Hello you. Hope you all had a good weekend, avoided the weather and spent as many hours in dimly-lit studios as I did? Of course, but now it’s time to put aside all that chaotic fun and emerge blinking into the dawn of a new week, where you’ll find plenty of intriguing goings on in the offing. First and most importantly, please do come and join us at Cafe Oto this Tuesday evening for a very special Touch Presents… night featuring a live performance from Howlround, as well as UnicaZürn, Bill Thompson and a special guest in the shape of Zachary Paul, joining us all the way from LA. Rumour has it that Zach and Howlround will be duetting, which is an exciting and also nerve-wracking prospect. On the one hand his album A Meditation On Discord was a personal highlight of last year, on the other the entire Howlround live set up has somehow become an unfathomable tangle at the bottom of my suitcase. This is partly due to a hurried trip up to Tottenham Hale on Saturday morning at the behest of Stephan and Adam of Littoral Transmissions, who asked me to be a guest performer on the latest edition of their Threads Radio show.
Due to restricted space in the studio and having to set up as quickly as possible, I was forced to improvise with my choice of temporary tape loop storage, but I hope you’ll agree the resulting hour made the perfect ambient soundtrack to staying under the duvet and avoiding the weather. It’s now available online to anyone who missed the live broadcast and can be checked out below.
Thanks to everyone who put in a bid for one of the three limited-edition white vinyl Howlround 7” singles made for this year’s ResonanceFM Auction – I can reveal that ‘Yosemite’ raised a total of just over £244, all of which will go towards keeping London’s greatest radio station on air for another year. Once again we’re indebted to Dan from OneCutVinyl.com, who donated his time and resources for free and is an absolute champ. Splendid company down the pub too!
Some Howlround single activity of a slightly less amenable nature now, as my recent Anti-Brexit track ‘UnEngland’ with Dolly Dolly is reviewed in this month’s edition of The Wire. I was a bit surprised at the mention of synths and helicopters (I’ve sworn off both – all the sounds were generated by tape), but it’s certainly a more thoughtful summation than that one review we had on Facebook where we got flatly accused of racism for using the term GAMMON.
Fist-shaking Little-Englanders and the threat of official complaints notwithstanding, the track is still available, though due to an administrative error it has up to now has been the original demo mix that was being downloaded, not the version splendidly mastered by Jez Butler. This has now been corrected and the person responsible for this oversight has been sacked – email me if you’ve already purchased and need a replacement.. We’re still donating the proceeds to Extinction Rebellion, which also seems to have made a few other people quite cross – keeping everyone happy is certainly a challenge when you’re ensconced in a ‘clueless liberal metropolitan bubble’.
Let’s cheer ourselves up by leaving that bubble and heading for a remote house in the countryside, where all is clearly not going well for a short-tempered academic and his long-suffering wife. I am of course referring to last year’s SHIVERS performance at St. Mary’s Tower in Hornsey, where Sam Enthoven and I provided an appropriately eerie soundtrack to Lara DeBelder’s reading of Andrea Newman’s contemporary chiller ‘Such A Good Idea’. A video of the performance has now surfaced and can be enjoyed here in full, with thanks to the ever affable Andy Page for the camerawork! If that’s whetted your appetite for more, an audio recording of the evening’s other story, Conan-Doyle’s ‘The Case Of Lady Sannox’ has also been uploaded to Soundcloud:
In other news, Buried Treasure boss and Delaware Road chief strategist Alan Gubby has just dropped a second LP by his group Revbjelde and it’s an absolute blinder.
