These Are The Times – Sounds Of Celebration And Sadness

Hello You. It’s been a few months since I last posted here, but that’s certainly not for want of incident. It’s been a hectic autumn at Fog Towers, mostly full of the gladness that comes from catching up with old comrades and attending live shows, even playing a couple for the first time in what feels like an eternity! But there have been some sad moments too, of course. Life is still so rotten for so many, but hearing live music and seeing friends again has certainly made the last few months a lot more bearable.

Home Sweet Howl

I’ve now moved the Howlround tape ensemble into a new studio space and am currently busying myself there with various recording projects, including new Howlround material, a commission to provide a soundtrack for an 18th Century ruin and another secret video project, of which more will hopefully be revealed anon. Plus Resonance FM’s Fog Cast continues to gently disrupt the London Airwaves every Wednesday evening at 11pm and I’ve been thrilled by the quality of new material that keeps turning up on the show’s doormat, both literally and metaphorically.

Speaking of new releases, Happy Birthday to Buried Treasure! The Home Counties’ finest imprint for Groovy Brutalism, New-Town Psyche, Dirty Electronics and assorted Library Goodness is celebrating eight years in the game with this magnificent 20-track compilation, featuring tracks from hellishly rare lockdown lathes, recent albums & forthcoming releases. Includes two blink-and-you-missed-them tracks by Howlround alongside aural delights from Revbjelde, Drew Mulholland, vert:x, Philippe Petit, Tongues Of Fire, Wolfen, Zyklus, Neil Sparkes, Ubiquitous Meh!, Aum Taeppers, Siedler + Haig Fras. All this and absolutely beautiful artwork by Gerry Carnelly. A feast for the ears and eyes!

Emo thumb injury caused by bedroom door

“Remarkably eclectic array of out-there music from this most excellent of British labels – a taste making pick of underground gems. Unmissable” CARL GRIFFIN / ELECTRONIC SOUND

Thanks also to everyone who came down to the launch party, braving howling winds and rain to take in Howlround’s first live show in almost two years, alongside Dolly Dolly, Revbjelde/Zyklus and more. Apologies to anyone in the front row who had their fillings rattled – I got a bit carried away with the bass! Almost certainly the best thing that has EVER happened in Bracknell, if I may be so bold. To celebrate here is Dolly Dolly modelling a new pose he has just perfected outside Bracknell train station. Do you remember that single we once released together that got us branded members of the ‘Clueless London Liberal Elite’? Not bad for two guys based in Reading and Penge respectively!

Still buzzing after playing at Levitation up in Whitby last month. It was an absolute joy to hang out with so many friends and associates again and to share the stage with my fellow Obsolescents Strictly Kev and Chris Weaver (our first gig in five years and only our second gig ever)! It was also the debut performance of Kev’s latest creation, a four-armed turntable that he designed and manufactured himself and was the cause of much excitement. Now we can offer our audiences TWO types of loop for their money!

After everyone being cooped up for so long, it felt like a real re-gathering of the tribe. My one regret is that we couldn’t make it up earlier and enjoy both days. Thanks to Castles In Space chief strategist Colin for masterminding the whole affair – and for taking what might be the single greatest band photo ever! I should also thank everyone in the audience who unwittingly stepped in to become ‘human tape spools’ at short notice and to Polypores who described the resulting mish-mash of tape loops and locked grooves as ‘a spooky racket’. Pretty sure that I want that as my epitaph!

Photo by Colin Morrison

“Last night I briefly became a human tape spool for the other worldly sounds of The New Obsolecents at the @CastlesInSpace #LevitationWhitby music festival. Just one personal highlight of many this weekend!“ -Jerseyraindog

It’s certainly true that our performance was rather at odds with the deep space drone of our album, but it’s good to keep your audience guessing, right? Not to mention ourselves – the whole thing was like a three-man plate-spinning party! Still, the machines seemed to enjoy themselves, despite some initial grumpiness after such a long period of enforced hibernation:

“New Obsolescents (@djfood and @RobinTheFog) ripping a hole on the space time continuum with tape loops and manipulated vinyl. Trippy, engulfing soundscapes at #LevitationWhitby” – James Thornhill

Speaking of long periods of waiting around, the second pressing of The New Obsolescents’ debut LP finally arrived after months of delays and then swiftly departed again – another lightning fast sell-out! Apologies to anyone who missed out a second time. The plan now is very much to crack on with a follow-up, though with vinyl waiting lists as long as they currently are, who knows when that will be?!

