Hello you. First off, a quick note from Howlround in video form, to announce that new material will be arriving soon. Created using a notebook and a photocopier during a brief period of thumb-twiddling inactivity over the weekend, it just happens to coincide nicely with my receiving the masters for my contribution to part 2 of Front And Follow’s series ‘The Blow’, a split cassette with Time Attendant due out this autumn, from which the video’s soundtrack is taken. And of course there’s the brand new audio-visual album/film arriving soon on Psyché Tropes in collaboration with genius film-maker Steve McInerney! Both sounding pretty great, though I say so myself and both pulling the Howlround project into interesting new orbits. Very much looking forward to sharing the results with you in the coming months.
Next up, Near Mint is back on the airwaves for a second visit to Ray’s Record Room, where genial proprietor Ray Carmen has prepared another selection of vintage home-made records for your enjoyment. Featuring the long-lost voices of 1940s and 50s Ohio lovingly restored and preserved, it’s another journey back to a forgotten age. These are editions of one, mostly made by members of the public as messages or keepsakes for loved ones, but on this week’s show we also get to hear some ‘radio spots’ recorded for use on local stations, including advertisements for long-forgotten brands of beer and ice cream – I’m such a sucker for these little domestic details. There’s even a contribution of my own, the only home-made recording I’ve ever found in my long history of collecting, a yellowish 7″ Recordiodisc, cut on what appears to be some sort of cardboard, dated 1949 and titled simply ‘Straightening Jack Out’. Clearly recorded while slightly intoxicated – a recurring theme of many of these discs – it’s wonderful to hear a strong Lancashire accent, beautifully incongruous amongst all the American voices and to imagine how she came to be there. Even more intriguingly, this disc might actually be the first documented example of the problems caused by our countries’ differing uses of the word ‘fanny’, so could in fact be capturing a key moment in Anglo-US relations. A little slice of slightly tipsy history…
Finally, thank you to everyone who came down to Vinyl Deptford last weekend to catch Howlround in action – especially multifaceted performer and Linear Obsessional label boss Richard Sanderson for the invitation, and a number of brave volunteers who had to stand very still for the duration of the performance holding the loops in place! I’d cut them just a little bit too long and the whole thing ended up being a bit of a massive tangle, though thankfully no lives were lost. You might even notice a couple of familiar faces amongst them – genius photographer Laura Yawira Scheffer and one Mr. Tony Alpe, owner of THE Torridon Gate, who came along with partner Kath and bravely threw his hat into the ring. The results were chaotic but fun – well, for me at least. And it being Vinyl Deptford, the night ended with my spending more money I didn’t have on yet more records I didn’t need. It was ever thus….
This week’s Near Mint show on Resonance FM is something very special indeed. We’re taking a trip to Ray’s Record Room in Akron, Ohio, where proprietor Ray Carmen has prepared a selection of vintage one-off records from the 1940s and 1950s for your delight. The first of a two-part special, these are direct-to-disc affairs either made at home (or in a couple of examples, possibly in a Voice-O-Graph booth) by the men, women and children of the Akron of yesteryear.
Either inherited from family members or found in thrift stores and junk shops around his home town, Ray has loving preserved and restored the audio secrets contained within these unique and precious discs to take the listener on a trip back to a lost world and a bygone era. There are drunken(?) carousers, the ghosts of Christmas past, a couple of love-letters that go slightly off-topic and an accappella tribute to unorthodox footwear by a small child known only as Claudia. It’s impossible to listen to these long-ago voices without wondering just what became of them all. Did Rose ever receive her visitor? Did Lennie and Laverne live happily ever after? How long did the fire engine Ray’s future father-in-law got for Christmas last before the wheels fell off? The chances of ever discovering the answers to any of those questions are practically nil (with the possible exception of that last one – I’ll ask Ray if he’ll check).
One person we are able to trace a little better is Dodie Stevens, whose 1959 hit ‘Pink Shoelaces’ was the subject of Claudia’s aforementioned accappella treatment. You can find the low-budget, cable-access footage of her performing this song many years later that Ray mentions here, though for my money this original video from 1959 featuring Dodie as a wide-eyed and tomboyish 13-year-old is infinitely more charming. I suppose it makes sense that such a breezy and innocent teenybopper classic is far more endearing when sung by an actual teenybopper. Anyway, part two arrives next week and if you can’t wait until then there’s plenty more lost voices and rare recordings on the Ray’s Record Room Soundcloud page. Well worth an hour or two of your time!
You might also remember the name Ray Carmen for his abandoned playground project and the collaborative track ‘OH’, produced with Howlround and featured on our last LP Tales From The Black Tangle. Hopefully they’ll be more collaborations to follow, schedule-permitting!