Hoohah Hubbub is available now as a strictly limited LP with beautiful artwork and a bonus CD of additional material. A perfect release for our fractured and dissenting age, it’s one of my albums of the year already and I predict it won’t stray far from the Foggy turntable for some time yet. It’s reviewed by none other than Bob Fischer in the latest Electronic Sound Magazine, who clearly approves:
This month’s edition of that most esteemed periodical also features Carlisle’s Vinyl Cafe, my joint all-time-favourite record store in in their regular ‘Talking Shop’ feature. Genial proprietor Mr. James Brown talks about the trials and tribulations of running a record store in my dear old hometown and the scene that has grown up around the shop over the last few years, including all manner of live shows by acts from near and far – including repeat visits by everyone’s favourite tape loop quartet and Cockermouth’s finest Hauntologist, lest we forget. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if you had told me a decade ago that one day I could walk into a shop in Carlisle and buy LPs by Meredith Monk, Suzanne Ciani, Cabaret Voltaire, Sun Ra and the rest, I’d have branded you a hopeless idealist or mad. Five years and three editions of Winter Solstice Soundscapes later and here we are. Long life Vinyl Cafe!
Long live magazines that come with a four-track Joe Meek EP as well!
Anyway, hopefully see you on Tuesday. I’m very much looking forward to the show and promise to have all my tape loops, audio cables and power supplies extracted from the bundle in good time. Join us, won’t you? They’ll become entangled again almost immediately afterwards, so you might as well enjoy the spectacle while it lasts. Years from now we’ll both be able to say we were there for that briefest of periods where everything was in some semblance of order…
Hello you. It’s Resonance FM fundraising season once again as the greatest community arts radio station on Earth attempts to raise enough cash to support another year of broadcasting ceaselessly independent, radical and uncompromising music, documentary, discussion and experimentation; all mercifully free from adverts and sponsorship. All life is here – programmes for London’s Pensioners and Congolese community rubbing shoulders with experimental composers, hastily-formed punk bands, Grime MCs – it’s a wondrous, inclusive cacophony. In our current blighted landscape I’m sure you’ll agree we need them more than ever and it truly is a cause for celebration that Resonance turns eighteen years old in 2020. But unfortunately the cake and bunting will have to be put on hold as redevelopment plans for their Borough High Street HQ means that the station is in urgent need of moving to new premises – and frankly that’s going to cost.
Fortunately there are lots of ways you can help ‘to make to make this fascinating and successful experiment a sustainable, on-going concern’, all of which can be accessed via the Fundraiser.Resonance.FM website. You can set up a regular donation, attend one of the numerous fundraising galas occurring over the next couple of weeks, or you can bid for all kinds of highly desirable items and experiences as part of the station’s Fundraising Auction – which I’m delighted to say features another exclusive offering by Howlround!
This year we have a lathe-cut 7″ single up for grabs on beautiful white vinyl, only three copies in existence and featuring two tracks exclusive to this release. All three are being auctioned off for the fundraiser and the only way to properly hear their contents is to make a winning bid – there will be no repress, no reissue and no digital. Truth be told I’m actually shooting myself in the foot a little bit with this ‘for six ears only’ ruling as both tracks are very fine indeed, featuring field recordings made in a remote log cabin in Yosemite, California and intended for release back in 2015 as part of the Creak In Time sessions (or failing that, part of some lavish boxset for that future moment when I suddenly remember I don’t have a pension). No offcuts here, my friends, this is pure tape loop gold!
The singles have been produced by our friends at OneCutVinyl.com, who have once again kindly donated their time and resources for free. You’ll find each listed separately on Ebay and you have until just after 19.00 GMT on Sunday 16th February to put in a bid. Each can be accessed through the Auction page of the Fundraiser website, but for the sake of convenience number one can be found here, number two here and number three here. All proceeds go straight to keeping Resonance FM on air, so please dig deep. London would be a duller, greyer place without it…
Greetings fellow denizens of our newly-formed Island prison. Here’s a little something to drown out the sound of all that gloating Gammon in this new age of isolationism: a new single by myself and Dolly Dolly, our first ever actual collaboration. All words by that most redoubtable wordsmith and all sounds created by Daphne the UHER 6000 and a spot of Wendy the B77 thrown in for good measure – using a closed-input feedback loop, which seems oddly fitting, doesn’t it? Expertly mastered by Jez Butler from The Twelve Hour Foundation, the whole thing was produced and mixed in one frantic hour the night before Britain left the EU and was officially released at ‘the unmagic moment’ of departure on 11pm on Friday 31st January – where it at least managed to make more noise than Big Ben did. It’s digital-only for the moment, but may find some physical form in the not too distant future, especially as I need to get this next album finished. In the meantime, it’s £1 a pop and 100% of the money raised will be donated to the so-called ‘Terrorist Organisation’ Extinction Rebellion. This fact, plus liberal use of the ‘G-word’ appears to have already made a couple of random strangers on social media VERY upset, though on the plus side the fact that they came across it at all must mean that our ‘reach’ as a brand is getting better, or something. Seriously, though, what is it about being on the winning team that makes some people so very angry?
