East End Creak, Underground Maps of Essex And Damage Rides Again

For those of you who missed it, here’s a clip of Howlround on stage at Further last month, debuting the live tape loop score to to A Creak In Time:

….And if you were one of those unfortunates who did miss it, I’m sure you’ll be delighted to know that we’re going to be doing it again this weekend in Bethnal Green as part of the East End Film Festival, alongside a star-studded line-up curated by the Psyche Tropes label. It’s on Saturday evening at St. Johns and further information can be found either on the Festival’s website or the event’s Facebook page here. See you there!

In other live news, there’s just over a month to go before The Delaware Road, the immersive audio-visual extravaganza that’s set to take over the labyrinthine subterranean environs of the ‘Secret’ Nuclear Bunker at Kelvedon Hatch, a maze of corridors, offices and operations rooms deep beneath the Essex countryside. So labyrinthine, in fact, that chief strategist Alan Gubby, the man behind it all, has deemed it prudent to produce some maps of the venue in order to avoid, say, visitors to the event accidentally stumbling into two shadowy figures inside the bunker’s radio studio, engaged in some kind of obscure ritual conjuring up the voices of the dead. For three hours. While wearing robes. Haven’t managed to get my hands on one yet, but I must say they look decidedly spiffy if this publicity photo is anything to go by. Have you got your tickets yet?

In what is shaping up to be a busy summer, we’re also playing Sonic Waterloo on July 8th and Supersonic Festival on August 5th, but more on those later. For the moment, I’m also very proud to officially announce the launch of another collaboration with White Noise, following last year’s East Tower Dreaming, a performance and suite of compositions broadcast live from a West London tower block facing imminent demolition. Tower blocks play another, rather different role in this latest work, ‘Yes, Damage!!’, a mixtape of sorts featuring a number of new compositions created using a cassette recording of a pirate radio station from my mis-spent youth. The source material is a nondescript-looking, rather battered TDK D90 cassette featuring a recording of a station known as Pressure FM. Originally taped in the 90s by a family friend and sent up north to me, it quickly became something of a sacred text and now has a permanent place in the Foggy archives as a testament to a bygone era and also to the very beginnings of my own musical obsessions. It’s surprisingly hard to remember today that there really was an age before the internet, when vast swathes of information weren’t immediately available at all times and where any small-town engagement with thrilling new sounds emerging from from far away would be limited to the odd mixtape, a handful of 12″ singles bought with saved up pocket money and perhaps the odd dog-eared back-issue of DJ magazine (or a new issue read standing in WH Smith while being tutted at).

I’ve produced this work as an attempt to pay homage to the role played by this tape in my formative years and to shaping my ideas about music and sound in general. I’ve said it before – and I cannot overstate it – everything I loved about hardcore and jungle back then I love about concréte and acousmatic music now, in fact as I’ve always attempted to demonstrate there is a very clear lineage between the two. ‘Yes, Damage!!’ is an attempt not only to pay tribute to the unwitting part played by the likes of DJ Damage and his unnamed MC in my career as a sound artist, but also take that fact to its obvious conclusion and create something new – hopefully pushing the sounds on into the future. Have I succeeded? Well, the proof is in the Pirate Pudding, so it’s probably easier to just play it and decide for yourself, but if you would like to read more on the work’s gestation, there’s an accompanying article on the White Noise website where I’m in conversation with Sound Fjord’s Helen Frosi.

Produced working quickly to a deadline, I was a little unsure about how people would react to the piece at first, but I have to say the response so far has been amazing! And it’s strange how well the original tape lends itself to being processed and manipulated in this way. As I mention in my conversation with Helen, it’s curious how this era of early hardcore and jungle music seems to lend itself to slightly decayed and debilitated sound quality. Cutting edge when first released, tracks featured on the tape by the likes of Rufige Kru and Noise Factory now sound oddly primitive, as if they’d been deliberately designed in anticipation of to reaching this state of putrefaction further down the line. Much in the same way as you’re apparently supposed to give concrete several decades to ‘mature’ when using it as a building material (thanks for that nugget, Brutalist walking tour of Liverpool!), so it seems as if these records have mulched quite naturally with the sounds of tape hiss, over-compressed signal and faltering reception to blossom into something wholly other and ripe for the plucking. Of course this also means that you don’t get quite the same effect when playing the individual records at home, amazing as many of them are and much as I still love them. Something about them being mixed together on the fly then beamed out to a grateful city via a jury-rigged rooftop antenna is where the magic happens. What’s also curious is that this recording dates from some time in 1995 and there’s at least one incident on the tape where the MC refers to Damage’s selections (most of which date from 1992) as ‘Old Skool’. They were calling it oldskool even then, three years later! What a time of tumultuous change within electronic music – to my (admittedly biased) ears this was the last era of truly dramatic advances, where it felt like styles and sounds were evolving on an almost weekly basis. Surely logic dictates we should be calling it ‘Ancient Skool’ by now? Just a thought.

Hope you’d approve, DJ Damage, wherever you are…


Author: Robin The Fog

Sound Artist, Radio Producer, DJ, founder and chief strategist of tape-loop proejct Howlround. Devout Catalyst.

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