Speaking of Howlround, please do come and join us at Vinyl Deptford this Saturday, where I’ll be spooling up as part of the latest Linear Obsessional event, alongside Phil Maguire, Project Mycelium and the duo of Phil Durrant & Richard Sanderson. If you’ve never had the pleasure, Vinyl Deptford is a rather super little record shop / arts space / cafe and I’m really looking forward to catching up with some old friends, playing some new loops and rifling through the racks (time-permitting). The Facebook event page can be found here and it’s a suggested donation of £5 to get in. What better way to spend a Saturday night in South London? Apparently Linear Obsessional label boss Richard Sanderson is going to use the event to unveil a new album, so I’m willing to bet I’m going to leave the event slightly poorer than when I went in.
Finally, thanks to everyone who came down to Homemade Disco at Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney this week, especially those of you who ended up getting roped into holding tape loops aloft when I wildly under-estimated their length and ended up having to cause some entanglements. A great venue and a splendid crowd, including my first ever baby (who seemed to quite enjoy it) and my regular unofficial biographer Zoe Plumb, who captured this rather super short video on Instagram. Zoe also makes music and sound pieces under the name Electric Elisabeth and that’s worth a listen as well. So many creative friends!
Thanks to everyone who came down to Resonance FM’s Gala performance from inside White City’s East Tower on Wednesday. Part of White Noise‘s programme of residencies inside the towerblock in the weeks leading up to its demolition next month, the evening featured the premier of a brand new Howlround work inspired by and recorded inside the building, using only sounds found amongst the abandoned office spaces. At some point I’m going to do something with all the material I’ve accumulated from recording the building. – it’s resulted in quite a handful of new tracks, but with the next two albums already in the pipeline, I’m not quite sure what to do with them yet! I’m hoping also for one last crack at one of the pieces which had reached an ‘interesting stage’ by the time of the performance but to my ears could benefit from further exploration. Hopefully the above extract will whet your appetites for the time being. For added intrigue, have a listen while admiring Nick Balloon’s beautiful photos of the tower interior’s abandoned office spaces.
Speaking of all things Resonance-related, this week’s Near Mint show is pretty darn fabulous though I say so myself, featuring as it does a trip round the Teutonic turntable and a generous portion of German library and soundtrack music originally purposed for soundtracking the sci-fi, sex and shopping adventures of our continental cousins of the 1960s and 70s. And yes, it it’s every bit as tantalising as that sounds!
Also in radio-land, the July edition of Mike Harding‘s ‘Longwave’ show on Los Angeles-based station Dublab is now available for a stream and a download. Recorded in a rather noisy pub in Crystal Palace on the night England endured the ultimate humiliation at the hands of Iceland, with Mike and Stephanie John. Stephanie talks about and played an extract from Steel Cymraeg, her recent quadraphonic sound installation at the Royal College of Art, which was comprised of field recordings of the Trostre steelworks, Llanelli; while I’ve contributed an extended Foggy Megamix of some of my all-time favourite records, old and new. From a chap called Jim Henson to A Guy Called Gerald, from an African Lullaby to a Landscape Sculpture with Foghorns, it’s all there. It also features tracks from new albums by JP Hartnett and Merz, both of which are thoroughly worthy of your attention! Stream or download here.
Meanwhile, big thanks to Alannah Chance, producer for Late Junction and 6Music among many other goodly works, for including a radio piece of mine in the latest instalment of Folded Wing’s ‘Listening Post’. ‘If you don’t have time to listen to any of the others, take 2 minutes to listen to this’, she says, which is jolly flattering given the calibre of the other work on display. Have a listen and a dig around her other selections here. Much obliged, Alannah. I owe you a cherryade.
— Alannah (@Miss_chance) July 8, 2016
Finally, don’t forget that Howlround are playing Homemade Disco evening at Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney on Tuesday, alongside the ‘soul/blues/grime and psych folk’ of Le Juki and the ‘generative systems and analogue synthesisers’ of David. It’s at 352A Mare St in Hackney and further details can be found here.
Well, that’s probably enough to be getting on with. Certainly an improvement on the original idea for this post, which was just going to be me screaming ‘BORIS JOHNSON!?!! YOU’RE JOKING, RIGHT?!!’ It’s lucky that all this great music and radio continue to be made or else there surely would be a mad collective dash off Beachy Head. 2016 will now surely go down in history as the year that everything went officially batshit bananas…
Following last week’s uncharacteristically outraged and aggrieved state-of-the-post-Brexit-nation rant in which I assessed the moribund condition of British affairs through the medium of Keith Chegwin, a ‘gay bike’ and a minimoke; I am now attempting to get back on track, dust myself off and return to the ‘super-niche’ subject matter for which I’m renown, leaving politics firmly in the hands of the experts that everyone has apparently had enough of. You certainly don’t need me to tell you what a farce the whole thing has proved and after our ship was immediately abandoned by at least two of the main rats whose victory had caused it to sink in the first place, leaving the rest of us floating adrift in a gigantic mess with nobody in place to clear it up; there really is little one add that hasn’t been said already, far more articulately and eloquently, by Ewan McGregor.
