I promised you ‘Wildkatze’ last week, didn’t I? Well, prepare to receive them in abundance as Resonance FM‘s Near Mint show takes a second trip round the record box of genius composer, sound designer, performance artist and roboticist Sarah Angliss. Recorded in the studio of her flat in a very rainy Borough while husband Colin made us pasta, it’s another superb selection that moves from Schlager to Dietrich to prepared piano to Iggy without breaking a sweat, all mixed together with her contagiously effusive commentary. If you can think of a better way to pass half an hour, do please fill us all in.
In other news, please enjoy my latest BBC report on the subject of The Arkestra, the community of musicians that surrounded the legendary Afro-Futurist band-leader and interstellar ambassador Sun Ra, and continue to spread his message to this day; with 91 year-old director Marshall Allen still leading from the front.
‘The music world is full of larger-than-life characters, but surely few more extraordinary than the late Sun Ra, an African American bandleader who claimed he was visiting Earth from Saturn, leaving a trail of [incredible] music in his wake. His band, known as The Arkestra, is still touring the world, with 91-year-old director and leading man, Marshall Allen, very much at the helm. Robin [The Fog] spoke to Sun Ra expert and BBC 6 Music DJ, Gilles Peterson, about why, 23 years after the its leader passed on, the music and legacy of the Sun Ra Arkestra is perhaps more relevant than ever…’
In this report, originally aired on Radio 4’s The World Tonight and later repeated on The World Service, BBC 6Music DJ Gilles Peterson a Sun Ra curator, scholar and archivist (amongst many other goodly activities) tells us more about the great man’s work over some extracts from the excellent Strut Records compilation that he put together last year. There’s also some actuality I recorded at the band’s recent sell-out show at London’s Union chapel, captured in spite of a large man with an earpiece who demanded to know what I’d done with the recording permit they’d failed to provide me with, and the chap in front of me who seemed convinced that the whole enterprise was merely an elaborate ruse to cover my trying to record his conversation. With the best will in the world this was unlikely – he was sitting alone.
I must thank Gilles for a fascinating interview, conducted as it was in the august surroundings of the Brownswood Recordings stock-cupboard, and his team Dave O’Donnell and Simon Goffe for their assistance in making it happen. Isn’t it wonderful that we get to talk about Sun Ra on Radio 4? Meanwhile, The Arkestra are currently on tour in Europe and sounding as remarkable as ever, while Peterson-curated compilation To Those Of Earth And Other Worlds is out now. Featuring a number of previously unreleased or horrifically rare recordings from his own archive, it’s well worth a dig.
Speaking of exciting new releases, A Year In The Country’s The Quietened Village is finally out now and features an exclusive Howlround track as well as new works from Time Attendant, Polypores, The Rowan Amber Mill and lots more besides. As well as being available from A Year In The Country’s website, it’s also secured a release through the legendary online emporium that is Norman Records and a coveted slot in the Ghost Box‘s Guest Shop! Another beautifully hand-made and fabulously limited package that is set to disappear quick-sharpish. Swiftly investing in a copy would be highly recommended.
In other Howlround news, thanks to everyone who came down to the three-day Open Jack Weekender at New River Studios in Manor House last weekend, it was great to see so many friends and take in performances by Sculpture, Raxil 4, Guncleaner and Tom Mudd amongst others. Extra special thanks must go Thomas Blackburn for asking us to play and being the dynamic force behind the whole event (‘never again!’ he panted over his shoulder – but I’m quite sure he’ll change his mind) and to Lisa Hack for this shot of me looking confused yet oddly poised and confident. If I didn’t already have a couple of biographers, she’d certainly be in line for the job. And all this to end an exciting week when the Howlround studio took delivery of the latest addition to the family, an enormous old Studer which I predict will be a credit to the team, once we’ve ironed out a couple of slightly worrying tendencies:
Playing around with malfunctioning new tape machine seems to have opened a portal to another dimension: pic.twitter.com/nwIv9M3mq2
— Robin The Fog (@RobinTheFog) April 21, 2016
To conclude on a similar moderately sinister note, please accept this rather poorly-taken photo (no tripod or decent light-source to hand at the time of writing) of a Structures Sonores Lasry-Baschet LP on the Patchwork Library that has recently found its way into the Foggy crate. In all honesty this has nothing to do with any of the above and I have no particular reason for sharing it with you, other than to say it’s well-worth getting hold of a copy if you can find one and that the Pattern house sleeve (each release sharing this uniform design but in a series of different colours) is a thing of beauty. And most of all just to put the wind up my Near Mint co-host Hannah Brown, who is reportedly green with envy that I got hold of it before she did. How long can it be before our friendly rivalry spills over into bloodshed? Surely the time is nigh…
To those requiring further clarification, Lasry-Baschet and their collection of deeply unconventional instruments (perhaps we could refer to them collectively as the ‘Lasry-Baschet Cachet’) were a French group based around the brothers François and Bernard Baschet together with Jacques and Yvonne Lasry.