GAMMON, FEEL THE NOIZE!!
Anyway, good luck, everyone and let’s continue to be kind and supportive to one-another where possible. I was contemplating ending with ‘Let’s be careful out there’, but then I remembered that’s how Alistair Stewart used to sign off episodes of ‘Police, Camera Action’ and decided against it. Somehow in the current climate it didn’t feel right…
Hello you. This is a rather hasty post to wish you a belated Happy New Year and to advise you that Howlround and Merkaba Macabre will be rolling out our new live show in support of the legendary Mecánica Popular at Cafe Oto, Saturday 25th, with visuals from our old friend Hanzo and further sonic tinkering from Idios Flux. Excited already!
Not much else to report so far, apart from trying to arrange tracks for a purported new album into some semblance of order, finishing a sound design for a bevy of dancing octopuses (more of which at some point – probably), plus Howlround welcoming a new addition to the family and taking the opportunity to plug everything back in and run some noisy tests:
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First #makingnoise session of 2020 with my old sparring partner @tent0nat0m, testing out his very generous donation to the #Howlround arsenal! Slightly messy, but good to get the machines up and running again. Excuse the dodgy camerawork, was operating one-handed! #tapemusic #tapemachine #reeltoreeltape #darkambientmusic #soundart #tapelooping
The other pair of hands belong to an old friend I haven’t made music with in a very long time. Hopefully they’ll be more in 2020! See you on 25th, it’s going to be a blast. Possibly literally if we repeat our rather spectacular Winter Solstice Soundscapes party trick…
Hello you. It’s that time of year once again where I present yet another highly opinionated and inordinately lengthly end of year mixtape, remark about what a fantastic year this has been for music and absolutely nothing else, then close by wishing you all a Very Merry Christmas. I don’t see any reason to divert from this tradition, particularly now that we’re all trapped in a dystopian Tory hellscape for all eternity, so I’ve crammed my festive mix to the brim with the usual consolatory bangers – over three and a half hours of them!
Sarah Angliss – Needle
Vanishing Twin – Invisible World
Polypores – Mycelia
Graham Dunning – Build My Gallows High
Dalham – Infinite Key
Gum Takes Tooth – Fights Psychology
Loula Yorke – LDOLS
Paranoid London – Cult Hero
Correlations – Deep on the Inside
Pulselovers – Woodford Hales To Fenny Compton In Five Minutes
Loula Yorke – Untitled #005
Sculpture – Untitled Locked Groove (From Projected Music)
Drew Mulholland – Worklode
Franziska Lantz – Ooosh!
