One Year Of Deep Listening – Happy Birthday Fog Cast!

Hello you. Time to softly and ethereally blow out the single candle on the cake marking Fog Cast’s first birthday. It was exactly one a year ago last week that Resonance FM’s series of deep listening soundtracks designed for isolated listening kicked off. And I’ve been celebrating the run-up to this anniversary with a month of very special guest-curated episodes by some of my favourite artists and selectors. First up was a Persistence of Sound Special, put together by label head Iain Chambers and featuring tracks from all five releases to date, including the newly released split LP from Beatriz Ferreyra and Natasha  Barrett – a most worthy addition to the canon.

Speaking of worthy canons, the following week saw raxil 4 take the reigns. Better known as multidisciplinary sound artist Andrew Page, it features 21 extracts from his remarkable and extensive back catalogue, the first 400 releases of which now reside within the British Library Sound Archive. raxil4 specialises in analogue electronic dronescapes, acoustic audio phenomenon and installation, and he has performed live all over Europe, in caves, churches, crypts, prison cells, psychiatric hospitals and water towers. I have shared stages with this man on numerous occasions and I can confirm that 400 albums of this sort of thing isn’t nearly enough! 

Deep listening of a more abrasive nature occurred came next with the arrival of ‘Spirit Level’, an exclusive new work, by venoztks, who has commented simply “all is found, everything is lost”.  Their recent release How It’s Not Meant To Be on the ever-dependable Tapeworm label is also very worthy of your time. 

Which brings us to the final episode in this special birthday month, a beautiful selection from a shadowy individual known only as tpwiikatj. Check out that tracklisting – perhaps one of the finest editions yet!

It’s been a terrible year for pretty much everyone, but these 42 programmes (43 by the time you read this) have been tremendous fun to work on and I hope they’ve provided some listening pleasure and perhaps even some respite from, as someone adroitly put it to me recently, ‘all the NOW that’s going on’. With luck the next 42 programmes will be produced in an atmosphere of slightly less awfulness. We shall see. But in the meantime, don’t forget that Fog Cast continues to go out every Wednesday night, 23:00BST on Resonance 104.4FM and that all previous editions can be streamed here. I’m always on the hunt for new artists to feature and new sounds to play, so do get in touch through the usual channels if you’d like me to bend my ears in your direction. The only rule remains ‘no beats’ (although ‘pulses’ are often encouraged), but even this is starting to feel a little dogmatic!  

In other news, thanks very much indeed to Electronic Sound Magazine, not only for giving The New Obsolescents’ LP such a glowing review, but also for allowing me to wax lyrical (no pun intended) in their regular ‘First, Last And Always’ column, which makes for another item to be ticked off my life bucket-list! Also includes all the usual goodness, including cover star Hannah Peel, so make haste to the newsagents! Or order online here.

Hope you’re all well and jolly and managed to have an enjoyable Easter. I kept myself busy, as you can see, working on tracks for a purported eighth LP that should hopefully surface later in the year. A trusted advisor recently declared that one of the new works sounds ‘like John Inman getting his knackers caught in a cash register’, which I’ve decided to take as a compliment and develop further. I mean, who else is working in those kinds of area at the moment? Nobody, that’s who! Not even Hannah Peel!!

Rare Wares For Resonance -‘Final Vinyls’ Auctioned For Fundraiser

Hello you. It’s that time of year again where the greatest radio station on Earth asks you to put a hand in your pocket and help them to stay on air for another year. Continuing to broadcast 24/7 throughout a turbulent 12 months and providing an invaluable lift to lockdown life, we need them more than ever – and as 2021 has already seen the station moved to new premises they’ll be needing us more than ever too!

With live events obviously suspended and all us programme-makers continuing to send in our shows remotely, the usual gala fundraiser events and online auction have had to be suspended in favour of individual guerilla-style efforts to raise some cash. To that effect, I’ve had a rummage in the archive and am auctioning off a couple of super rare and highly covetable items in aid of the station. To be honest it wasn’t really much of a rummage as both items were released quite recently and therefore near the top of the pile. Actually this first one arrived a mere fortnight ago:

The New Obsolescents – The Superceded Sounds Of… (Castles In Space, 2021)

Super limited ‘moonrock-coloured’ vinyl inside unique hand-cut foil sleeve – the last of its kind. All 300 sold out in less than 25 minutes when placed on pre-order a couple of weeks back, so this really is the final copy! Now live on ebay until 22:00 GMT, Wednesday 3rd March. Let the bidding commence!