Recording and performing with their unique collection of remarkable home-made devices and active mostly between the 1950s and 70s, the group are perhaps best known in the UK for having one of their pieces, ‘Manège’, soundtrack the opening sequence to the long-running ITV Schools programme ‘Picture Box’, it’s combination of slightly sinister fairground tones mixed with blurry footage of a slowly rotating jewelled casket instantly recognisable to anyone who spent time growing up in the 1970s and 80s. There is a distinct chance that many regular readers of these pages will already be nodding along to this and saying ‘yes, yes, everyone knows already?’, but I thought I’d use the opportunity to re-visit this remarkable ‘extended version’ of the Picture Box opening titles just in case you haven’t seen it before. It’s well worth a look, partly because it’s very, very cleverly executed and because it takes the original video’s aforementioned slightly sinister overtones and blows them clean out of the water. But mostly because I’m reliably informed it made Jonny Trunk almost wet himself:
This week’s Near Mint show on Resonance FM is the first of a two-part special delving deep into the record collection of singer, multi-instrumentalist, sound designer, robot-builder and puppet enthusiast Sarah Angliss. She took some time out from her busy schedule of recording and composing to give us a tour round the contents of her record box and the result is an effortless journey from bird song to Messiaen to punk rock to schlager-pop. Anyone familiar with Sarah’s work will already have figured out how she joins the dots between all of these things, while the rest of you are strongly advised to visit SarahAngliss.com and have a gander. Our finest show yet? Quite possibly – until next week when we let loose the ‘Wildkatze’!
But there’s quite a bit to get through before then, as the coming few days are shaping up to be unusually full of social engagements, partly because I’m coming to the end of my latest recording project and thought it might be time to get out of the studio and enjoy some fresh air. Firstly, I’m heading to the latest Club Integral event at The Others in London’s Stoke Newington this Friday 22nd April, where I’ll be spinning some discs in-between performances from Brunk, Tristan Burfield, King & Cornetto and Ntchuks Bonga). Further details can be found here. Club Integral events are always fantastic, Tristan Burfield is an old acquaintance and my record collection is of course the stuff of legend; so I’m very much looking forward to it!
The following evening, Saturday 23rd, Howlround will be taking part in the Open Jack Weekender Festival at New River Studios, Manor House. Three whole days of glorious sounds from the cream of London’s noise-makers at this excellent new venue that’s rapidly acquiring an impressive reputation. We’re playing on Saturday evening and I’ve just discovered that our quartet of increasingly cranky and unpredictable reel-to-reels will be gracing the stage directly after the eye-popping, brain-fizzing audio-visual delight of a live set from Sculpture – so no pressure there, then!? Details of the full festival line-up can be found here. Out-of-town friends might also like to know Howlround are playing The Other Side: An Audiophonic Séance in Cambridge on 12th May, and Cardiff on May 28th. Further details will follow in due course.
Speaking of Sculpture, their latest release Zyprazol is now on-sale and, entirely predictably, it’s a thing of wonder – another 7″ zoetrope picture-disc containing two tracks of tape hiss, drum machine clatter and electronic blatt and squelch. It looks and sounds unsurprisingly amazing:
The thing I love about this duo is that their sounds and images always compliment one-another perfectly, more so than any other audio-visual project I’ve ever witnessed. Incorporating a unique combination of vintage techniques and technology, adapted and modulated for the 21st century, the blips and splats of the sounds perfectly compliment the giddy psychedelic tumble of the visuals – and both are manipulated live on-stage! It’s brain-candy of the highest order, which should further help to clarify, why I am nervous about having to perform after them on Saturday night! Check out this promo video and you’ll surely sympathise:
Anyway, you’re advised to get your order for the 7″ in quickly as the last one sold out very fast indeed and then proceeded to go for ‘Bugs Bunny Money’ on Discogs (damn those flippers!). Make sure you also bag yourself a copy of the new Brood Ma LP Daze on Tri-angle Records, another set of dark, digital delights from the mastermind at the heart of the Quantum Natives collective. Highly praised in The Wire, even deeper, colder and harder than last year’s POPULOUS and already shaping up to be one of my records of the year. Can’t recommend it enough!