Sculpture – Untitled Locked Groove (From Projected Music)
Dunnning & Underwood – Demon
Franziska Lantz – Give Air
Daniel Williams – You Can Do Almost Anything You Want With Them
Michael Donnelly – Thick Skull
Zeno Van Den Broek – Breach 2
Drew Mulholland – Return To The Desolate Shore
Tears I Ov – All Else Is Bondage (For A)
Simon Scott – Mae
Pulselovers – Badby ’80
Polypores – The Blusher
The Home Current – Tin Foil Express
Keith Seatman – Along The Valley Sidings
Vanishing Twin – Magician’s Success
Gaijin Blues – Grief, The Aftermath And A Faint Hope
Ekoplekz – K-Punk
The Heartwood Institute – Devil’s Riders
Central Office Of Information – Pools Of Witchlight
Dalham – NGC 493
Jonathan Sharp – Carlisle To Euston, 1974
Laura Agnusdei – Golden Kites
Drew Mulholland – She Remembers
Hainbach – Gestures 3
Grey Frequency – Elegy For Ginger Tom
Field Lines Cartographer – Ghosts In The Wires
Sculpture / Maria Chavez – Projected Reworks: Berceuse5
Rapoon – The Village
Richard Sanderson – Pequod
Iain Chambers – The Eccentric Press (Extract)
Sculpture / Mariam Rezaei – Projected Reworks: Improvisation I
Sarah Angliss – Egg
Paco Rossique – Next Symbol
Drew Mulholland – Irregular Pattern
The Utopia Strong – Brainsurgeons 3
Fennesz – We Trigger The Sun
Mark Peters – The Box Of Delights (MAPS Remix)
Hainbach – A Soft Adieu
Also absolutely proud and delighted to inform you that Howlround’s latest LP The Debatable Lands has been selected as one of Electronic Sound Magazine’s albums of the year, and while I haven’t had time to properly celebrate this fantastic news over the past manic week, rest assured I shall be proposing a toast to the staff of that fine periodical over the Christmas lunch table. What a way to end 2019! I never miss a copy, you know…
It’s been a manic final week of dashing around seeing off the year (and the decade) in fine style, with a trio of live shows for Sonic Cathedral in London, Ante in Shipley and The Vinyl Cafe in my hometown of Carlisle and it’s been a real treat catching up with friends old and new in the process. Soundtracking cult BBC series The Box Of Delights with Mark Peters was great fun and there might even be tentative plans in the works to do something with the recordings – we shall see. In the meantime, his Winterland EP is essential listening and the superb Maps remix of the opening track rounds off my Best Of Mix in fine style (with a tasty offering from Hainbach’s magnificent Gestures by way of an epilogue – but let’s not split hairs).
The shimmering on the left of this clip is a 50ft tape loop winding across the @kirkgate_centre during the amazing @Howlroundmusic set last night. Thanks to all the performers and everyone who came along. Happy solstice. pic.twitter.com/nIwr26GUcm
— Ante (@ante_art) December 21, 2019
Thanks also to Ante for having me and a nod and a wink to fellow performers Reet Maff’l and GRST, the latter of whom also kept an eye on the sound levels during my set and did invaluable work preventing the PA from blowing up again. It was a pretty intense performnace with the machines in fine, slightly demonic voice and featured what might actually have been the longest loop of my career to date, even more so than the one from that underground reservoir in Copenhagen that time. And much to everyone’s surprise, it actually WORKED!
But the one show I look forward to more than any other at this time of year is Winter Solstice Soundscapes at The Vinyl Cafe, sharing a stage with fellow Cumbrian sound-sculptor The Heartwood Institute (not forgetting the ever-cheery Mrs. Heartwood!), affable hosts James and Lyn; plus this year a very special appearance from Psyché Tropes boss Steven McInerney on his mighty modular synth. It was only the third time Steve and I had performed the set we created together for The Delaware Road, and although we had a few gremlins in the machines (or at least more than the requisite amount you’ll have come to expect from a Howlround show), it was a very special evening of good friends and great company, as always. It’s a wonderful thing to have The Vinyl Cafe in my home town and to watch the local scene building around it – long may it continue. We’re making plans for next year’s event already!
— Stephanie Sharp (@emporiostephani) December 23, 2019
More immediate plans also include getting stuck into Heartwood’s latest LP Tomorrow’s People on Polytechnic Youth, which I’m willing to bet will sound as fabulous as it looks. I’m planning on giving it a spin first thing on Christmas morning to get my long-suffering parents into some semblance of festive spirit, and am quite sure it will go down well – or at least better than the time I treated the breakfast table to a blast of Space Is The Place. Turns out Sun Ra doesn’t go down well before Sun Rise. But I digress…
I’m told Steve has safely arrived back in London and we’ll be working on this set some more in the new year in readiness for a further performance at Cafe Oto on January 25th. But for the moment, I think this photo of him taken through the window at soundcheck would make a rather fine Christmas card. What do you reckon?
