The Fuzz And Filth FOGFEST – Incredibly Strange New Album Plus Zombies Meet The Ghosts Uptown?!

Hello you. It’s been a busy old week here at Fog Towers, with plenty of excitement and intrigue to report, starting off with the grand unveiling of Howlround’s incendiary new album Trespass And Welfare!

…[A] full blown sonic assault […] Recorded entirely using closed-input feedback – two tape machines, a UHER6000 and a Revox B77, simultaneously recording a mixture of themselves and each other – no samples, no synths, no pedals + once you know that, listening is properly mind-blowing. Neil Mason, Moonbuilding

Containing ’12 semi-controlled bursts of hypnotic tape mulch, molten techno loops & asynchronous machine noise’, Howlround’s eighth studio album is now available to pre-order from Buried Treasure Records, ahead of its release on July 29th. Strictly limited edition CD with beautiful artwork in a cardboard slipcase complete with 20 page booklet of artwork and even a coaster, so you don’t spill your tea when the opening track blasts out of your speakers. The whole package is even more beautiful than I dared hope – and that includes the decidedly gnarly contents of the disc! There are only 100 copies in existence and sales have proved pretty brisk already, three weeks ahead of the release date, so it’s advisable not to sleep on this one. Click here to order your copy. Then while you’re waiting read this review from the lovely people at Freq which captures the essence and the spirit of the album so perfectly that you might not actually need to listen to it at all!

An elasticated whir-secting jive full of wording impressions, aural Rorschach blots that with every listen mysteriously reconfigure. Michael Rodham-Heaps, Freq

Elsewhere I’m very excited to announce that The Howling, my duo with Ken Hollings will be performing at London’s BFI Southbank on Wednesday 20th July as part of their regular Experimedia slot. We’re playing as a double bill with the premier screening of a brand new 4K restoration print of Ray Dennis Steckler’s 1964 trash classic ‘The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed Up Zombies?!’ Having only ever had access to the film through gooey 10th-generation VHS copies, I’m very excited to finally be able to witness the insanity of this freakshow classic in all its glory, and the restored clips I’ve seen so far look incredible. Tickets for the event are available here and the hilarious gruesome seedy fun starts at 18:15. Don’t miss out!

NB This is obviously NOT the trailer for the restored print!

Unfortunately for annoying reasons beyond my control I’ve had to postpone my performance at Saturday’s Ealing Extranormal for a future date, but Howlround will still be returning to Iklectik on July 22nd as part of the latest event from my old friends Club Integral, alongside Nad Spiro, Robert Storey and Maya Yianni. Then the machines and I will return once more a fortnight later on August 5th, where I’m very excited to announce that for the first time in a very long time I shall be putting on an event of my own! FOGFEST! And just LOOK at this lineup I’ve managed to assemble! All of my first choices said yes!

It feels entirely right and proper to announce all this exciting activity during the landmark week that Howlround celebrates its tenth anniversary. For exactly one decade has elapsed since the project officially came to life on July 12th 2012 with the launch of debut album The Ghosts Of Bush, released to mark the day the BBC World Service finally left its home at Bush House in Aldwych.

To celebrate this anniversary I’ve commissioned Lucy Morrow better known as Captured by the Fuzz to recreate the project logo in her own inimitable style. And hasn’t she done a wonderful job of it?

Original cover photo by Lisa Hack

Recorded in a series of overnight sessions in a long-abandoned basement studio and created entirely by processing the sounds of the building through a pair of ailing reel to reel tape machines, The Ghosts Of Bush marked the end of an era for the corporation, but the beginning of another, smaller, weirder, noisier one for me! That day began with the album featured on the Today Programme and finished with Gideon Coe ending his 6Music show – and the evening’s broadcasting – by playing a sizeable chunk of the first side. Then somehow it just kept going from there: a **** review in Record Collector, Simon Reynolds calling it ‘The ultimate Hauntological artefact’, comparisons to Aphex Twin and Burial, having to rush a second green pressing then a third white pressing due to unprecedented demand. Happy and unprecedented days indeed.

Photo by Hannah Brown

Thanks once again to Lucy for providing me with this fuzzy felt classic (find much more like it by perusing her Etsy and Instagram pages) and to Lisa Hack and Hannah Brown for providing the original photography all those years ago (check out Hannah’s current printworks by visiting kvist.co.uk). My gratitude also goes out, somewhat belatedly, to Gideon Coe, Stuart Maconie, Simon Reynolds and all the many, many people who supported the record and showed such enthusiasm in those early days. I have never ceased to be awed and humbled by the love so many people have for this album.