On a slightly less abrasive note, check out is this latest ambient mix from Pernille Krogmog, one of my friends from Copenhagen’s Strøm collective; recorded at one of the regular God Goes Deep events at Vor Frue Kirke or The National Cathedral of Copenhagen. Contains Aphex, Noto, Eno and even something from the Howlround archive that some of you might remember. I’ve been using it as background music for my quiet moments of contemplation over the last few days, though as it’s been quite a busy week, I’ve struggled to make time for the full hour. Would have just loved to have heard these sounds echoing around the insides of the National Cathedral – perhaps some other time, Pernille?
And finally, on a completely different and thoroughly abrasive note, do you remember a light-hearted article I published three years ago on the subject of ‘The Illuminati’ and the apparent campaign to suppress their activities that was being single-handedly waged by ‘Hard-Dance’ DJ from Wisbech? No? Well, neither did I until last Sunday morning. It was hardly award-winning journalism and not terribly serious in nature. In fact I’d completely forgotten ever writing it until, appropos of nothing, I received the following message:
“Remove that page or I going to cops as it’s slander and has efcted my life and bookings so you got 2dsys if from this messages if not I will speak to the cops” [sic]
Those of you with better memories may recall that the man in question, a certain Mr. Basshammer, had originally expressed some concern back in 2013 that the article cast a less-than-favourable slant on his life’s work. But once we’d chatted (amicably enough) via Facebook, he seemed placated, particularly once I ‘d pointed out that a) there really is no such thing as bad publicity and b) it’s very hard to imagine a scenario in which comparing one’s artwork to a 17th Century Bavarian philosopher’s head exploding could be considered in any way character assassination. I had certainly assumed the matter closed and carried on in blissful ignorance right up until the moment three days ago when the above suddenly popped into my inbox over the breakfast table. It seems that Basshammer had suddenly re-decided that this obscure blog post that everyone else had forgotten about is having a detrimental impact on his life and was now planning to summon ‘The Feds’. I must say that for a man who releases mixtapes peppered with references to ‘sucking’ this and ‘f**king’ that, he gets offended REALLY easily.
On the plus side it was very decent of him to have allowed me to keep the article online for a further two days, as this gave me the opportunity to share it one last time with my Facebook followers, imploring them all to fill their boots and enjoy it all over again while there was still time. Indeed, as news of the scandal broke and more people picked up on the story, my website experienced it’s busiest day for months! In fact, it’s enjoyed more hits over the last 72 hours than Basshammer’s Soundcloud page appears to have received in the past three years. On the less positive side, I was sloppy enough to miss his imposed deadline and I’m now writing this from under my desk while waiting for the flying squad to bash the door down. Tell Mother I regret nothing…
Following our recent adventures into the outer reaches of the exorbitant jungle, we bring you something of a sea-change on this week’s Near Mint show on Resonance 104.4FM; as we’re joined by special guest, writer and spoken word artist Dolly Dolly. As well as being the narrator and spirit guide for the recent Delaware Road album and launch party and releasing a handful of jolly fine writings and recordings of his own; he’s also something of an expert on the poetry of The Beat Generation, the jazz-influenced literary movement that found it’s spiritual home in San Francisco’s City Lights book store (still very much flourishing) and included Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac among it’s alumni. For this week’s show we asked him to pull out some of his favourite Beat recordings and line them up for inspection and the result is a broad and intriguing selection including some of the movement’s lesser known figures alongside its more bankable names. Listen closely and then go and check out some of Dolly Dolly’s own recordings, which are clearly a contemporary and very British riposte to the Beats: His debut album Antimacassar is a good place to start, but you’ll find his work pops up everywhere – including last year’s collaboration with Band Of Holy Joy’s Johny Brown and myself under the name The Trunchbulls for the XPYLON charity album. Almost forgot about that one in the white heat of a busy 2015…
Staying in radio-land, please enjoy my latest BBC report, on the subject of Sound Baths, a form of new-age therapy in which gongs, bowls, bells and the like are used to send participants into a state of deep meditative relaxation – and supposedly can even help to cure physical ailments, the different sound frequencies said to stimulate different parts of the body and bring them into harmony. Whatever your opinion on this (and you all seem to have one!), it’s certainly a fascinating experience that I’ve been rather intrigued by ever since my visit last year to the Integratron, a geodesic dome in the heart of California’s Mojave Desert which plays host to visitors seeking sonic enlightenment from all over the world. Now highly recommended by the so-called ‘wellness movement’ which seems to be very much in vogue at the moment, I thought it might make an interesting subject for the World Service after a prominent LA lifestyle blog announced that Sound Baths are the next big thing for 2016. Thankfully my editor agreed and hopefully so will you. Sound baths have been popping up all over the world for years, of course, and many about as far away from the Mojave Desert as possible; even as unlikely a location as a cold, wet side-street hidden behind London’s Waterloo Station. Here a gentle soul called Otto Haddad runs his own sound baths several evenings a week. Perhaps predictably I’m forced to admit I spent much of the session I attended thinking ‘Wow! I wonder how he’s making that noise?!’, which may well have been counter-productive; but nevertheless it was a unique experience that I would certainly recommend. Why not visit Otto’s website and book yourself a session? It’s amazing how quickly the rest of the world melts away, even in Waterloo!
