Hello You. First off this week, a very special edition of Near Mint indeed, devoted entirely to the work of Belgrade-based imprint Discom Records and put together by husband and wife team Luka and Vanja in celebration of the imminent release of their latest LP Yugoslavian Space Programme. They’re prepared an exclusive guest mix for the show, featuring a sneak preview of tracks from this ‘first ever electronic space music themed record from the former Yugoslavia’, some highlights from their small-but-impressive back-catalogue – and even a quick voyage into the future!
Luka has also kindly provided us with a tracklisting and some notes:
1. Marshall Tito’s speech about necessity of space exploring, recorded in a secret underground Zeljeva airbase.
2. Beograd – Mozak Primopredajnik ( in English “Brain Sender Receiver”), taken from Yugoslavian Space Program LP, Discom, forthcoming in November 2016
3. Digitron – Digital Minds, taken from Yugoslavian Space Program LP, Discom, forthcoming in November 2016
4. Ethno Techno (DATA) – I Love Her, taken from Sizike- U Zemlji Cuda With Lost DATA Tracks LP, April 2016
5. DATA feat. Delca– Nebo Zove (in English “The Sky Is Calling”), taken from Sizike- U Zemlji Cuda With Lost DATA Tracks LP, April 2016
6. Max Vincent – Dopo Di La Torre, forthcoming on Discom, June 2017
7. Max Vincent – Torino and You, taken from Max Vincent-The Future Has Designed Us, Discom, June 2015
8. Max Vincent – Odlazim (in English “I Am Leaving”), taken from Max Vincent-The Future Has Designed Us, Discom, June 2015
A truly fabulous mix, I’m sure you’ll agree, and a label born out of frustration with how few people were aware of this music they loved is now turning on whole new generations to a long-forgotten and most intriguing corner of electronic music history. The Yugoslavian Space Programme LP will be released in November and you can find out more and check out some of their other fine releases by visiting the Discom website. Near Mint salutes you, Luka and Vanja – now don’t forget to reserve a copy for me!
Howlround news now, and the good folk of Hook Research have produced a rather super short film about the project as part of their ‘Talking Human’ series. Designed to be a loose introduction to our work for an audience unfamiliar with the wonders of composing with tape loops and analogue sound, it features me attempting to explain the craft in under two minutes, plus lots of far more interesting footage of messing around with the machines in the studio – which in hindsight would probably have benefitted from a spot of dusting. Thank heavens I leave it to the machines to do the talking most of the time – and thanks also to Nick Fisher and Sam Harris for nonetheless making me look halfway professional. You can find lots more intriguing material on a multitude of subjects by visiting the Hook Research website.
In other Howlround news, The Blow Vol. 2, our split with Time Attendant on Front And Follow is selling out fast. At the time of writing there are only TWO copies still available at the label’s Bandcamp page here. Once they’re gone you’ll have to take a chance on either Norman Records or Boomkat having copies. Be swift or miss out!
Speaking of swiftness, I was planning to invite you all to join Howlround and DJ Food for a collaborative performance and installation at the Museum Of London on Friday November 4th, where Jonny Trunk is hosting a Workshop of Radiophonics. It promises to be ‘an interactive playroom of tape reel manipulation, electronic toys and cosmic vibes, with a chance to engage with tape editing, sound generation and possibly even a bit of knob twiddling’, and is part of an intriguing larger event known as ‘The Museum Of Last Parties’. Unfortunately this morning I had a disgruntled well-wisher point out that it’s completely sold out already. Very sorry if you’re among those who weren’t able to get a ticket – and the odds would appear to suggest you are.
The following week I’ll be packing the tape machines off to play two collaborative sets with the Danish-based musician Jim Slade – firstly at The Smålands kulturfestival at Funkisfabriken in Sweden on November 6th and then at Mandagsklubben in Jim’s adoptive home town of Copenhagen on 7th. I’m well aware that neither of these performances are likely to provide much succour for those UK friends disgruntled at missing out on Museum Of London event (after all, those tickets were free and flights to Sweden certainly aren’t), but I must say I am looking forward to stretching the loops into Europe again.