A brand new deep space travelogue from the collective minds of DJ Food and Howlround. Improvised live at the Museum Of London in 2016 and now heading off into the uncharted territories of 2021. Strange new worlds conjured from obsolete media, a vision of the future constructed live using nothing but vintage analogue technology and a sense of adventure. The album is presented in an extraordinary sleeve, hand assembled by Strictly Kev, who explains, “Since discovering the Philips 21st Century Prospective series of French musique concrete LPs on tour in European the 90s I’ve been fantasising about one day making a record with a Héliophore patterned silver foil cover. The patterns etched in the covers are achieved by minute differences in the angles of the foil coating which then reflects the light and appears to animate when moved. These legendary and increasingly expensive LPs contained critical works from an international array of leading artists in the tape and electro acoustic field, spearheaded by Pierre Henry who also released many of his own works on the label. Tracking down the company who made the original Philips covers in France led to a dead end as they had long ceased to exist so I gave up hope. Unknown to me a British company had managed to replicate the process under the name Dufex in the UK. Sadly they’d also wound up business in 2019 but via a chance encounter on a separate project I managed to find the final stocks of card from the business at a lighting company”.

Howlround – Rec And Ruin EP (The Fog Signals, 2020)

4-track lathe cut 7″, plus bonus digital content. The original 30 copies of this release sold out in under 10 minutes back in December 2020, this is a secret ’31st Copy’ saved especially for the Resonance FM Fundraiser. Mint, unplayed and the last one ever. Now online and available for your bidding pleasure until 22:00, Tuesday 2nd March. Place your bids here!

Howlround end 2020 in typically noisy and abrasive style by flipping this accursed year a massive bird in the shape of the REC AND RUIN EP. Four tracks of primal ooze and sonic sludge, plus digital bonus content, all recorded during lockdown. 7″ lathe with laminated cover featuring exclusive ghostly artwork, each hand-cut and assembled by Ben Soundhog @Plastidisc, Deepest Wales. Some of our fiercest material yet, all created using a wineglass, a microphone and four reel to reel tape machines. As ever, absolutely no digital FX or artificial reverb have been used in the making of this EP and no downstairs neighbours have been upset – I waited until they were out. Track 3 sounds uncannily like Tristam Cary’s original sound effects for Quatermass And The Pit, but I can assure you it’s pure sonic coincidence. It truly is astonishing the distances you can travel on a spool of tape and a sense of adventure!

Field Limes Cartographer – Leaving In Storms​/​Coordinates – 7″ + Test Pressing (Castles In Space, 2021)

Limited edition clear vinyl 7″ in a beachcombed plastic bag with 4 inserts, 2 stickers and a Field Lines Cartographer badge and artwork by Nick Taylor, plus an exclusive test pressing. Contains two magnificent new Field Lines Cartographer tracks from “The Spectral Isle” universe, with thanks to Colin at Castles In Space for this very generous donation! Now on ebay, Bidding ends 22:30 GMT, Wednesday 3rd March. Get bidding here.

All kinds of other exciting activities can be found this month and beyond via Fundraiser.Resonance.FM, and of course you can make a private donation at any time by simply visiting ResonanceFM.com/Donate and doing whatever feels natural, perhaps even setting up a regular payment to help the station meets its monthly running costs. Resonance is a force for good in an increasingly fraught and difficult world and all the programme makers and engineers willingly give their time and service for free – but even keeping these hardy souls supplied with occasional hobnobs and teabags doesn’t come cheap.

Good luck, everyone – now let’s raise some money!