Howlround news now, and I’m excited to announce our participation in a new release by A Year In The Country, the blog and record label dedicated to exploring the freakier fringes, twisted folklore and haunted bucolica of the British Countryside.
The Quietened Village is a study of and reflection on the lost, disappeared and once were homes and hamlets that have wandered off the maps or that have become shells of their former lives and times. Inspired in part by images of sections of abandoned, submerged villages and the spires of their places of worship re-appearing from the surfaces of reservoirs and lakes, alongside thoughts of dwellings that have succumbed to the natural erosion of the coastline and have slowly tumbled into the sea. Some of the once were and lost villages which were seedlings for this body of work still stand but their populations are no more, those who lived there evicted at short notice and never to return so that their homes and hearths could be used as training grounds for those who would fight during great conflicts between nations. Such points of reference have been intertwined with possibly more bodeful reasons for this stilling and ending; thoughts of Midwich Cuckoos-esque fictions or dystopic tales told and transmitted in times gone by and imagined/re-imagined in amongst the strands of The Quietened Village.
The first in a planned series of compilations, The Quietened Village features an exclusive track from ourselves as well as The Straw Bear Band, Polypores, The Soulless Party, The Rowan Amber Mill, Cosmic Neighbourhood, Sproatly Smith, David Colohan and Richard Moult, our old friend Time Attendant and A Year In The Country (aka label head Stephen Price) himself. Once again it’s the decidedly spooky and surprisingly cohesive listen we’ve come to expect from the label and the little community of artists that are growing around it and like-minded labels such as Buried Treasure et al. Order your copy here. True to the nature of the compilation, our contribution ‘Flying Over A Glassed Wedge’ was recorded in a genuine ghost town (albeit one with that retains a working Post Office), though I was initially worried about it’s location in the middle of the Mojave Desert (it’s second appearance this week – but it is pretty big) being some considerable distance, both literally and metaphorically from Midwich and the ghosts of Albion. However, the theme of a previously bustling town being suddenly annexed overnight and gradually returning to the dust fits the bill pretty solidly, so hopefully there won’t be too many complaints. I shall reveal the name of this special town if you haven’t already guessed it at some point in the future – there’s talk of further material seeing the light of the day sometime later this year. For now my lips are sealed…
I can, however, offer a tantalising glimpse of the next full-length Howlround album, which will be an audio-visual collaboration with film-maker Steven McInerney and released on his label Psyché Tropes. These pictures are from a test screening of the film complete with a brand new soundtrack that occurred as part of SOPOROSE, an all-night sound and sleep research event that Psyché Tropes were involved in in last month at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, a tiny 15th Century church/community centre nestling between the brash glass and steel towers of London’s frantic Bishopsgate and a surprising oasis of calm in a city increasingly not built for the likes of you and me. I was lucky enough to attend and can confirm that it’s looking and sounding fantastic. Quite possibly the best thing I’ve ever been involved in. Currently in the final stages of shooting and further details will follow….
And lastly for this week, please enjoy the latest in the series of Art Assembly‘s documentaries for Resonance FM. Presented, curated and masterminded by regular host Julia Dempsey and mixed and edited to within an inch of its life by yours truly, this month’s programme investigates a thematic thread running through the practice of four artists from the city of Sheffield: Chris Watson, Oberman Knocks, Adi Newton (Clock DVA, T.A.G.C.) and the brilliant Aino Tytti, whose Millennium Mills last year on Touch was one of my very favourite releases of 2015. Beautifully mixed and realised (though I say so myself) and full to bursting with fascinating and important work, this might be Art Assembly’s best programme yet!
2016 is pretty white hot as well, so far, isn’t it?
On this week’s Near Mint show on Resonance FM, Hannah Brown and I continue our search for treasure in the ridiculously overpriced Jungle. On last week’s show, as you will recall, we played a mere handful of oldskool hardcore and jungle tracks and ran up a staggering bill of £2097. On this week’s part two you’ll be excited to learn we be push back the boundaries of plausibility even further! Can you guess our grand total without peeking? Would you pay this much for a stack of rare white labels? Would you play them on the radio at tea time on a Tuesday? Would anybody? I was really hoping they would re-schedule this week’s show to run just after Calling All Pensioners, but my appeals fell on freshly deaf ears.
Another dose of Neat Mint next week. For now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to re-mortgage my flat. It’s rented, but I doubt the landlady will notice…