Anyway, that’s it for 2019. I was going to attempt some kind of retrospective, but as it’s been a hugely busy twelve months crammed with incident and intrigue and as I have an animation soundtrack that I promised I’d try and finish before Christmas (some hope!), I really ought to be cracking on. But I’d like to offer a big thank you to everyone who’s supported Howlround and my various other endeavours over the last year and Season’s Greetings to all of the lovely collection of music nerds, sonic oddballs and artsy weirdos that I’m honoured to call my friends. I’m now at home with the family and have temporarily swapped dragging a suitcase full of equipment around the country for being dragged around the countryside myself by a springer spaniel named Fergus and a miniature Schnauzer named Molly. That’s happiness enough for anyone, I reckon and I hope you’ve all found some equivalent of your own. Merry Christmas and see you in 2020!
Hello you. First off, what a fabulous evening at the launch of Projected Music, the brand new 5” lock-grove picturedisc by Sculpture at the Hackney Old Baths last week! Featuring live sets by Miriam Rezaei, Janek Schaefer and the zoetrope-bashing due themselves, plus a performance by a whopping great ensemble of no less than 26 turntablists. In keeping with the concept of the launch, the many-headed group featured one performer for each of the album’s locked grooves, including myself and many friends and comrades such as DJ Food, Graham Dunning and Chloe Frieda to name but three. All gamely engaged in noisy battle and much messy fun ensued:
My pictures are pretty rubbish as I was juggling my phone with one hand and a portable turntable with the other, but Pierre Bouvier Patron and Blanca Regina captured some fabulous images of the evening that can be viewed on Flickr.
Surely one of the finest nights of the year and in the company of so many friends too! Projected Music is now available to purchase and features an additional digital bundle of reinterpretations by Philip Jeck, Maria Chavez and others. As this is very much a ‘modular’ release it was always the intention for the grooves to be combined and remixed in different ways, so I would heartily endorse acquiring multiple copies and getting together with a bunch of your friends and creating your own versions. It’s tremendous fun!
Congratulations are also in order to Steve for picking up another award for A Creak In Time at the Instanbul International Film Festival. Astonishing to think that almost three years on from completion, this micro/macro stroll across the universe still continues to gather plaudits across the festival circuit! Copies of Howlround’s soundtrack, together with download and streaming links for the film can be purchased here. A busy year for Psyché Tropes once again!
Speaking of awards, further congratulations to Michael Umney and the Resonance team for having their recent Radio 4 documentary ‘In Tooth And Claw’ recognised by the prestigious Association of International Broadcasting. Presented by Charles Foster and featuring incidental music I composed for the occasion using Michael’s field recordings, this ‘Highly Commended’ documentary exploring mankind’s frequently violent relationship with the natural world can still be heard here. And anyone else with a documentary they need sound-tracking with some recordings of haunted nature are strongly advised to get in touch, I’ve developed quite a taste for this work!
On a slightly jollier theme, some time ago I was approached by Mr. Ian Holloway of Wyrd Britain and asked if I would be interested in contributing to regular feature on this esteemed blog, in which various artists, writers and other like-minded individuals are asked to pick ‘3 Wyrd Things’ and write about them. The only rule was that the three items in question – a book, a record and a film or TV series – all had to be of British origin. I duly obliged – indeed might even have got slightly carried away – and my selections can be found here, featuring spies, pies and a really quite bonkers vinyl surprise. Thanks to Ian for the invitation – a visit to the Wyrd Britain website is always an agreeable way to pass the time, as is his checking out his long-running Quiet World label.
