Snap, Crackle, Pop, Skronk, Howl

Hello you. First and most importantly, the next Howlround performance occurs this Tuesday 9th July as part of the collaborative event Skronkdrone at New River Studios, Manor House. It’s the brainchild of old friend and redoubtable drone legend Andrew Page aka Raxil4 and boasts a programme of live collaborations in one of my favourite North London venues. It’s a FREE event and further information is available here (although how much do you really need other than the fact that it’s FREE?!), so attending is really something of a no-brainer.

Speaking of live shows, thanks to everyone who came to down to A Midsummer Night’s Happening, presented by Ghost Box and Trunk Records at The state51 Factory in Shoreditch – what a fabulous evening! Great music, visuals, food, drink and friendship, plus an absolute honour to perform alongside Steve Beresford using original unreleased tapes from the archive of legendary pioneering composer Basil Kirchin, complete with his own hand-written liner-notes! Thanks must go once again to Jonny Trunk for entrusting me with such precious cargo. As well as memorable performances from Pye Corner Audio, The Soundcarriers, Sharon Kraus and Justin Hopper, the event had an important social function as well – not only did I bump into many old friends, but also quite a number of fellow enthusiasts I had only previously met online. One such person was the writer Bob Fischer, who has written a glowing review of the event on his blog The Haunted Generation, so I’ll just leave the explanations to him and tantalise you with one last reel from the Kirchin collection:

It wasn’t all good news, however, as tape machine Daphne (very much the workhorse of the Howlround live show) suddenly stopped functioning during soundcheck. I mean the lights were on but she wasn’t home. Thankfully (and entirely predictably) the Kirchin reels were so sonically impressive as to hardly be in need any embellishment, but being one Daphne down certainly has significant implications for the busy summer I have planned for my quartet of old ladies. I’ve said it many times before, but this is truly the Howlround curse – these heavy, unwieldy yet incredibly delicate machines are simply impossible to predict. They produce fabulous and thrilling sounds when they happen to be in a cooperative mood, but there’s an equal chance that they’ll produce the square root of diddly squat once the spotlights come on – and they always seem to pick the least convenient moment to duck out. I still remember all too keenly Delia’s behaviour the time that Chris and I carted her all the way to Portugal for the Jardins Efémeros festival: Behaved like a dream all week, soundchecked without complaint, then suffered total meltdown less than one one minute into our performance before staging a miraculous recovery the very next day. Every time this happens you do have to wonder ‘Is this finally the end? Am I going to have to finally give up with tape and learn the flute or something?

Thankfully my regular tape machine doctor Moshi was available and very kindly arranged an emergency appointment. Unfortunately there was no way she was going to be fixed in time for Radio Activity at Palace Electrics the following Sunday, but at the time of writing she appears to be making a reasonable recovery, so the summer festivals are very much still on. Keep her in your thoughts, won’t you? I’ve got at least another twenty albums I want to force out of the machines before we all retire!

Radio Activity itself was a huge success, although without Daphne (who, lest we forget is charged with creating the feedback loop that gives a Howlround live show not only its name but also that extra frisson that always comes from wondering if you’ll accidentally blow up the PA again) my ‘evisceration’ of LL Cool J wasn’t quite the full-blown annihilation I’d planned on. Thankfully the packed crowd was most supportive and I reckon I managed to pull it off with something as near to aplomb as dammit. Plus Kumo and DJ Food absolutely rocked the joint with their respective treatments of Joy Division and Kraftwerk (plus a soupçon of Meat Beat Manifesto) as did the hugely enjoyable opening performance of John Cage’s ‘Music For 5 Radios And A Newsreader’. Huge thanks to John Barrett for the fabulous pictures below. Palace Electrics is turning into a major force for good in South London and I’m hoping they’ll be many more events to come. Not just because I only have to drag my gear onto a single bus to reach them – although I must say my spine and I are always delighted about that fact.

Another very exciting thing to happen this month was a brief but fruitful collaboration with the sculptor Marylyn Molisso, who very kindly allowed Howlround to come in and add some sonic tinkering on the final day of her Snap, Crackle Pop installation at Penge’s recently opened Tension Fine Art Gallery. Field recordings of the sculpture being re-assembled by the artist (a weekly occurence that saw the work continuously transformed anew) were processed through the Howlround feedback loop (using Wendy the B77 in Daphne’s absence, fact fans), with the resulting ‘sand-blasted roar’ being installed for the final day of the exhibition and in direct contact with the work. I was really delighted with how well the sounds seemed to complement the sculpture so naturally – anxious art for difficult times. Hopefully we’ll get to collaborate again before too long, do check out more of her amazing work at MarylynMolisso.org. I’m a huge fan already!

A Year In The Country’s recently released compilation The Watchers seems to be going down very well amongst the periodicals, including some kind words regarding Howlround’s closing track ‘The Winter Dream Of Novel’s Oak’ in the latest edition of the ever-redoubtable Electronic Sound Magazine. I really should send them a cake or something for all the support they’ve shown to Howlround this year. You can find a more comprehensive breakdown of the various channels of exposure on the A Year In The Country website and order your limited edition CD copy here while stocks last.

…The bizarre thing is that there wasn’t actually a single bird featured in the recording – it was a gloomy day in January!

Also very proud to have a got a name-check in Bob Fischer’s Haunted Generation column in the latest issue of the The Fortean Times. Another tick off the bucket list, plus a splendid article on Folk Horror to seal the deal!

And finally, this happened. Just look at those colours, won’t you?!

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