A Word In Your Jelly Ear – Mushrooms, Ectoplasm And Gothic Grandeur

Hello you. I’m delighted to announce that the MSCTY project celebrating the Fantastic Funghi Festival at the National Trust’s Emmett’s Garden near Sevenoaks in Kent is now live. Seven brand new compositions created by Nick Luscombe and myself from the sounds of the gardens, put together with a little help from participants to our field recording workshop held at the garden a couple of weeks ago.

These compositions are now discoverable by visitors to Emmett’s via a series of QR-codes located at various positions around the gardens, but those of you situated further from Sevenoaks than the proverbial stone’s throw can also listen via the MSCTY.SPACE website. Although I’d still highly recommend listening on site if you get the opportunity, it’s a lovely place for a day out and looking particularly beautiful at the moment in resplendent autumnal hues.

The mushrooms are worth the trip alone and with such lurid colouring on display it’s no wonder some of our compositions ended up sounding a bit psychedelic. You can also hear extracts from the workshop, unreleased bonus tracks and additional field recordings by catching up on last week’s edition of Resonance FM’s FogCast, which also includes cuts from recent album The Countless Stones from workshop participant Emile of the mighty Plant 43. Rather a fine episode, though I say so myself:

The workshop also happened to feature what may be the single shortest tapeloop of my career, created on a wooden bench in the South Garden, avoiding the wind. Even I was amazed that it worked!

Anyway, thanks to Viktoria and all the staff for having us and being very accommodating – and for not complaining even once about all the people wandering around wearing headphones and making strange noises. Hopefully they’ll have us back next time. Very nice cream teas if you’re passing…

Secondly, thank you so much to London Month Of The Dead, the staff of Brompton Cemetery and a huge crowd of lovely, enthusiastic attendees for making Saturday’s candlelit concert in the chapel such a thoroughly ‘ectoplasmic’ experience! A hugely memorable occasion in an incredible venue with a four-second reverberation time and just the right atmosphere of crepuscular Gothic grandeur in which to put on a Howlround show. Indeed, the third and final piece of the evening was created live on the spot with just massed voices, a tape loop and some feedback, yet it grew so intense that at one point I thought we were about to open some kind of sonic wormhole!

I’ve had a brief listen to the recording which is much more distorted and evil-sounding than you might expect, hopefully it will surface somewhere in the not-too-distant future once I’ve knocked off the smooth edges. In the meantime, I wonder if any other cemeteries might be up for some kind of tape machine roadshow? I mean since the National Trust are now clearly on board with the Howlround sound?! Alternately perhaps someone has a funeral they’d like me to soundtrack? Always open to interesting offers…

On a similar note, Eighth Tower Records has just released a fantastic new compilation of original music inspired by Bram Stoker’s Dracula (the original novel) that features a brand new and exclusive Howlround track entitled ‘For Those Who Sleep Unwisely’. It has been described by a trusted advisor as sounding like ‘Low-Res Philip Glass’, which I’m not sure is entirely accurate, but hell, I’ll take it:

The Digipack CD with the usual beautiful artwork we’ve come to expect from Eighth Tower can be purchased here and also features Grey Frequency, Rapoon and plenty more besides, each track inspired by a different chapter or scene in the novel. Can guess which part my contribution was inspired by?!

Finally, and on a subdued note, news reaches me that Iklectik and their Old Paradise Yard home may very soon be under threat from developers, alongside all of the other artists and small businesses that share this beautiful green enclave in a hidden corner of London’s Southbank. Apparently the plan would be to flatten the area (including Iklectik’s historic old schoolhouse, the oldest building of its kind in Lambeth) and construct yet more gleaming office blocks and luxury apartments. If this does come to pass we’ll lose a hugely valuable cultural hub, art space, testing ground for radical new ideas and performances, meeting place and warm welcome for alternative music and arts communities in London and beyond… It just doesn’t bear thinking about.

Photo by Beth Arzy

To me Iklectik is one of the few remaining beacons in a city that claims to pride itself on its cultural attractions while doing its utmost to eviscerate any spaces where grassroots movements can evolve. I’ve met some of my greatest friends here, witnessed some of the most inspiring performances of the last few years and even spent whole weekends just listening, watching, talking and laughing, always in good company and with great music. It’s a truly terrible thought that one of the finest and friendliest venues in London could soon be flattened to make way for yet more silent, empty artless turbocapitalism.

A petition against this greedy land-grab has now been launched do please consider signing it.


Author: Robin The Fog

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

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