Let’s Get Obsolescent! Brand New Castles In Space LP Flies Off Shelves

 

Presenting The Superceded Sounds Of The New Obsolescents, a brand new deep space travelogue from the collective minds of DJ Food, Robin The Fog and Chris Weaver. Improvised live at the Museum Of London in 2016, it’s now heading off into the uncharted territories of 2021. Released last week by Castles In Space on limited edition moonrock coloured vinyl in one of five magnificent hand-cut foil sleeves designed by our very own Strictly Kev, all 300 copies sold out in an unprecedented 25 minutes! Fortunately the digital is still available here. It’s just as trippy and far more portable!

This album began life four years ago when the trio were tasked by Jonny Trunk with providing an all-night immersive soundtrack for the mammoth ‘Museum Of Last Parties’ extravaganza in the Museum of London’s Torch Room. Setting up their vintage reel to reel tape machines, turntables and various FX units in the very shadow of the torch that became the icon of the 2012 Olympics, the trio set about creating a soundtrack worthy of champions. It was quite the occasion!

Strange new worlds conjured from obsolete media, a vision of the future constructed completely live using nothing but vintage analogue technology and a sense of adventure. With a constant stream of revellers stopping by to lounge on moon-shaped cushions and enjoy this interstellar soundtrack being woven right before their ears, the trio amassed almost four hours of improvised oddities over the course of that evening. It wasn’t until the spring of 2020 when they suddenly found themselves at home with all plans cancelled and a LOT of spare time that the tapes were resurrected and the album started to take shape.

Now almost five years later, our cosmic drone power trio hhave finally brought home the trophy. The album has already been described by Ghost Box’s Jim Jupp as ‘Perfect Snow Music’ and it’s certainly the fastest selling LP I’ve been involved with! Profuse apologies to all the people who missed out – and I know you were legion – but the fact that this was among the very last stocks of the etched silver foil used for the hand-cut sleeves means that a second pressing is pretty much out of the question. However, The New Obsolescents shall return. Nobody can quite work out how yet, but plans are being made…

WATCH THIS DEEP SPACE!

Best Of 2020 Mixtape – Almost Five Isolationist Hours!

Hello you. Time for one last look over our collective shoulder as we stand on the threshold of another trip round the sun. I’ve prepared my now-traditional Best Of Year Mixtape and it’s my longest one yet, edging towards five hours and packed to the rafters with as much awesome music from 2020 as I could possibly cram in. Of course it arrives with the usual caveat that I could have almost certainly created a couple more mixtapes of equal length from tracks that didn’t make it – really I should start just marketing these things as ‘Best Stuff I Actually Managed To Get My Hands On This Year’. Still, it’s been online for a few days now, apparently long enough for it to nab the coveted 7th place in the Global Experimental Chart (I’m guessing Covid-restrictions will mean the cancellation of any kind of Awards Dinner); though I must confess I’ve been a little slack in posting it here because embedding Mixcloud onto WordPress never ceases to be a kerfuffle. I always end up with a vast expanse of white empty space directly below the link, which no amount of clever coding can seem to get rid of…

…See what I mean? Thoroughly tiresome. Although perhaps imbibing this mixtape over the course of several hours while staring into a white void will create an agreeable way of passing the time during Lockdown 4 or whatever the hell we’re up to now. The tracklisting should be readily accessible to all on the Mixcloud page itself, but as I’ve had a number of queries about this already, I can only assume the site is playing silly-buggers with that as well – if in doubt get in touch and I’ll point you in the right direction. Minor layout issues aside, you certainly can’t fault the musical content, a whopping 63 tracks which includes shimmering ambience, agit-electro, pounding techno, super wyrd folk and a suitably apocalyptic howl of anguish from my favourite new musical discovery of the year, Kenyan Grindcore duo Duma.

In a year so full of tension, the cathartic blastbeat rush of their self titled debut on Nyege Nyege Tapes felt like a revelation. All the stranger then that it shares the runner-up spot in my 2020 top three with practically its polar opposite: Puzzlewood was the long (very long!) awaited second album from Plone on Ghostbox, arriving right at the start of lockdown like a pastel-shaded rainbow illuminating a rapidly darkening world – and providing the perfect soundtrack for a government-endorsed sunshine break during a Spring suddenly rendered eerily bucolic. Two sharply contrasting albums from very different corners of the world – but I couldn’t possibly choose between them!