Howlround are gearing up for a final trio of shows before the end of the year, after which I’ve promised myself I’ll knuckle down and start actually trying to knock the next album into shape. First up on December 17th is a collaboration with Mark Peters for the Sonic Cathedral event Opening The Box Of Delights at The Social on London’s Little Portland Street. It’s a special event celebrating the release of Mark’s cover version of the title music from the spooky 1980s drama series of the same name, so we’re teaming up to provide an improvised soundtrack to this cult 1980s classic. Original score was by Radiophonic Workshop legend Roger Limb, so no pressure! Mark is also about to release a new festive EP Winterland and they’ll be a DJ set by Maps, so do join us if you can. I’ve never yet managed to make the machines sound remotely festive but this might yet be the miracle breakthrough. Tickets are available here.
After that I’m heading north on December 20th for a very special return visit to my friends at The Kirkgate Centre in Shipley, playing alongside Reet Maff’l, GRST and more. Had a fantastic time with these guys earlier this year and I must say it really is very decent of them to invite me back after I blew up the PA…
And lastly, very excited to announce that The Heartwood Institute and I will be returning to Carlisle’s Vinyl Café for our third annual Winter Solstice Soundscapes event on December 22nd. We’ve even got a special guest joining us for the occasion, but Mum’s the word on that for the moment…
As the year draws to end, I realise it will soon be time to once again unleash another of my highly-opinionated Best Of Year Mixtapes upon a grateful world; and with 2019 being such a fantastic year for music (though very, very little else, as ever) it’s going to take a real Herculean effort to try and squeeze all of the amazing stuff I’ve heard this year into a manageable three-hours. So while breaths are bated and anticipations quiver, I thought I’d freshen your collective palettes by wheeling out my Best Of 2018 Mix again. Not only because it contains two-hundred-and-twenty-something minutes of ABSOLUTE BANGERS, but also because I feel the mix didn’t quite receive the place in the sun it deserved at the time; belatedly arriving several days into the new year as it did, thanks to my little niece taking advantage of the Christmas period to give the entire family some lesser shade of the black death. So it’s back on the block and your warmly advised to dive in. If the opening gambit of Soundhog, Twelve Hour Foundation and Daphne and Celeste doesn’t turn you on, then why would you even be here?
And finally, A Year In The Country’s latest compilation The Quietened Journey has just been officially released, featuring Howlround’s most abrasive track of the year, ‘Thrown Open Wide’. But that might be a bit much for our semi-festive purposes here today, so I’ll leave you instead with Pulselovers‘ fabulous opening track by way of an appetiser. A copy of this, the Sculpture disc and that Mark Peters single would make some rather fine early Christmas presents for yourself, don’t you think?
PS You know what would also make a fantastic Christmas present for the rest of us? Kicking the Tories out. Please don’t forget to vote this week!
Hello you. Winter’s properly drawing in, isn’t it? Whatever your thoughts are on how much darker and colder it’s got since I last posted, we’re entering the perfect season for some spooky story-telling, and what better location than the 19th Century splendour of St. Mary’s Tower in Hornsey? It’s the latest from Sam ‘Sinister Masterplan’ Enthoven’s Shivers events, featuring a pair of classic spine-chillers told live by the great Lara de Belder with appropriately eerie sonic accompaniment by Sam and myself, all in the cosy-yet-suitably gothic environs of The Intimate Space. Limited tickets and further information here.
On a similar spooky theme, two new and exclusive Howlround tracks appear on Witchcraft & Black Magic In The United Kingdom, the latest release from Eighth Tower Records which arrived just in time for Halloween and features further exclusives from Grey Frequency, Rapoon and Daniel Williams amongst others. Initially a collaborative curation between Daniel and label head Raffaele Pezzella, this compilation has sadly ended up becoming a tribute after Daniel’s very sudden passing earlier this year. Raffaele’s determination in bringing this project to fruition in his honour is a credit to them both, and the resulting compilation, featuring two of Daniel’s own compositions, a worthy contribution to his legacy. Limited edition CD and DL out now and available here.