Our next UK gig is in Brighton on November 25th and there’s further London dates planned for December. Which is just as well, because of a very special TOP SECRET project we’ve been working on for a long time and will shortly be unveiling. That’s all I’m saying for now. But it’s going to be amazing! Watch this space, my loop-loving friends….
Hello you. Crumbs, it feels like my feet have barely touched the ground this last week. The above recording was extracted from a marathon ninety-minute tape loop session broadcast live from the Radio Revolten studio in Rathausstraße as part of their month-long series of experimental broadcasts, performances, installations, workshops and much more taking place throughout October in the city of Halle, Germany. It was tremendous fun and I have it on good authority that people were tuning in from as far afield as Catalonia, Ohio and Wales to savour the delightful chaos of threading up four machines with slightly wonky tape loops and trying to keep them in order. Sadly, it being a radio broadcast, they didn’t get to also enjoy the equally beautiful mess we made of the studio:
The previous evening we had performed in the adjoining Club Revolten concert space to a packed house alongside legendary percussionist Chris Cutler and electronics whizz Víctor Mazón Gardoqui. As well as broadcasting it live, the good folk of Radio Revolten have podcasted our set in full for your enjoyment and you can also read an intriguing review by the artist Gabi Schaffner (who also took these photos) here.
“Loops are such strange things…or (better maybe) concepts? In one way they are limited, and in another way they are endless. In one way they connect to the myth of the Eternal Return, and in another way – like in modification or decay – they present an ongoing series of variations that mimic almost physiological processes […] Some of them recalled recordings made underwater, some howled like FM tones, some just hovered under your active awareness like a foggy notion. Close to the end of the concert a series of „standing waves“ piled up, slowly, one after another, and collapsed in slow motion … a showdown of acoustic phantoms reeling in epical dissolution.”
Thanks to everyone who came down or tuned in and thanks to Knut, Sarah and the Revolten team for not only having us but for giving us our own office in which to conduct a marathon two-day cutting and splicing workshop in preparation!
Despite all this relentless activity, which also included my marathon, non-stop, five-hour DJ set for local cinema Kino-Zazie, there was still time to enjoy excellent performances from Mary Stark and Willem De Ridder plus film screenings and a bespoke programme from the Full Of Noises archive curated by Glenn Boulter. There was even time for a field trip to inspect the transmitter, perched on a tower high above the town, which required a slightly terrifying trip up a spiral staircase hanging precariously off the parapet. Worth it just for the view over Saxony-Anhalt!
Anyway, Radio Revolten continues broadcasting on FM, AM and online until the end of the month, so do tune in. I’m particularly looking forward to catching ‘Dead Air Spaces’, a new bespoke work by Radiophrenia’s Mark Vernon on the evening of the 25th at 8pm (7pm UK time). Mark also very kindly gave me a copy of his latest LP Lend An Ear, Leave A Word, a project that mixes field recordings of contemporary Lisbon with vintage recordings from tapes, micro-casettes and dictaphones found in one of the city’s flea markets. It’s great!
The sleevenotes list the source material as including drunken conversations about stolen car parts, baby recordings, crying in a public toilet, pouring sparkling wine, wowing, fluttering, crosstalk, feedback, pause button clunks etc., and in Mark’s hands these recordings soon mulch and ferment together, particularly on the second side where the sounds leave their moorings completely and set course for uncharted territory. It’s perhaps his finest work to date. More information on both his performance and this album can be found at his own Meagre Resource website here. Take my advice and order yourself a copy of the vinyl quick!