2020 was indeed a fantastic year for music, quite possibly because for much of it there wasn’t much else anyone could do but sit in the studio and muck around (and as an aside I must briefly salute the powers behind the #BandcampFridays, which have surely done more to support struggling independent artists during the pandemic than your average Record Store Day or corporate streaming platform). But curiously the album that encapsulated this cursed year for me above and beyond any other had already emerged kicking and screaming into the world back in February, a full month ahead of lockdown when it seemed the only things we needed to worry about here in the UK was the ruinous fallout from Brexit, the onset of catastrophic climate change and an increasingly unhinged right-wing government. Gosh, it seems a lifetime ago, doesn’t it? 

Rakka by Vladislav Delay felt almost precision-engineered for 2020, its relentless, pummelling drums, howling synths and blasts of visceral noise the perfect soundtrack to fear, confusion and exhaustion, mixed with ever-increasing rage at the ineptitude of various governments. I’ve never believed the old adage that the darkest times produce the sweetest tunes and for this reason and more I’ll wager this equally thrilling and terrifying album has plenty of mileage in it yet. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? YES! 

Fruit Body

Must also put in a word for the top three albums that I feel were rather slept on this year: another blast of ferocious electro in the shape of Fruit Body by Franziska Lantz, the sublime wok-tone-drone experiments of Agitations: Post Electronic Sounds by Oscillatorial Binnage on Sub Rosa and Inwards Opened The Floor, a thick stew of freaky magnificence from ‘British-Israeli Krautfolk Collective’ Staraya Derevyna. Three very different records, yet each somehow perfectly encapsulated by their respective choices of artwork:

Inwards Opened The Floor

Let’s hope 2021 brings us just as much extraordinary music in slightly more ordinary circumstances. As for myself, I have a couple of irons in the fire, including the newly-mastered next album from Howlround and hopefully an EP or two along the way. And I’m also very excited to announce the imminent arrival of another little project started during lockdown, the debut LP by The New Obsolescents on Castles In Space, featuring two of my closest cosmic kin, Strictly Kev aka DJ Food and Oscillatorial Binnage backbone and longtime Howlround ally Chris Weaver. Based on a long-form, improvised performance a few years back in the shadow of the 2012 Olympic Torch at the Museum of London (were you there?), 2020 finally gave us some free time to dust off the tapes and knock them about a bit.

One of the newly reworked tracks surfaced last year on Castles In Space’s remarkable Isolation Tapes compilation that has rightly just been awarded Electronic Sound’s Compilation of the Year, but everything else is brand new and exclusive. A feast for the ears – and for the eyes too, thanks to Kev’s meticulous work sourcing and assembling the sleeves. Can’t wait to share this one with the world!

Fog Cast also returns to the Resonance 104.4FM airwaves Wednesday 13th January at 23:00GMT, with a special episode dedicated to a clutch of releases from the Linear Obsessional label. I’m always on the lookout for new music/soundscapes/weirdness to feature on the show, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with isolationist/deep listening recommendations to warm the ears of our lockdown listeners! All previous shows can be found on my Mixcloud page.

Other than that, wishing you all a very happy and healthy 2021. Unless of course you’re Boris Johnson, in which case I hope you get pulled apart by horses…

A Minor Key Christmas – Season’s Greetings From Fog Towers

Hello you. How you doing this festive season? Hope you’re all bearing up OK. It’s been a tough end to a tough year for so many, but hopefully the items below will warm your festive cockles with a modicum of holiday cheer. Starting with my latest report for Radio 4’s Today Programme on the subject of Chilly Gonzales and his magnificent new album A Very Chilly Christmas, in which the self-styled ‘showman in slippers’ sits down at the piano to walk us through his reinterpretations of festive favourites. The haunting version of ‘Silent Night’ is particularly sublime:

Finding appropriate music for the most unusual Christmas in living memory was always going to be a challenge, but a new album from the Grammy-award winning pianist and entertainer Chilly Gonzales just might provide the perfect soundtrack for this sombre season. A Very Chilly Christmas finds the composer and self-styled ‘showman in slippers’ presenting a reflective and intimate take on a mix of traditional carols and well-worn festive pop hits – or ‘From Wencelas to Wham’ as he puts it. With a little help from some special guests, these piano-lead interpretations breath surprising new life into old classics, creating the most timely accompaniment to a minor key Christmas…