One concession I will make to the current nation mood, however, is a special ‘Dreary Synth’ edition of Resonance FM’s Near Mint show, put together by Copenhagen-based artist and musician Jim Slade. As with so much synthesiser music, the more downbeat it gets, the better it sounds and this week’s show features some fantastically dour electronic pop from the deepest doldrums of the early 1980s. It is as, our guest puts it, a mix perfect for ‘rainy days and tumultuous political climates’, so if you can think of a more appropriate playlist for summer 2016 then let’s hear it. Jim can also be found curating a continuing programme of sound and music events at Copenhagen’s David Risley Gallery as well as working on his own compositions and site-specific performances. His saxophone work Teleborg is particularly special and I’m told there’s more to come…
Continuing with more positive news, I’m very excited indeed to be able to announce something I’ve been working on for the last few weeks, but have had to keep under my hat until now. Howlround, alongside Resonance FM, were chosen by arts organisation White Noise to contribute work to their latest project, a series of performances, installations and broadcasts taking place within the abandoned shell of the East Tower, an 11-story office block that is one of the last surviving buildings of the old BBC Television Centre complex. Formerly the headquarters of children’s programmes such as Blue Peter, it’s due to be demolished next month and White Noise were keen to organise a sort-of ‘last hurrah’ for the building before it’s replaced with yet more luxury flats.
Prior to demolition, we are commissioning three residencies to take over the upper floors. We’d love you to join us to artistically commemorate the tower’s fall. Potential use of the floors could include: a location for film-making projects, a temporary home for radio broadcasts, art installations, an event space for drama (audience up to 200 people).
For Howlround’s part of the project, I’m unveiling a series of brand new compositions created entirely by manipulating the naturally-occurring sounds of the building on my semi-refurbished quartet of reel-to-reel machines. This will take the form of a live performance from inside the topmost floors of the building itself as a part of Resonance FM’s gala Live To Air event, an evening of site-specific radio broadcasts with a live audience on Wednesday on July 13th. Tickets are free, but limited and going fast, though the entire event is being broadcast live on Resonance, so do tune in if you can’t make it. Further details include a full running order of programmes and performances can be found here.
Really looking forward to this one and of course it chimes in nicely with previous projects documenting the sounds of Bush House and New Broadcasting House from a few years back. At this stage even I don’t know quite what it’s all going to sound like, I’m still putting the finishing touches to the material and I’ve still got to head back into the building to record one final piece – some forty people serenading the stairwell. All I can tell you is that we shall be seeing the tower out in style. Hope you can join us!
The following week, in what is shaping up to be a busy month for my quartet of elderly machines, I shall also playing the next Homemade Disco evening at Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney, alongside the ‘soul/blues/grime and psych folk’ of Le Juki and the ‘generative systems and analogue synthesisers’ of David. Been hearing great things about this event and if the whole thing is executed half as well as the above logo then a very fine time will be had by all. It’s at 352A Mare St in Hackney and further details can be found here.
And then as if that wasn’t enough, Howlround will also be playing the next Linear Obsessional event at Vinyl Deptford on July 23rd alongside Phil Maguire, Project Mycelium and the trio of Phil Durrant/Kev Hopper/Richard Sanderson. Vinyl Deptford can be found at 4 Tanners Hill, SE8 and further details can be found here. Hope to see you at one or more of these events, though can’t help thinking we’ll all be in need of semi-refurbishment after such a busy month!
Lastly, some very cheering news from the people behind Extraction Music, the fundraising all-dayer from a few weeks ago in Cardiff, raising money in aid of the continuing refugee crisis in Calais and elsewhere. So positive was the response from the event that chief protagonist Ian ‘Uh Oh’ Watson and his team have launched a brand new benefit compilation featuring many of the artists from the event, including an extract from Howlround’s closing performance – here listed as a ‘bonus track’ because I let the ball slip and forgot to sort out our contribution quickly enough, for which I must sheepishly apologise. Personal tardiness notwithstanding, it’s a throbbingly good listen that’s already received a nod of approval from the nice people at the ever-redoubtable Tiny Mix Tapes. And with such a great line-up and such a worthy and necessary cause, who could argue with them? Click on the link below to secure yourself a copy!
So, there we have it . Plenty of reasons to be cheerful that for once don’t involve sport, politics or another Royal Baby. I feel better already!