One new release that IS still available at the time of writing is Destroy All Monsters, a collaboration between my partner-in-Howling Ken Hollings and ace sound designer and synth tinkerer Simon James, out now on The Tapeworm. Originally recorded in 2001 using extracts from Ken’s book of the same name, this is the first time these recordings have been made commercially available and given the limited and highly covetable nature of Tapeworm releases, I’d say dive in sharp-ish. Howlround’s Worm Food Delivery from earlier this year certainly didn’t hang around for long!

Photo by Beth Arzy

Plans are currently afoot to finish off the debut album by The Howling in early 2022. There’s certainly some exciting material in waiting, it’s just a case of wrestling it into shape. Here’s a photo of us last week during a recording session in Streatham Wimpy, where we managed to both 1) lay down the bones of a brand new piece and 2) not get thrown out. Fans of flying motorcycles and men in golden spandex are advised to keep loins girded. Just FYI.

Tidiness and efficiency on display as ever.

In other news I’ve sadly left my lovely team at London Metropolitan Archives and my cosy (ie. windowless) studio after three years and thousands of recordings working on the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project. It’s been an amazing time and I couldn’t have asked for a better bunch of people to work with. But all is not lost, however, as in the next couple of weeks I shall be taking up a new position at the British Library Sound Archive, where I’m reliably informed I shall be working on preserving a very large collection featuring recordings of people shouting. Doesn’t that sound like a homecoming?!

I might be leaving the studio behind, but I’m taking a lot of fantastic memories with me. One of the happiest was the day Ian Rawes of the London Sound Survey came to drop off his entire archive of recordings, having donated the whole collection to LMA for preservation. A sound recordist, a gifted raconteur and a lovely man to boot, time spent in his company was always the greatest pleasure. Chatting at the time with UOSH project volunteer and fellow sound recordist Paul Skinner for our London’s Sound Archive blog, the two talked field recordings, the changing nature of the city soundscape and the recent release of the London Sound Survey album Thames and it was a privilege to listen in.

As many of you will undoubtedly have heard, Ian sadly passed away a few weeks back, peacefully after a short illness. Along with Helen and Stephan from Sound Fjord, I was able to visit him in his final weeks and we found him still fascinated with the world around him and in possession of a sharp mind and sharper ears, even as his body was failing him. While unable to speak, he was still able to tell us that he knew his time was coming and he wasn’t scared, a characteristically kind gesture which brought great comfort. His funeral a few weeks later featured the distinctively alien wail of the ‘Coryton Refinery Siren’ as the meditative music and ended with Joy Division’s ‘Disorder’, which felt entirely right and proper! The Coryton Refinery siren played once again across the Resonance FM airwaves that week in a special tribute edition of Fog Cast, comprising recordings from both Thames and its 2013 predecessor These Are The Good Times. What other radio station would play a seven minute field recording from a ‘Wall Of Death’ stunt show?!

You can still find his interview with Paul here and Tony Herrington’s obituary over on The Wire’s website offers welcome further insight into a remarkable life, well-lived and well-loved (and no, I hadn’t previously been aware of his anarchist day as Ian Slaughter or the time spent running Glaswegian club Sex Beat!). But perhaps we should leave the last word to the man himself – here is Ian talking about some of his favourite sound recordings on a piece I recorded for BBC World Service back in 2016, displaying the characteristic warmth and enthusiasm that endeared him to so many.

So many will miss that voice – I still can’t listen to the final minute. But his work will live on, through the London Metropolitan Archives and the efforts of his closest friends such as Iain Chambers, whose Persistence Of Sound label issued Thames back in 2019 and has pledged to bring Ian’s final unfinished project to fruition – I believe there are plans for a new album and more in 2022. How fitting that someone who believed so much in the importance of preserving lost voices will now himself be shown such care.

Author: Robin The Fog

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

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