It’s been a busy end to the year at the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project as we’ve been putting together our Christmas Audio Anthology, featuring seasonal gems from some of the collections we’ve been working with at London Metropolitan Archives, along with a collection of Christmas songs recorded by The Lookout Band, with vocals by the redoubtable soprano Catherine Bott, better known these days as a presenter on Classic FM. You’ll hear reminiscences of Christmases past, first encounters with snow, a ‘Jonkunnu’ song from Jamaica, a strudel-stealing dog and much more. These are always such fun to work on and invaluable in demonstrating the crucial work of this nationwide, project in preserving these voices for future generations. This is actually the second Anthology in the series after the inaugural edition from a few weeks back – I was supposed to feature that on these pages as well, but the last few months have rather run away with me – quelle surprise! I also wanted to share the image of this Christmas Cookie baked by my #UOSH teammate and fellow tape enthusiast Kate, which is still making me smile a whole week after its consumption. The level of detail is just astonishing – am I over-thinking this or are those are tiny icing spores of mould speckling the compacted tape? Either way, it tasted as good as it looked. Bravo, Kate!

I’ll be back next week to present my now-traditional end of year mixtape, which this time round has some decidedly heavy lifting to do – I’m going to attempt to convince the world that 2020 was actually a pretty fantastic year for music, even if most of it had to be enjoyed in bedrooms and on headphones. In the meantime here once again is the 2019 Mix in all its full three and a half hour glory. There’s two hundred and fourteen minutes just waiting for you to dive in – and not the slightest scrap of filler! Perfect for those new solitary Christmas walks so many of us are going to be embarking on this year!

For now may I wish you all the Merriest Christmas Possible and I do hope that you manage to find some good company and some good cheer in these turbulent times. Unless of course you’re Boris Johnson, in which case I hope you’re torn apart by wolves…

REC AND RUIN – New Howlround EP Unleashes Quatermassive Action!

Hello you. Crumbs, it’s been a few weeks since I updated the blog, which is most remiss of me. But it’s certainly not for lack of action – there’s plenty of intrigue and incident to catch up with,  all of which will follow in due course. But for the moment, here’s the most pressing piece of news: A brand new Howlround 7″ EP, just in time for #BandcampFriday! 

**30 copies only, going live on The Fog Signals website at 08:00 GMT on Friday 4th December, then gone forever. The VOLT FACE EP sold out in under five minutes, so don’t sleep on this one!**

Howlround end 2020 in typically noisy and abrasive style by flipping this accursed year a massive bird in the shape of the REC AND RUIN EP. Four tracks of primal ooze and sonic sludge, plus digital bonus content, all recorded during lockdown. 7″ lathe with laminated cover featuring exclusive ghostly artwork, each hand-cut and assembled by Ben Soundhog @Plastidisc, Deepest Wales.

Some of our fiercest material yet, all created using a wineglass, a microphone and four reel to reel tape machines. As ever, absolutely no digital FX or artificial reverb have been used in the making of this EP and no downstairs neighbours have been upset – I waited until they were out. Track 3 sounds uncannily like Tristam Cary’s original sound effects for Quatermass And The Pit, but I can assure you it’s pure sonic coincidence. It truly is astonishing the distances you can travel on a spool of tape and a sense of adventure! Here’s an early version of one of the tracks to further whet your appetite…

GET YOUR VOLT FACE ON – New Howlround EP Roars Into Life On Buried Treasure

Hello you. I am extremely proud and excited to officially announce the launch of a brand new Howlround release, the VOLT FACE EP which is being launched on October 2nd at 0800 BST. It is perhaps the fiercest statement yet from everyone’s favourite reel to reel tape loop quintet. 

Howlround soundtracks the sh**show known as 2020 with 4 blistering reel to reel tape malfunctions. The machines run riot on this visceral (and then some) 7″ single mastered by Zyklus + cut by Soundhog @plastidisc. Presented in an 8 page booklet of broken billboards & urban detritus photographed by Robin the Fog around an increasingly desolate capital. 30 copies only available from Buried Treasure, 0800 BST on #BandcampFriday 2nd Oct.