[A] chilling collection of All Hallows’s Eve horrorphonia, a little something touched with a hauntologists bleakness and certainly ripe for companion listening with similar audio manifestations escaping the A Year in the Country, Woodford Halse et al soundhouses […] ‘Crypt of St John’ marks the first of two appearances by Howlround, this ‘un an eerie subterannic drone-r not unlike the more outsider-esque moments from the Wizards Tell Lies back catalogue, much like some haunted echo from the past it imparts a cold and harrowed bitter sweet aura that imagines some annual ceremonial gathering of the lost. Equally graced in the macabre, ‘Peck in the Crown’ is shadowed by an unsettling sinister touch that many familiar with the Aetheric imprint, notably the Kindred Spirits and Hole House releases, will feel a familair isolationist tug. Mark Losing Today
Daniel’s 2017 album Meet Me On The Corner is also very worthy of your time, while Raffaele’s considerable output both solo as Sonolgyst and as head of the Unexplained Sounds Group is the perfect soundtrack for whiling away a winter’s evening. Hopefully this compilation will encourage its listeners to dig even further…
There’s exciting album action elsewhere too, with highly esteemed blog, record label and publishing house A Year In The Country about to round off another busy twelve months with its third themed compilation of 2019. The Quietened Journey is ‘an exploration of abandoned and former railways, railway stations and roads, a reflection on them as locations filled with the history, ghosts and spectres of once busy vibrant times’, and features another Howlround exclusive, ‘Thrown Open Wide’. The original plan for this contribution was to try conjuring up some of my own youthful railway memories such as the twinkling enthusiasm of childhood hero Bob Symes, the sombre, elegiac tone of 80s docu-series The Train Now Departing; and even perhaps the odd hazy recollection of a distant past when travelling on a train made you a ‘passenger’ rather than a ‘customer’ and a trip to the facilities didn’t involve an encounter with a wise-cracking toilet. Further inspiration was to be sourced from a very small part of railway history right on my childhood doorstep: a former branch line-known as ‘The Dandy’, these days a footpath and one I must have traversed hundreds of times over the years, often in the company of a whirling pack of dogs. Closed since 1923, it now provides the perfect location for a walk in the country, a spot of quiet communion with nature and of course some field recording – if you can ignore both the whirling dogs and the bypass that tears through the centre of it all…
Nature is slowly reclaiming, or has already reclaimed, much of this infrastructure, with these testaments to industry and “the age of the train” being often left to quietly crumble and decay. The Quietened Journey is both a celebration and a lament for these now faded links across the land, of the grand dreams and determination which created them and their layered histories that – as these asphalt ribbons, steel lines and stone built roads once prominently were – are threaded throughout the twentieth century and even back to Roman times.
With these things foremost in mind, I set about planning a work that would somehow transform all of the above into a piece of warm, fuzzy, sepia-tinted bucolica – you know, like the stuff Howlround used to put out back in the days before I discovered the joys of turning all the dials up and just leaving them there. Almost entirely predictably, however, those dials had their way and I got the exact opposite of my intentions: ‘combustion, wreckage, rust, rage, anguish’. What started out as my attempt to conjure the ghosts of railways past now might actually be Howlround’s most uncompromisingly abrasive work to date. It sounds less like a quietened journey and more a giant combustion engine smashing and tearing itself to pieces. Perhaps all those years of being forced to use Virgin Trains are finally taking their toll on my battered psyche?
