get tickets (and I’ve received at least a couple of emails begging me to personally intervene!), perhaps I’ll see you at my next appearance in Stokey the following Friday; where I’ll be performing a live score of A Creak In Time at Dronica #6 in Stoke Newington Old Church – itself just a few minute’s walk from Abney Park. Part of an extensive weekend line-up spread across Friday and Saturday, this is going to be the most fun I’ve had on Church Street since at least 2008! Click on the flier below for further information:
While we’re on the theme of tape loop performances inside sacred spaces, please take a moment to admire these two beautiful images of Howlround in action down in the crypt beneath St. John on Bethnal Green, as part of 22rpm, the all day electronic music festival from a couple of weekends back:
Both taken by visual artist Gabriel Edvy, they perfectly capture the blurry and crepuscular sound-world enjoyed by fans, well-wishers and other visitors to my surprisingly busy sound dungeon – including those just who’d got lost on their way to the toilets. Thanks, Gabriel! Why not check out her latest video, produced for the dark ambient project Empty Chalice, once we’ve finished our business here? Also worthy of your attention this week is artist and self-proclaimed ‘non-musician’ Pascal Savy, who has just uploaded two absolutely gorgeous new feedback-produced ambient drones to his Soundcloud page. Both are highly worthy of your attention – and I really hope he doesn’t leave it too much longer before putting us all out of our misery and dropping an album!
Continuing the (mostly) ambient tip, my guest spot on WNBC’s regular Sunday lunchtime session ‘Out Of The Woods’ is now available for your listening pleasure via their Mixcloud page. Live from West Norwood’s Book And Record Bar, it was the perfect lazy soundtrack for a chilled out Sunday (well, all of it apart form the last 40 minutes when my urge to give what might actually be the greatest piece of music ever made a spin got the better of me), you’ll hear music from Unica Zurn, Revbjelde, Akiha Den Den, the mighty Discom label and others. And I even had a few friends pop in to give me a leg-up (not literally). Especial thanks to Peter Williams and King Michael!
And finally, we must end on a sad note with news of the passing of Augustin Mawangu Mingiedi, frontman of legendary ‘Congotronics’ ensemble Konono No.1. Just 56 years old and only two years after taking over the leadership of the band with the passing of his father and Konono founder member Mingiedi Mawangu, who died in 2015. With my friend Ata Ahli Ahebla, I interviewed Augustin back in February of that year for the BBC’s Focus On Africa programme, on the occasion of the group’s three-day sellout residency at London’s Cafe Oto. Noticing that Rolling Stone have linked to that report (and quoted from it) in their obituary of Augustin, I decided it would be a nice tribute to dig it out once more and leave the last words today to him. Kononno have pledged to continue, with the task of frontman and lead likembe player passing down to the next generation in Augustin’s son Makonda. If this latest incarnation of the group carry on creating sounds even halfway as thrilling as the joyous, visceral racket produced when the two Mingiedis were at the helm, then the legacy of father and son will be in safe hands. RIP.