To whet your appetite, here’s a quick clip from the original sessions that went semi-viral on Instagram a few weeks back…

A relentless and abrasive loop of foreboding and malign intent… THE soundtrack to 2020 .Super heavy, super limited. DO NOT SLEEP on this one! 

All very exciting and I’m looking forward to unveiling these new tracks,  even if they might be slightly heavy going for 8am on a Friday. My only other slight concern is that this release might just have broken ace cutting engineer Ben Soundhog:

 

Country Funk Job Cast – A Blur Of Recent Activity

Hello you. Crumbs, how has it been a month since I updated this site? It has assuredly not been for want to stimulating developments to relate: I’m teaching radio production again, producing bits and bobs for Radio 4 again and have also hit the ground running with a new series of Fog Cast on Resonance FM, of which more in a moment. I also spent much of yesterday recording and editing a voiceover for a forthcoming video tutorial on analogue format conversation, which involved my most velvety of tones and a rich catalogue of profanity, especially whenever recording were interrupted by a bus going past. So hard to get decent sound-proofing in Penge.

Firstly, I’m delighted to announce that an exclusive new Howlround track has been included on the latest instalment of Front & Follow’s Isolation And Rejection series of download compilations. ‘Sonic Hors Funk Job’ appears alongside contributions from old friends Revbjelde, Pulselovers, Runningonair, Kepier Widow… the list goes on. As with the previous three volumes, all proceeds  are going 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’. Think this might just be our finest track this year – and for a hugely deserving cause as well. So far these compilations have raised almost £2000, which is absolutely fantastic work, and I’m reliably informed that Volume 5 isn’t too far off either. Bravo to the Justin and the F&F team – and to massive amount of noise-making talent that have donated tracks for free. All four volumes can be found at FrontAndFollow.com. 

In other new release action A Year In The Country have just launched The Layering, the latest in a long line of themed compilations that might just be their finest work yet. It too features an exclusive new Howlround track entitled ‘A Heart Shaped Forest’, alongside new works from old friends such as The Heartwood Institute, Grey Frequency, Vic Mars and lots more.

The album explores the way that places are literally layered with history, and is an audio slicing through the layers of time. It journeys amongst the stories and characters of these layers, including, amongst other aspects, the structures built, events which took place and different era’s technologies and belief systems. Such layering can go far back into pre-recorded history. Much of the earth is thought to have once been underwater, and it is likely that the majority of cities, towns and villages are built in former ocean areas. Current land masses have come to be formed, in part, through a layering of past marine, other life and plants, which in turn are then quarried or mined, subsequently being used to create the infrastructure of contemporary civilisation, and creating something of a cyclical, time-out-of-joint nature to the layers of time…

It’s been in the works for a while after launch was held up by lockdown-enforced delays, but it’s been proved more than worth the wait – as attested to by a decidedly complimentary review from We Are Cult. Always an absolute pleasure to contribute to these albums, although I am a little surprised that Howlround’s track has been described as one of the ‘jauntier’ efforts on offer here – I’ve always found ‘jolly’ to be the hardest thing to pull off with tape machines. Still, I’ll take it as a compliment! Order your copy of ‘one of the most astonishing works 2020 has offered us’ here.

Fog Cast rides again after Resonance FM’s summer sabbatical, every Wednesday, 23:00 BST on 104.4FM in London and online everywhere else; where it continues to provide the perfect soundtrack for our current age of isolation. This week’s show featured sublime new works from musician, writer, philosopher and director of GRM Kassel Jaeger’s Swamps/Things, Ondes-Martenot maestra Christine Ott and her magnificent new Snowdrops project, followed by a side-long extract of JP Hartnett’s long anticipated new album of ambient piano works. What better way to drift off into the night?

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The previous week’s edition was also a very special affair as Psyché Tropes founder, label boss and chief strategist Merkaba Macabre (or Steven McInerney to his friends) took over the controls to provide an hour of brand new, exclusive and unreleased material, directly from his studio to your ears. A fantastic hour ‘drifting through a visual landscape of dichotomous energies’ that, as you can see from the above, inspired a flurry of creativity in at least one listener. Smashing work, Steve – and you too, Edwin!