Or perhaps there were some darker memories at play. The title comes from the 19th Century poem ‘An Engine Driver’s Epitaph‘, found in a school library book and accompanied by an illustration of cold, rusting locomotives sat in a scrapyard; which to a child of faintly melancholic sensibilities was like peeking into a slaughterhouse. Then there’s all the archive Pathé and British Transport Films footage I’ve watched over the years of engines being torn apart by welders and angle-grinders in a shriek of metal and a shower of sparks, name and number-plates carelessly tossed aside. Then there’s that terrible fizz-bang at the climax of Keith Chegwin-fronted school safety film Robbie, where our hapless mop-top protagonist finds out the hard way what a third rail is for. Or every single horrifying second of John Krish’s The Finishing Line…
All such questions of inspiration aside, what I can tell you is that these three minutes of hissing, spitting and snarling were recorded in a single take and to my mind pretty much sums up not only the present state of Howlround, but also the present state of our railways – and come to think of it, the state of absolutely bloody everything else. How I wish Cheggars was here to cheer us all up with one of his terrible jokes. Anyway, The Quietened Journey is now available to pre-order in the usual series of beautiful hand-made editions, featuring music from old friends such as Pulselovers, Sproatly Smith, The Séance, Widow’s Weeds, The Heartwood Institute, Depatterning, Field Lines Cartographer, Dom Cooper & Zosia Sztykowski, Keith Seatman, A Year In The Country and that chap Grey Frequency once again. Need I say more?
In other news, very excited to announce that Ian Rawes of the London Sound Survey will be joining us at London Metropolitan Archives for the next instalment of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage event ‘Sounds and the City: The Late Sessions’ and will be playing some recordings from his fascinating archive of London Soundscapes. Proceedings kick off Wednesday 20th November at 6pm (hence the inverted commas – it’s really not very late at all). I’ve attended several of these talks over the years and always come back for more – Ian has some of the finest period recordings I’ve ever heard and is one of those people who could turn reading out a shopping list into a sublime and exciting narrative, so this is absolutely not to be missed. Tickets are FREE and in short supply – get yours here.
Join us Wed 20 Nov from 6pm and immerse yourself in the soundscapes of London – its wildlife, traffic and street cries. What story do these sounds tell us about 20th century life in the capital? @LondonSounds
— LdnMetArchives (@LdnMetArchives) November 12, 2019
Speaking of London Met Archives, thanks to everyone who came down to The Barbican for our recent presentation ‘Sounds Moving In Different Directions – The Far Out Music of a 1970s Classroom’. As representatives of the UOSH team, my colleague Kate and I lead an investigation into the strange and charming world of ‘Creating Music In Class’, an educational box set discovered in the archives of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) and featuring a series of experimental classroom instructions, psychedelic graphic scores and mind-bending sounds captured on reel to reel tape. This box set would’ve offered students and teachers alike a rare brush with the world of avant-garde sound and free-form improvisation – pretty advanced stuff for 1976. There’s also a certain John Baker credited as ‘audio producer/editor’ and we’re almost certain it’s the Radiophonic Workshop legend himself at the helm. Sadly, at the moment that’s all I’m permitted to disclose, but there’s some pretty amazing sounds on these tapes and the fact that it was aimed at – and in places created by – children aged 10-13 only makes the whole thing all the more tantalising. Hopefully I’ll be able to share more with you before very long. In the meantime, here’s a enticing glimpse of the box’s contents thanks to the previous week’s LMA Twitter feed:
📣 This Sunday our UOSH team will be delving into the Inner London Education Authority audio archive at the @BarbicanCentre Archive Residency
— LdnMetArchives (@LdnMetArchives) October 18, 2019
The presentation culminated in a performance by musician and instrument builder Lia Mice, interpreting one of the box’s graphic scores using one of her own sound-making creations. We very much hope that the box set will encourage new creativity in the future and inspire fresh generations of music-makers, so getting Lia involved seemed like an excellent opportunity to set the ball rolling. The results were as intriguing as anyone who has witnessed her recent live shows, including a storming set at The Delaware Road would have anticipated. Hopefully I’ll be able to share that with you before long as well. In the meantime, here’s a video from her latest album The Sampler As Time Machine:
Actually, there is one more thing I can share – we used a couple of extracts in our talk from this wonderful film of slightly awkward children making experimental sound collages at the behest of groovy 60s teachers in Shoreditch. It’s entirely likely that if you’re a regular round these parts you’ll have seen this video numerous times already. But is it even possible to get tired of it? I come back to this video quite regularly as a palate-cleanser, a reminder that I need to keep my game up if I’m going to hold my own against a bunch of kids from half a century ago: