Picking Up Mint Made Easy

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Hello you. A hurried post today in an attempt to partially clear the decks for some rather large business that’s expected to be announced imminently. But before I get caught up in whirlwind, heat and flash, I wanted to make sure that before anything else happened you had a chance to get your ears around the latest edition of Near Mint on Resonance FM, which this weeks pays a return visit to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and the record collection of DJ, musician, collector, anglophile and cultural historian Nick Daly, proprietor of the Diagonals blog.

It’s another classic selection of beautiful treasure and glorious trash, the former provided by the Children of the Italia Conti School and our old friend Jean Jacques Perrey amongst others, the latter very much in attendance thanks to the appearance of a snippet of that hardy old classic Picking Up Girls Made Easy!, a rather sordid 1970s LP apparently designed to offer dating tips to unbelievably shallow young men with unbelievably tight trousers. This grubby little volume and I have crossed paths before, as it appeared on the third episode of my 2013 Resonance FM series Looking Good, Feeling Great (the aptly-titled ‘A Peculiar Kind Of Emptiness‘) and yet somehow it still remains miles outside of my price range. For this reason I must thank LPCoverLover.com for unwittingly allowing me to borrow their high-def scan of the cover:

These women are not IN to you. They are ON to you.

But that’s not all, folks. Nick spent so much time agonising over both this week’s show and the previous instalment that he’s actually compiled a third mix of outtakes and off-cuts which is actually significantly longer than both of these shows put together! I was going to embed it right here on the blog, but for ridiculous reason that I can’t understand or explain, WordPress is having absolutely none of it and refusing to let me embed the Mixcloud player. So I shall have to just inform you that you can find it complete with a full tracklist and sleevenotes on the Diagonals blog HERE and leave you to it.

Bravo once again, Mr. Daly. Rumour has it he might just have some sort of album of his own due in the new year. Keep your ears to the wind for that one…


That’s No Moon – Howlround On Sea And Other Interesting Angles

Firstly, a week after the Super-Moon hid behind some Super-Clouds and disappointed us all, I’d like to present you with something infinitely more exciting:
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…And if the sight of this image has sharpened your curiosity, you might find an answer of sorts in Brighton on Friday where London’s favourite tape-loop sextet Howlround are playing alongside Official Burnt Toast and Skypesong as part of the latest Betabet event at The Rose Hill. It promises to be quite an occasion that just might unlock some of the secrets held within that mysterious orb in the picture. Or just might not. Even we’re not quite sure yet. It’s going to be a splendid evening, regardless, so do come along if you can. Click on the poster for further details:

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Secondly, the Near Mint show on Resonance FM this week pays the first of two trips to the wonderful world of Diagonals, better known as Florida-based musician, collector and cultural historian Nick Daly. It’s a show that drifts from Mr. Spock to Mr. X, from abundance and plenty to intelligence and beauty, from having it to grabbing it and go[ing], so do please tune in:

A superb selection and I can assure you that next week’s second part will be equally fine (I can also assure you that I am now very much in the market for a reasonably priced VG+ copy of the The Letter People LP – do get in touch if you happen to have any spares knocking around). All praise due, Mr. Daly. And if you can’t wait until next week, there’s a tonne more mixes on his blog just waiting for you to sink your teeth into:

Speaking of new discoveries, there’s been a lot of great music turning up at Fog Towers over the last couple of weeks, but not much time to write about any of it, so I thought today I’d address this matter and take a moment to salute some of the latest releases gracing my music centre. First off is a new EP from The Twelve Hour Foundation, aka Bristolian synth poppers (and fellow Delaware Road-alumni) Jez and Polly and their collection of vintage analogue gear. Another set of prime Radiophonic Pop playing not unlike some soundtrack to a lost episode of ‘Look And Read’, perhaps rejected for fear it might over-stimulate the word-watchers (this is a compliment, of course). Out now in a limited edition cassette with groovy, vaguely scholastic-looking artwork on the Environmental Studies label, which looks set to become a rather exciting new imprint. Still hoping for a full length Twelve Hour Foundation LP in 2017. Maybe with Derek Griffiths on guest vocals?! Just a thought.

Speaking of stimulating young minds, check out Woodland Walk by CukoO, the second release on Matt Saunders’ new Patterned Air label. The brainchild (no pun intended) of multi-instrumentalist and special needs teacher Victoria Wilson, it’s an album of ‘Sensory woodland analogue electronics and traditional classroom instrumentation’ designed to be used in tandem with objects and story-telling to create an immersive experience for her students. In this classroom VCS3 synthesiser and Revox tape machine sit alongside recorders, glockenspiels and other more traditional instruments – and as is so often the way with music designed to excite children’s imaginations, it works pretty well on jaded old adult ears too. Woodland Walk can be purchased here as a beautifully packaged CDR with additional ‘weird inserts’ and there’s a special edition with additional objects for use in the classroom also available. What a pity my own music lessons never sounded like this, I’ve had to do an awful lot of catching up ever since…

I was lucky enough to attend the launch party of the new Rothko album last week, celebrating the release of A Young Fist Curled Around A Cinder For A Wager, a brand new song-cycle featuring their latest incarnation of founding member Mark Beazley on bass and Johny Brown of Band Of Holy Joy (and The Trunchbulls, lest we forget!) on vocals. It’s another striking and frequently harrowing set of ruminations on life and loss by the north-east’s premier bard-in-absence, and all the more remarkable for achieving so much with just bass and voice. Kudos must also go to Inga Tillere for the beautiful artwork. Get yourself a CD copy here.

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While there, I also picked up a copy of the debut release by Tetherdown, another project Mark is involved with, alongside James Murray and Anne Garner of  Slowcraft Records. A joint release between that label and Mark’s own Trace Records, it’s a gorgeous mix of shimmering, bucolic ambient excursions with a dark undertow; featuring James on processed guitars (Howlround fans might remember that we shared a stage at 269 Gallery on Portobello Road last year), Mark on bass and Anne on flute, keyboards and vocals as well as artwork. A scarily limited edition CD with a special double-sleeve can be found here.

Speaking of artwork, check out this image from another project Anne is working on, currently available as part of a series of limited edition cards bearing her own illustrations and later to be incorporated into some sort of literary work she tells me is in development. I’ve included one of them below and shall be awaiting further news. Moving into prime Edward Gorey territory, I think you’ll agree!

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Detail from illustrated card by Anne Garner

The prospect of a new album from Ekoplekz is always guaranteed to cheer me up, so I’m glad that one of our finest exponents of diseased and wonky electronics hasn’t let 2016 slide without treating us to something new. As it happens Cryptik Stepperz is actually a collection of rare and previously unreleased material dating from 2012, though this was never going to be an issue given that most Ekoplekz releases sound as if they’ve being beamed in live from some sort of alternate-dimension rave for the undead occurring at the bottom of Quatermass’ pit. Expect the usual delightful machine mulch, seemingly produced on equipment in an advanced state of decomposition. Bravo indeed – plus there are rumours of brand spanking new material on Planet Mu in the spring. Come on 2017, hurry up….

And lastly, permit yourself just one more peek at THIS, an image that circulated online this week and was described by one well-wisher as ‘very festive’. Proof, as if any were needed, that we really are desperately looking for festivity wherever we can find it in this blighted year of 2016. Thank heavens we at least have all this great music….

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An Olympic Update – Public Info Pioneers, Loops Into Europe, Brighton And The Blow

Hello, you. It’s been a pretty tumultuous week, by and large, hasn’t it? Well, let’s not beat around the bush, everything’s gone completely belly-up. But I’m willing to bet you haven’t come here to court my thoughts on the eligibility or otherwise of sneering, racist, tax-dodging mysoginaires in obtaining the keys for the most powerful office on Earth. Doubtless you have plenty of your own opinions on the subject, and let’s not forget that my previous attempts to get all political and channel the post-Brexit mood of the nation via the lesser known works of Keith Chegwin only succeeded in getting me embroiled in my first ever Twitter spat. In fairness it did only last about five minutes, but I’ve learnt my lesson. It could all have rumbled on unpleasantly for a lot longer when you consider the intellectual heft of my would-be opponent:

Definitely a genuine profile, Lucie describes herself as '27' and 'not that interesting'.

Meet ‘Lucie’. Describing herself as ’27’ and ‘not that interesting’, she is almost certainly a genuine person rather than some sort of Brexit-approving algorithm; and in a brief but incendiary career, called me out on my post-referendum ‘sour grapes’, stood under that hand-dryer for a bit, then abandoned Twitter forever. Quite a gal.

So, this time I’m changing tack. I figure that wherever you are, reading this, you’re probably sick to the back teeth of all the recent unpleasantness and are merely visiting these pages in the hope of briefly losing yourself within the comforting confines of tape loops, weird noises, obscure records and pointless trivia. I can totally make all of that happen for you. Besides, I’m guessing around this time of year Chegwin will be quite busy with panto.

Let’s start with a very special edition of Near Mint in celebration of the return of Public Information Recordings, who have re-joined the fray after a well-earned break with a brand new compilation of unreleased tape works by unheralded electronic music pioneer Malcolm Pointon. Experimenting with electronic composition to great effect throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Malcolm sadly succumbed to Alzheimers and died young, leaving much of his work unheard. Put together in collaboration with early electronic music expert Ian Helliwell, who recently featured Malcolm in his excellent Tape Leaders compendium, and with the full support of his widow Barbara; the label are donating all proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Society, so it’s an excellent album and a most worthy cause.

Full kudos to Public Information and Ian for finally giving Malcolm’s work the attention it deserves and the LP Electromuse is available now from their bandcamp page. It’s the label’s first release for a couple of years and for this week’s show they’ve provided us with an exclusive guest mix showing off some tracks from the new LP as well as some choice selections from their back-catalogue of early tape experiments, library cues and contemporary electronics. The only bum note is caused by the horrible cold I’m audibly suffering from during my introductory voiceover. Anyway, welcome back, chaps. We’ve missed you.

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Moving on, thanks to everyone who came down to the Museum Of London last week and joined Howlround and Strictly Kev aka DJ Food for an evening of tape loops and turntablism as part of The Museum Of Last Parties – and all in the auspicious shadow of the 2012 Olympic Torch! What an honour!

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We ended up playing together for over three hours, an improvised collaborative performance of loops, grooves and samples that had Kev ‘grinning like a loon’ afterwards – and the constant stream of revellers that visited us throughout the night seemed to enjoy it too. Audio extracts will hopefully surface at some point once we’ve had time to go through the mountains of raw material we recorded that night, but hopefully these photos taken by Kev during soundcheck will suffice for now.

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Thanks again to Andrew Rutland, Martin Green and Jonny Trunk for putting us on and apologies once again to those of you unable to get a ticket – I’m only too aware that you were legion and that there was much wailing and teeth-gnashing about just how quickly they sold out. All is not lost, however, as Howlround have two more London dates coming up in December. More on those anon – we’re going to be using the occasion to unleash a brand new project on the world. But for now, Mum’s the word!

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Thanks must also go to David Risley and his team for putting Jim Slade and myself on last week at Funkisfabriken, a former factory turned into a gorgeous new performance and exhibition space in Diö, Sweden. It was the first performance of a side project we’ve been thinking about doing for a while now, where Jim improvises with his saxophone over a tape loop collage of manipulated recordings of himself made earlier. It was all thrown together pretty quickly, but we were pleased with the results, the audience reaction and the very delicious stew they served us afterwards, so there’s a lot of potential there for future performances. The following night we played again at Mandagsklubben, a long-running live fixture of Copenhagen’s extremely healthy jazz scene that was recently honoured at the Danish Jazz Awards. While perhaps not the natural environment for tape loops or musique concréte, the crowd were most attentive and seemed to really enjoy the performance – which was a relief as we found ourselves closing the evening directly after the trio of Karl Nyberg, Karl Bjorå and Tomas Järmyr on sax, guitar and drums respectively – one of the most visceral and thrilling performances I’ve witnessed in a long while. Try following that with tape loops and saxophone!

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As for Howlround, our next UK gig will be down in Brighton on November 25th as guests of the Rose Hill, alongside Official Burnt Toast and Skypesong. Hoping to see some of our South Coast Friends in attendance and also maybe have a quick duck into Snooper’s Paradise before the show, time-permitting – last time I was in there I found a super-rare Basil Kirchin LP, a copy of ‘Nude On The Moon‘ by Tipsy and an 10″ vinyl recording of some guy taking a grand piano on the London Underground – pretty much the perfect balance of sublime and ridiculous.

…And speaking of encountering new records, just check out this pair of releases by Ordinate, the duo of JP Hartnett and John Flynn. Short of a track contributed to Earwiggle’s 8 Wigglin’ Ways To Die compilation last year, this simultaneously released 12″ EP and cassette album mark the duo’s first work together, though both have considerable form – John has released two EPs on Bleep under his Spaces moniker as well as producing a track on the last Bjork LP; while JP has several albums of minimalist piano compositions to his name, most recently via 1631 Recordings.

Scorched-Earth Industrial Techno is the order of the day and the results crunch and splatter in all the right places – as with all good machine music, JP and John have ensured their tracks squelch as much as they bang. To these ears it’s not unlike an update on Aphex Twin’s Caustic Window period, particularly the four cuts on the 12″ which go straight for the dancefloor jugular and barely let up for a moment. My one-word review on first hearing it was ‘OOF!’ and I think that pretty much covers it. At a mere 100 and 50 copies respectively, you’d be advised to neither dilly nor dally in acquiring one of each.

Finally, The Blow Vol. 2, Howlround’s split cassette with Time Attendant is now officially released on Manchester’s Front And Follow imprint, just in time for this rather spiffy review in the latest edition of Electronic Sound Magazine:

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In the spirit of celebration I invite you once again to enjoy this completely batsh*t bananas documentary that focuses on the fascinating desert town of Amboy which inspired my half of the album. Seriously, take thirty-two minutes out of your life to watch it, it’s a work of pure Dadaist genius:

Apparently edited together by someone wielding an entire bag of hammers, it’s presented by (or at least the camera spends much of the time pointing in the direction of) the lovely Chandra Brenner, an actress and presenter who seems to exist throughout the video in a weirdly dichotomous state of both extreme over-stimulation and slightly vacant stupor – so much so, in fact, that I actually began to wonder if she was a more advanced version of ‘Lucie’, the Sexy Referendum Robot mentioned earlier. Watch her in action and ask yourself if at any point in your life anything has ever excited you quite as much as the prospect of crossing the street to visit a post office appears to excite Chandra. Other things that get her all worked up during the course of the video include a bottle of Root Beer, a mustard-coloured chaise-lounge and an old basketball hoop inside the school gymnasium. And speaking of sports, drinking and ending up on the sofa, I also reckon there’s the makings of a great drinking game in adding up all of the occasions when she encounters something that she describes as ‘indescribable’ – you’d be HAMMERED after ten minutes, and therefore in a perfect state to pop the cassette in. Try it and let me know how you get on!

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The German Democratic Republic’s Exotic Electronics And Howlround’s Adventure On The Wire

Following both last week’s fantastic trip to the Yugoslavian Space Programme thanks to our friends at Discom and my recent trip to the Saxany-Anhalt city of Halle, this week’s Near Mint Show brings an all-too brief excursion into the exotic electronics of the former German Democratic Republic.

There’s synth, scholastic and soundtrack music aplenty from the former East Germany, much of which was released on the state-owned Amiga label. Synthtastic duo Servi make a contribution to the electronics side of the affair with three cuts from their debut LP Ruckker Aus Ithaka, while some of the exotics are supplied by TV spy thriller Das Unsichtbare Visier, a drama series apparently made in collaboration with GDR state security. One wonders if it might have been the Stasi who insisted on the soundtrack being so diabolically funky?

All of the music featured in today’s episode is taken from a small handful of LPs discovered on a brief visit to Whispers Records in Halle town centre, an emporium I can heartily recommend to passing diggers (in fact, let me know if you’re passing and I’ll supply you with a ‘wants’ list). Of course all this is barely scratching the surface, but I like to think it’s a nice introduction. And as with our recent Sam Sklair special, while some of the sounds here are very much of their time and perhaps even a little ‘dated’, I’m convinced you can definitely hear their influence on the work of more recent artists. Surely closing track ‘Froschkönig’ by Günther Fischer could easily pass for the work of OneOhTrix Point Never?

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In Howlround news, I’m excited to announce that our side of The Blow vol. 2, the new split with Time Attendant on the Front And Follow label is now available to stream in full on the website of top music magazine The Wire, ahead of it’s release next week. For the moment this is the only place you actually can hear it, so do have a click on the above image and pop your ear-goggles in. The label’s website is now completely sold out of physical copies, but I’m told limited cassettes are still available to pre-order on Boomkat and Norman Records. You’re advised not to sleep on them, though!

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Speaking of not sleeping, I’ve just been informed that extra tickets have now been unveiled for The Museum Of Last Parties at The Museum Of London on Friday, where Howlround and DJ Food are contributing a tape-loop installation to Jonny Trunk’s Workshop Of Radiophonics. As the event has been sold out for almost a fortnight and because I have no idea how many extra tickets have been released, I would suggest that anyone who still needs one should go like the proverbial clappers…