Finally, I’m VERY excited to announce THIS heavy, splattery affair is being launched next week for Bandcamp Friday. But more on this to follow…

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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…

 

The Past, Present And Future Walked Into Vinyl Cafe…

Hello you. Very pleased and excited to announce a new collaborative work with an old friend – the Swiss-based artist, writer, philosopher, polymath and all round good egg Leila Peacock. It’s an audio essay entitled ‘Waiting Rooms’, one of three new original works that make up her current exhibition running at Zurich University of the Arts‘ exhibition space al_vista until mid-August.

We know how to measure time. We know what time is as long as we don’t have to explain it. It is a useful fiction that structures lives. Substance of sci-fi explorations into the realms of the possible. The perpetually perishing present moment you can never grasp. The illusion of history as progress, the reality of the countdown until our own death-to-come, the longing of the long wait.

Leila and I have produced a handful of works together over the years. She was there when I was just beginning to put Howlround together and was instrumental in helping to realise the Secret Songs Of Savamala LP when we were working in Belgrade back in 2013). Her essays are always a real conceptual trip and so I try each time to create a sound design that’s appropriately far out in accordance. On this occasion we’re criss-crossing back and forth through time in the company of some recordings of chiming clocks I salvaged from a performance at York’s Manor House and taken them even further down the rabbit hole. Perhaps a little obvious when you consider it – but damn, do they sound evocative! Have a listen below and if you’re in Zurich I urge to pop over and investigate further – while respecting social distancing, of course. For the rest of you, strap on some ear goggles on and dive straight in!

 

Closer to home, but also quite out there in its own way, this week also marks the last episode of Fog Cast before Resonance FM takes a well-deserved summer break. A lot has changed in the 18 weeks since the show emerged blinking into the strange new world of March 2020, but I thought I would end the series with a note of optimism by including a clutch of LPs from a recent expedition to my (joint) favourite record shop Vinyl Cafe in my hometown of Carlisle, which has thankfully now re-opened after months of lockdown-enforced closure.

Naturally our local independent record shops (along with the artists and musicians who make the records they stock) need our support now more than ever, so if you happen to be passing through Abbey Street in Carlisle, do pop in and have a browse. Or for those less conveniently located, simply visit futureisvinyl.co.uk and have a virtual dig through the racks. There’s always plenty of treasure awaiting your discovery – I walk away each with a stack of new surprises and this week’s show is certainly testament to that. I’m aware I’ve said it before, but if you had told me a decade ago that one day there would be a space in my old home town where I’d be able to shop for records by Meredith Monk, Suzanne Ciani and Cabaret Voltaire, make a bunch of like-minded new friends and even put on some Howlround shows, I would have branded you a hopeless idealist and backed away slowly. And yet here we are!

This latest trip was even more of an ear-opener than usual as I must confess to having been previously ignorant of the wondrous works of Ann McMillan, Craig Kupka or Julia Barwick, all of whom feature prominently on this final episode of the series. This is surely why we go to record shops in the first place, isn’t it? Not so much to find what we already know, but to discover the stuff you don’t know yet, that moment where the person behind the counter spots you and says ‘TRY THIS!’ Hurrah for the reopened Vinyl Cafe – now let’s all continue to support it – and all of our local independent record stores! In the meantime, here are this week’s treasures:

Yair Elazar Glotman & Mats Erlandsson ‎– From Light To Refraction [from Emanate, 130701, 2020]
Julia Barwick feat. Jónsi – In Light [from Healing Is A Miracle, Ninja Tune, 2020]
Craig Kupka – Trombones of Lithia [from Crystals: New Music For Relaxation 2, Folkways, 1982]
Ann McMillan – Gong Song / Gateway Summer Sound [from Gateway Summer Sound – Abstracted Animal & Other Sounds, Folkways, 1978]
Yair Elazar Glotman & Mats Erlandsson ‎– Interlude II [from Emanate, 130701, 2020]
Julia Barwick – Inspirit [from Healing Is A Miracle, Ninja Tune, 2020]