Future Tense – Waiting In Celestial Isolation

Hello you. It’s been a couple of weeks since I last updated these pages as I’ve been on a well-deserved trip up north. While my actual planned trip and a couple of festival appearances were all cancelled, a break with the Foggy clan for some book reading and dog walking was welcome as always. I’m now a little older (Happy Birthday to me!), hopefully a little wiser and still convinced that happy days will come again – as much as can be achieved for those of us finding ourselves stuck on a right-wing little rock, at least.

Besides, there are still plenty of goodly works going on. Not least ‘Waiting Rooms’, the recent new soundwork produced in collaboration with graphic artist, writer, philosopher and all round thoroughly good egg Leila Peacock, for her recent exhibition at the al_vista space in Zurich: The Past, The Present And The Future Walked Into A Bar: It Was Tense.

This is the latest in a number of sonic pieces we’ve made together over the last decade or so, but the first we’ve made remotely, a meditation on time, the universe and existence that displays just the kind of ‘Knight’s Move Thinking’ (plus the odd blast of amusing, pun-based wordplay) that first drew me to Leila’s work back a decade ago or more.

The sound design incorporates some unreleased tape loops from the Howlround vaults that – hopefully – strike just the right cosmic note. Indeed, a very kind person once compared an embryonic version of the recordings I’ve used here to the ‘alien ocean scene’ [sic] in Solaris, which I will definitely be taking that as a compliment!

Speaking of good eggs, it was my pleasure earlier this month to guest on the latest episode of The Central Office Of Information’s new podcast ‘Hauntology’, where I chatted to the ever-affable Alex Cargill about tape loops, musique concrète, creativity from failure, oldskool hardcore, Resonance FM, Daphne and Celeste – and played some lesser known Howlround tracks too.

These days I’m really not sure if I can honestly still shoehorn myself into the Hauntology bracket (recent work sounds less haunted and more downright broken) but I’m honoured to be included in the rolecall and a chat with Alex is always a pleasant way to pass the time. Well, for me at least – having been rather deprived of conversation with fellow music nerds for the previous three months, I fear I may have talked the dear chap’s ears off! While it’s true that listener feedback seems to have been very positive, I’ve noticed the adjective ‘long’ has cropped up more than once, but really this is all par for the course. Another kind person once described me as ‘not one to keep quiet about the things you’re enthused by’, which is a rather clunky sentence, but pretty much on the money. I’ll take that as a compliment too, plus the fact that I’m following in the footsteps of genuine Hauntological Royalty in the shape of Bob Fischer and Martin Jensen of The Home Current. All episodes can be streamed now on Apple Podcasts. The two Central Office Of Information long-players to date are also extremely worthy of your time.

Very exciting news in the world of publishing from ‘luminescent pop culture demon’ Rian Hughes, who launched his latest mammoth project “XX”: A Novel, Graphic last Friday.

I haven’t got my grubby mitts on a copy yet, but by all accounts, it’s a brain-frazzling, cosmos-traversing, thousand-page interstellar epic. Most excitingly, amongst the manifold delights on offer it also contains a review for an imaginary album by a shadowy duo known only as Celestial Mechanic:

Named, they claim, after a character in an obscure SF novel by a university professor turned new-age cult leader called Herschell Teague, Celestial Mechanic don’t play music so much as construct it, writing code from which the songs (I use the term here advisedly) are generated. Genny Forster, selfstyled ‘lead programmer’ of the outfit, describes their working method: “We build compositions algorithmically, like sonic cathedrals of sound. Classical music has often used motifs that are repeated, mirrored, overlaid, stretched or offset to counterpoint themselves. We are doing the same thing here, but rather than let our intuition govern the final form, we set up parameters for the formal play and the limits of structural divergence at the outset, then feed in seed data and see what evolves. Our job as musicians in this respect is closer to that of an editor – we decide what the most pleasing results are, then use those as seeds for further layering. The complexity we can quickly build is extraordinary”.

Sounds pretty damn enticing, doesn’t it? And it gets better – what was initially a few descriptive paragraphs inside this weighty tome’s story-within-a-story now exists as a fully-fledged long-player in its own right. DJ Food and Saron Hughes were challenged by Rian to take this piece of prose and reverse-engineer it into the album that it so lucidly describes, almost certainly the first time in history that a record review has actually preceded the music itself. I’m very proud to announce there are some of my own contributions popping up here and there as well, particularly on epic closer ‘The Signal’, so do look out for those distinctive curlicues of tape echo. It’s all a bit of a trip, quite frankly. Book and album are available now and together should provide enough audio-visual stimulation to comfortably see out the summer.  But just in case…

The good folk at Front And Follow have also just released the second volume in the series of their Isolation And Rejection compilations and at the time of writing it’s looking like it’s just about to be proceeded by a third:

This new edition features another twenty-four tracks of sonic splendour from old friends such as Gagarin, Time Attendant, fellow South-Londoner Drunk Keith! and plenty more besides. As before, all proceeds go to The Brick in Wigan, ‘a fantastic charity on the front line of supporting those most in need, seeking to address the inequalities across our country exacerbated by COVID-19, but there all along. Need I say more? Almost two hours of exclusive music and a worth cause for a mere fiver. Do the right thing and dig deep.

Finally, a mysterious test pressing turned up at Fog Towers this week. But that’s for another time…

 

Author: Robin The Fog

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