In fact, while we’re discussing recordings made by fellow performers, I must also plug Mary Stark‘s Summoning Ghosts Of Industries Past, a limited edition cassette on Graham Dunning’s Fractal Meat label that covers subject matter very similar to her performance at Club Revolten, projecting hand-cut loops of 16mm film and mixing the optical sound with field recordings and amplified sowing machine to create beautiful eulogy to bygone industries and obsolete technology. It’s thrilling to watch her put it together live, of course, but the recordings are equally worthy of your attention. Only a tiny handful of copies left – be quick!
Speaking of recordings for sale, I did manage to find half an hour to sneak out for a quick browse in a local record emporium before the second Howlround broadcast, from which I returned with an armful of intriguing East German synth, scholastic and soundtrack bits and bobs that I shall endeavour to share with you anon. In the meantime, this brings us rather neatly back to the UK and to this week’s edition of Near Mint, which pays a return visit to the record bag of legendary collector, mash-up merchant and analogue synth-tinkerer Ben Soundhog:
It’s another beautifully varied selection, this week featuring some Bollywood from R.D Burman and Ashe Bohsle, some Keith Mansfield on KPM, Johnny Harris’ magnificent ‘Footprints On The Moon’ and another banking jingle that unblushingly demands of its listener ‘why not get rich?’ – a rhetorical question that puts me in mind of The Simpsons’ “I won the lottery. Why don’t you win the lottery too?!” sketch. Putting such financial concerns to one side, we then move on to perhaps the single most remarkable record yet to be featured on Near Mint, a simple spoken tale of everyday heartbreak recited in a soft midlands burr by this chap:
Ah, yes, ‘Benny’s Theme’, in which the titular hero delivers a rambling spoken-word monologue about lost love and broken dreams, sounding not unlike that one drunk guy you exit the nightbus five stops early to get away from – only this time with ponderous strings and a soggy disco beat to back him up. For those either reading this from faraway lands, classed as ‘millennials’ or otherwise spared the travails of growing up in Britain in the 70s and 80s, I should clarify that Benny was a ‘loveable simpleton’ employed as some sort of handyman at the Crossroads Motel, the location of a famously awful soap opera which ran on British Television for far, far too long and, despite its wooden acting and wobbly sets remains fondly remembered by women of a certain age everywhere. So popular was it, in fact, that not only did my own dear old Grandma Fog refer to it as ‘me programme’ whenever it came on (and woe betide anyone who interrupted it to ask for a biscuit), but also in 1977, against all conventional logic, enough people bought this record for it to actually reach the giddy heights of number 39 in the British Hit Parade. It does make me wonder if my Gran might have been one of them.
I was going to close at this point by observing once again that living in the 70s must have been completely frightful, but then a moment later I stumbled across a follow-up Benny released in 1980 which somehow pulls off the miracle of being far, far worse. Seriously, if you can make it through the mawkish atrocity that is ‘Waiting At The Crossroads’ without choking up a lung I’ll eat that man’s wooly hat. And then a few more moments later, with the room actually beginning to spin a little, I discovered that the gargantuan British wrestler Giant Haystacks was also releasing novelty pop singles around the same time as well. What the hell was going on in Britain during the turn of the 80s?
But there is one comforting thought that you must take from all of this, dear readers: We are approaching the end of a truly rotten year for so many, where the forces of darkness appear to be taking over and the rest of us face increasingly uncertain times ahead. But the once indisputable truth to cling to in these dark days is the fact that, for the foreseeable future, our hit parades are entirely likely to remain free of Bennys, Haystacks and other lumbering oafs who shouldn’t be there. While the human race could truly be said to be at a Crossroads, we can at least console ourselves with the fact that it’s not going to be that Crossroads…
Hello You. The tape Gods having been most merciful, I’m happy to report that Howlround escaped Brompton Cemetery last week with all but one of the machines intact. Sadly, latest addition to the team Jenyth has temporarily given up the ghost, which was particularly upsetting after last week’s melting incident put our grand old Studer Elsa out of service for a good few weeks. Still, the remaining machines did a throughly capable job, even if the loops did get a bit tangled and even if one of the spools did have to be rescued by a helpful member of the audience. Huge thanks to her and to everyone who came down and sold the place out, especially hosts Stephen and Suzette of Antique Beat and A Curious Invitation respectively.
It was a truly amazing night, albeit one that I’m having trouble recalling thanks to the extreme potency of the gin cocktails they were serving. In order to keep focused on the job I insisted on not partaking of mine until after our set, by which point, it later transpired, they had run out of pineapple juice and were making up for the shortfall by just adding more gin. Frankly, it’s a wonder I ever got home. At the time of writing I’m busy preparing for Howlround’s forthcoming show this Sunday as part of the Radio Revolten festival in the German city of Halle, so I haven’t had time to properly go through the recording of the night yet, but I shall post an extract online sometime soon. Meanwhile, this video recorded from the audience perspective is a thoroughly good place to start:
For those of you that happen to be either located in or passing through Saxony-Anhalt over the weekend, do drop into the Radio Revolten Club, Rathausstraße 3, Halle (Saale) where you can catch performances from Willem De Ridder and Mary Stark on Saturday 15th and Chris Cutler, Howlround and Víctor Mazón Gardoqui on Sunday 16th. Both events are free and part of an extensive programme of radio-related events, broadcasts and performances taking place in Halle during the month of October. A calendar of highlights can be perused here.
A personal highlight for me is the opportunity to DJ library, soundtracks and other experimental weirdness at Kino-Zazie on the evening of Friday 14th, following a programme of Radio Essays and short films at this rather fabulous-looking cinema. Come down, have a drink and enjoy some groovy radiophonic delights from the depths of the Foggy archives.
Am DJ-ing the aftershow party @KinoZazie this Friday. They have billed me as a ‘Klangkünstler’, which is now my favourite German word EVER!
— Robin The Fog (@RobinTheFog) October 10, 2016
In other news, following last week’s announcement of the forthcoming second volume of Front And Follow’s The Blow series now up for pre-order and featuring a side each of brand new material from Howlround and Time Attendant, the tapes have been flying out and the accolades have been flying in, chief amongst them this decidedly favourable review in the latest edition of The Wire:
Crumbs. One does not have their worked compared to a great lost Derbyshire and Hodgson score very often. Might have to re-write my epitaph. It’s bizarre to think with all this talk of sinister resonances that the original material was recorded in a motel cabin sheltering from both the bright desert sunshine and Kaitlyn’s Garth Brooks CD. What’s also quite bizarre is that this isn’t our only appearance in The Wire this month, as our track ‘Battle Tape Fragment 10.02.16’ appears on the also-reviewed mini CD compilation 23 Tracks, 23 Minutes, 23 Artists, a series of sixty-second compositions compiled by our old friend Farmer Glitch and released in a frighteningly limited edition on the small-but-noble Eastville Vending imprint:
‘Consisting largely of two high-frequency chirps, the tape echo flutter and bubble ornamentally. There is elegance in its simplicity’, writes Richard Thomas of ‘Battle Tape’. Thank you, good Sir. It’s fitting that these two releases should appear in the same edition of The Wire, as ‘Battle Tape’ is in fact an early version of one of the tracks from The Blow Vol. 2, albeit in a fairly raw state prior to quite a bit of remixing and extending. Still, in the unlikely event that anyone should feel short-changed by this, there’s 22 other tracks to get stuck into, including Laica, Kemper Norton, Revbjelde, Graham Dunning, Ekoplekz and much more. My personal favourite is a quite gorgeous piece from Sarah Angliss, which is worth the entry fee alone. I do wish she’d hurry up and finish her album!
Speaking of albums, let’s move on to this week’s Near Mint show, which is the first of two trips round the record bag of Ben Soundhog – scholar, raconteur, legendary collector, producer, musician, analogue synth enthusiast and the artist formerly known as Freelance Hairdresser (who brought us such classic mashups as ‘500 Bad Mice’ and ‘Knees Up Look Sharp‘). These days better known as one half of Loose Capacitor and busy mucking around with synths or creating experimental videos like the one above using a BBC Micro and a sense of adventure, he still found time to drag a box of records over to Fog Towers and serve up this week’s playlist of Joe Meek horror, 60s psychedelic whimsy, utterly brilliant Welsh pop, messianic electronics and even some banking advice for paperboys. Strap on your ear-goggles and let’s roll:
Much obliged, for such a fabulous show, Mr. Soundhog and can’t wait until next week’s second helping. In the meantime, I’m not sure if he’ll thank me for dragging THIS up again, but I’d somehow missed it the first time around and it made me giggle like a schoolgirl.
And lastly to the latest in Julia Dempsey’s ongoing series of Art Assembly documentaries, which was mixed and co-produced by myself and broadcast on Resonance FM this week. For this episode Julia looks into the subject of music to be played during labour – a subject in which she has an increasingly vested interest! This first of two programmes focuses on the use of sound as a tool to alleviate pain and anxiety in childbirth, and as mixer, editor and guy-with-a-room-full-of-the-stuff, I was charged with digging out some records that might fit the bill. In a move that might surprise the uninitiated, Julia wanted to include tracks that were more rhythmic and percussive as well as the more relaxing and evocative music you might generally associate with such occasions, so between us we finally decided on selections from The Boredoms, DJ Food …and a Humpback Whale.
I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t get just a little bit ‘hippy-dippy’ here and there and despite the recommendation of one of her guests I probably wouldn’t be that keen on ‘travelling up my own cervix’, even if I had one, but it is a fascinating subject and Julia’s approach is a lot less ‘Earth Child’ than the more cynical of you might be imagining. Seriously worth a listen, even if the thought of siring an heir does fill you with nameless dread…
Hello you. First item on a fairly bumper agenda this week, I am absolutely thrilled and delighted to unveil the latest release in Howlround‘s growing catalogue:
The Blow Vol. 2, a split cassette with my old mucker Time Attendant will be released in November on Manchester’s Front And Follow label on a limited edition cassette plus download, but if you simply cannot wait until then it’s available for pre-order already. The second in a planned series of collaborative releases on the label and taking over from the excellent Volume 1 featuring Hoofus and IX Tab (now sold out physically), all of the music on my half was created by manipulating a single field recording taken in the Mojave desert ‘almost ghost town’ of Amboy, California:
The album was produced over the course of spring and summer this year, though the source material was originally recorded a couple of summers ago while on a pilgrimage to visit one of the great desert ‘readymades’, namely the dilapidated sign of Roy’s Motel which is the town’s most famous landmark. Straddling Route 66 some forty-three miles from Joshua Tree as the crow flies (and sixty-four by road), this is a remote location indeed. Did you even notice the enormous freight train making it’s way across the bottom right of the above picture? Must have been almost a mile long, but even that gets lost amongst such a vast and arid desert landscape. The population of this once-bustling town is now a mere ‘handful’ (which sounds slightly more optimistic than the 2000 census which put it at ‘4’), although bizarrely it does still maintain a working post office.
What’s even stranger is how wet and squidgy the resulting recordings have ended up sounding, something I can only attribute once again to the transformative properties of tape. The source material was created entirely by working the rusted and squeaking hinges of a cupboard door hidden inside the vintage writing desk pictured above, while my friend Kaitlyn patiently sat in the car enjoying the delights of air conditioning and Garth Brooks. At some point I’m hoping to return to Amboy and leave these newly transformed recordings back where they came from, perhaps also taking time out to enjoy another bottle of ‘Root 66 Beer’ and maybe, if I’m really lucky, meeting Chandra Brenner, the lovely yet somewhat vacant host of this completely batsh*t bananas documentary about the town. But all that might be a while off yet. In the meantime, do get your order in early, there are only 100 copies and if the first volume is anything to go by they’ll fly out pretty sharpish!
Meanwhile, there’s just a few days to go before Howlround’s SOLD-OUT performance at Brompton Cemetery Chapel as part of London Month Of The Dead and in anticipation of this historic event, I’ve been jumping onto the PR bandwagon. Firstly, I was interviewed for 6Music news by the splendid Elizabeth Alker, with the results played out on the Sean Keaveney Breakfast Show and again later on Radcliffe and Maconie. The first of these airings has been captured by a quick-thinking well-wisher and uploaded to Soundcloud if you fancy a listen. I haven’t actually done so myself yet, but I’m encouraged to hear that apparently there was a lot of giggling involved…
Even more excitingly, the nice people at Hook Research have made this short video of me in the studio briefly attempting to explain the Howlround philosophy and modus operandi before heading down to the cemetery on a sound-gathering expedition. Thanks must go to Sam Harris and Nick Fisher for doing such a great job and making me look and sound halfway professional. In fact, their sense of timing proved to be quite uncanny, as just after they’d left a small but vital part of the Studer machine that you can see me using in the clip decided to actually MELT...
— Howlround (@Howlroundmusic) October 2, 2016
It will be several weeks before the replacement part turns up and she’s ready to spool again. But it gets stranger: Several hours later in the German town of Halle, Howlround co-conspirator Chris Weaver experienced exactly the same phenomenon with a machine of his own! Seriously, in five years of working with tape we’ve never once had a pinch-roller do anything other than the pinching and rolling that is required of it. Then suddenly two of them melt on different machines in different countries on a single day! What are the chances? Unfortunately Chris came off rather the worse, as his own personal meltage incident occurred live on stage during a Resonance Radio Orchestra performance. I had just turned my back for three minutes while boiling the kettle.
Such an unlikely coincidence will hopefully mean there will be no further meltdowns for at least a couple of weeks, especially because after this Sunday’s adventures in Brompton Cemetery, Howlround are going to be playing Halle on October 16th as part of the Radio Revolten Festival, alongside Chris Cutler and Víctor Mazón Gardoqui. Details of this and a full schedule of events can be found at the Radio Revolten website. There’s also talk of an appearance at the Museum Of London, but more on that in due course.
And lastly, we come to the latest Near Mint show on Resonance FM, where this week we delve deeply into the world of ‘Rhodesian Communications’ through a brief investigation into the work of composer Sam Sklair. We’ll be listening to alternating extracts from two albums on either side of his lengthy career, 1965’s tourist-baiting Rhodesia: Safari On Sound and 1988’s corporate video soundtrack Interplay – The Communications Industry.
Hard to believe that a mere twenty-three years separate these two records or that they come from the same world, let alone the same composer, but I do like to think that you can hear a similar optimism and search for progression in both of them – after a fashion, at least. Curiously, despite featuring a narrator that makes Alan Whicker sound like a bingo-caller and its evident pride regarding the modern embellishments ‘from strip tease to parking meters’ being enjoyed by a nation that stopped existing quite some time ago, I’d almost be tempted to say that Safari On Sound has dated better. But then I remember the considerable debt that contemporary artists such as Oneohtrix Point Never and James Ferraro owe to albums such as Interplay and I’m less sure. Besides, the latter has just about one of the greatest covers of all time. Design like this NEVER goes out of date:
Well, that should about do it for now. Hope to see you on Sunday. And don’t forget to order The Blow!
Postscript: For the avoidance of doubt, I feel I should clarify that it was a Garth Brooks CD that Kaitlyn was enjoying, not actually Garth Brooks himself. Though I’m sure if he had come along they would have got along famously. In hindsight, maybe we should have invited him? Bet he would just love to collaborate with Howlround!