Photo by Hannah Brown

Ten years and ten official releases (eight studio albums and two split albums with Time Attendant and Marta De Pascalis respectively), plus innumerable compilation appearances, live shows at Coventry Cathedral, touring with William Basinski, playing a cavern beneath the streets of Copenhagen, a slightly weird venue in Portland with a huge pentagram on the ceiling… the project has come a long way. It’s also got quite a bit louder, weirder and darker in the intervening decade, but the essential philosophy remains the same: music created by manipulating acoustic sounds on magnetic tape, with all additional plugins, effects and artificial reverb strictly forbidden. My hope now is that people will take Trespass And Welfare to their hearts and ears in much the same way as they did The Ghosts Of Bush. After all, the basic premise is still the same… just that little bit more filthy!

Photo by Hannah Brown

PS Just to clarify the ‘****’ alluded to in Record Collector magazine was ‘a four star review’, not some kind of expletive outburst…

Photo by Hannah Brown

Underneath The Arches – MSCTY School Of Sound Art Heads Indoors

Hello You. It’s time for episode three of my new School Of Sound Art series produced in association with Nick Luscombe’s long-running MSCTY project and aimed at those just discovering the wonderful wonky world of noisemaking for the first time (and a kind of refresher for anyone else who might be interested). In keeping with the series’ ongoing themes of exotic and glamorous locations, today we’re moving on from a Hackney Artspace and a partially restored Georgian ruin to something a little closer to home – my own rather dark and cramped studio, nestled up an alley and inside a railway arch in deepest Loughborough Junction. And no, I’m afraid I can’t explain what these balloons are for:

I’m joined in this episode by musician and sound artist Robbie Judkins, better known as Left Hand Cuts Off The Right for an investigation into the thrilling and sonorous world of feedback. Together we’re going to create a new work generated entirely from the two most basic elements of the form – the joining together in unholy matrimony of a microphone and a loudspeaker:

We also take a very brief look into ‘the history of Howlround’ (the audio phenomenon, that is) as it has been shaped in the hands of a number of sound artists and musicians over the last few decades; plus video and multimedia artist James Alec Hardy pops up along the way to provide us with some visual feedback of his own. If you’d like to try some of these experiments for yourself all you’ll need is a microphone, a loudspeaker, something to plug them both into and a VERY careful grip on the volume control – this is one experiment that can get out of control very quickly!

Thanks as ever to Nick for agreeing to host my faltering and unpredictable noisemaking experiments and to Robbie and James for jumping in and being excellent and inspiring company as always. Left Hand Cuts Off The Right’s impressive discography can be explored on his bandcamp page, including his latest album Borrowed Time, made in collaboration with the equally awesome Tasos Stamou. James’ own extensive career has at various points included sound and music, video, multimedia art, sculpture and painting. Frankly the breakneck pace of his creativity can be quite hard to keep track of, but his website and Instagram page are both good places to start. So much talent in one cramped archway!

In other news, I’m playing at Holkus Folkus at Stoke Newington Old Church this weekend (Saturday 25th June) as part of a killer all day line-up. Further information and tickets are available here. Howlround are on early at 1pm and it’s a delight to be returning to such a lovely venue as part of such a fantastic roster of artists. Headliners are old friends The Band of Holy Joy and The Seer, so come early and make sure you stick around!

Hackoustic At Great Exhibition Road Festival

Explore the world of instrument building, acoustic hacking and sound art in this exhibition at the Royal College of Music. Meet artists and makers, discover new inventions and hear exciting demonstrations and performances. Hosted in partnership with the Royal College of Music Museum.

This Sunday Howlround will be conducting a tape loop workshop alongside numerous other makers of far-out sound as part of Hackoustic at the Great Exhibition Road Festival, which runs across multiple spaces and venues in the ‘Museums District’ of South Kensington. Come and find us from 12pm – 3.30pm at Amaryllis Fleming Concert HallThe Royal College Of MusicPrince Consort Road, SW7 2BS. It’s part of a fantastic programme of events, for which tickets are free and available here.

In other news, thanks to everyone who took part in my tape loop workshop as part of the state51 Factory Summer Party last Saturday – and especially to Taile Eigeland for taking these amazing photos! A whole afternoon and evening of far out sounds! Who could ask for more? More of the same coming up at Hackoustic this weekend – see you there?

State Boundary Camp – Here Come The Spools Of Summer

Hello You. Howlround are kicking off a busy month and what’s shaping up to be a busy summer this weekend at not one but two mini-festivals at either end of London. Starting off on Saturday I’m returning to state 51 in Shoreditch after a gap of what feels like an eternity since playing there with Steve Beresford (and the tapes of Basil Kirchin) for The Trunk Records and Ghost Box Midsummer Night’s Happening back in 2019. For their 2022 Summer Party, I’ll be running a tape loop creation workshop and hopefully a performance too – provided I get enough volunteers to help me put the set together, as I’ll be working purely with whatever we can put together on the day!

Save the date! After a two year hiatus The state51 Factory’s summer party returns, bringing you phenomenal tunes and immersive experiences. We’ll have debut performances from two artists / collectives putting out incredible records with us over the next two months. Better CornersValentina Magaletti (Vanishing Twin, Tomaga, Nicholas Jaar), Matt Simms (Wire, It Hugs Back) and Sarah Register (War Bubble, Kim Gordon), will play tracks from ‘Modern Dance Gold: Vol. 1’ for the first time ever together – having recorded remotely – and Brood X Cycles Nik Colk Void (Factory Floor) and Alexander Tucker (MICROCORPS, Grumbling Fur) will bring their modular drone improvisations to grace your ears. We’ll also have a sneak live preview of new material from the inimitable AGAAMA as she moves from the expansive jazz of her debut to new electronic, industrial inspired follow up ‘Wandering Worlds Vol: 1’ as well as a first UK performance from Georgian electronic artist Anushka Chkheidze who’ll be bringing an hour of live electronics, moving through her eclectic output from chillers to bangers and back again. Also throughout the day we’ll host tape workshops from Robin the Fog, craft workshops from the state51 atelier, food from the state51 kitchen, records in our pop-up shop GREED and late night DJs including but not limited to Joe Goddard‘. Tickets starting at £5 available here.

Then on Sunday, I’m absolutely delighted to be returning to Iklectik as part of the all-day killer line up at the latest Boundary Connection event. Apparently Howlround are playing two sets, so that should keep me out of trouble. Might even make a few new loops there too if there’s time.

Boundary Condition engulfs the collective mass longing for a past that never was, through studies in its sonic materialization stretching across the hyper-romantic limbo of post-Lynchian Darkjazz, the flickering scenarios and found sounds of Musique Concrète, and inert cyclicality of hauntological loops, projecting the residue of all that which could have been, as prosthetic sentiments. Via post instrument instrumentals, permutated compositions, site responsivity, missing fundamentals, severe interdependence, and retrograding structures. In a hybrid of duo live-sets, TV installations, and immersive projections, this episode includes CV-controlled turntables, generative & interdependent performance, text-sound, percussive electronics, vocal compositions, augmented acoustics and mud-drenched drone, set up in a candlelit, projection-heavy sleeping seating within the AMOENUS 17-speakers quadrophonic sound system’. Tickets available here.

In other brief news, I was recently very proud to be the featured guests in two episodes of music and oral history extravaganza The Polyhymnal on Camp Radio (which broadcasts both ‘direct from our revolutionary arts facility high in the French Pyrenees’ and also on Mixcloud as well, for those of us situated further afield), reminiscing about my early encounters with sound and music, happy days on Resonance FM making feedback from a phone booth, working with tape, The New Obsolescents and the enduring impact of hearing ‘Out Of Space’ by The Prodigy for the first time. All of this is accompanied by the music of Whatever The Weather, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Emile Mosseri, Camp of Wolves and my old mucker Grey Frequency. Part 2 above was broadcast a couple of weeks ago and you can still find part 1 here. Listen to them in whichever order you prefer, my stories tend to be pretty jumbled anyway!

And finally, one of the most exciting developments of recent weeks has been my getting to grips with recorded cylinders at the British Library Sound Archive for the first time in my career. The image below was my second and is supposedly a completely unique and original item dating from around 1898 (as opposed to the mass-produced pre-WW1 Music Hall recording of a couple of weeks previously). What that basically means is that the voice you hear buried beneath a hubbub of hiss and crackle was standing pretty much as far away from the cylinder as you are when playing back. No electricity, no amplification, just a voice vibrating a membrane and being inscribed onto the cylinder – then played back a hundred and twenty four years later. Such a literal link to the past, I still haven’t stopped being amazed by it yet. Even if the cylinder is ‘fake’ as expert opinion seems to suggest, the fact remains you’re hearing a voice from the 19th Century. If I was Danny Dyer I’d be tempted to comment that it ‘freaks my nut’.

Fortunately I am not Danny Dyer. There can only ever be one…

Are You Man Enough For Mega Force?

Absolutely delighted to announce the release of All Hail Mega Force, the debut collaborative album by Howlround and Ken Hollings, working together as The Howling. Limited edition cassette out now on The Tapeworm, featuring tracks partially recorded at the Wimpy in Streatham High Road, mastering by Steven McInerney and absolutely stunning cover art by Deobrah Wade, who has managed to perfectly distill our aesthetic before we even realised we actually had an aesthetic! Consider these two tracks an opening salvo – an extended blast of deranged tape noise served up astride a winged motorbike in gold jumpsuit and blue bandana, just how you like it!

The Howling is a collaborative project started by writer Ken Hollings and sound artist Howlround devoted exclusively to their shared love of text, audiotape and trash aesthetics. An intense collision of spoken word and analogue tape effects, the Howling’s first performance took place at the Iklectik in September 2019 as part of a special programme to celebrate Tapeworm’s 10th anniversary.

Despite the pandemic, they have managed to continue working and conferring together since then, sharing sound files, texts and mixes online, which has resulted in All Hail Mega Force, their first full-length release for Tapeworm. The two extended tracks contained on this audiocassette reflect their shared interest in Fluxus and how informal rules and permutations can be set up to work themselves out through loops and repetitions. A straight line connects Terry Riley’s tape experiments in Paris from the early 60s with their experimental recordings in the Wimpy Bar on Streatham High Road, one of their favourite meeting places. ‘The idea of instant, disposable one-off creations appealed to us a lot at the time,’ The Howling explain, ‘particularly as both pieces were conceived and developed during different phases of Covid lockdown in the UK.’

The title and source material are derived from the kid’s adventure movie MegaForce, starring Barry Bostwik and Michael Beck. Designed to sell a range of Mattel hi-tech action toys, MegaForce tanked at the box office but lives on in the collective consciousness of those who share with The Howling a special love for Trash and Trash Aesthetics.

Through A Glass VERY Darkly – MSCTY And The Madman

Hello You. It’s time to unveil episode two of my new MSCTY SCHOOL OF SOUND ART series, produced in collaboration with Nick Luscombe and his fabulous pan-global platform devoted to sound, space and architecture. This month we’re heading into the Essex Countryside in search of spooky sounds within the partially restored ruins of Copped Hall. The footage here was shot late last year while gathering raw material for the first of Andy Popperwell’s Dark Tales And Strange Sounds events that took place back in January. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that the bare brick walls, darkened staterooms and tumbledown masonry provide the most perfect setting for a bit of Haunted Radiophonics – plus it’s the single coldest building I’ve ever visited, making the frigid December day outside seem balmy in comparison. Seriously, the Hall did half the work for us!

As it happens I shall be returning to Copped Hall this weekend with Andy, Sinister Masterplan, Julia Stallard and very welcome new addition Dane Law for a second helping of Dark Tales And Sinister Sounds; but unfortunately I’m unable to invite anyone along as this second event sold out almost as quickly as the first! Hopefully the above video will provide sufficient intrigue until we can get a third dose of darkness in the diary – and perhaps even inspire a few people to have a go at haunting some houses of their own? I never cease to be amazed at the sheer transformative power of a wet finger on a wineglass!

In other news my radio show Fog Cast continues to haunt the Resonance FM airwaves every Wednesday at 23:00 UK time, providing an hour of deep listening and isolationist sounds which are (mostly) perfect for drifting off into the night. Following last week’s International Women’s Day Special, I’m delighted to now present a second episode guest-curated by Bay Area DJ, Crate Digger and Library Music Uber-Nerd Diagonals, aka Nick Daly of Oakland, California. Nick’s claims this second episode ‘has been inspired by insomnia, synesthesia and the colour blue: a feast for the ears and perhaps the eyes too’ and who could argue with that? Strap on your ear goggles and have a listen above, then head over to the Diagonals Mixcloud page for plenty more deep grooves including his first Fog Cast appearance from last month. Meanwhile, it’s currently Resonance FM fundraising season, so why not bung some cash in the direction of Fundraiser.Resonance.FM? The World’s Greatest Community Art Radio Station needs you!

Finally, I must take my hat off to the twin forces of The Dark Outside and Bibliotapes for putting together their new two-volume compilation Diary Of A Madman at such short notice in response to the crisis in Ukraine. Both cassette editions sold out within five minutes, but the digital download version is still available here, with all proceeds going straight to the Ukrainian Red Cross. My own contribution, just one of a whopping 121 tracks, is the exclusive new Howlround work ‘Vile Input’. As the name implies it’s almost certainly the single most piss-and-vinegar piece of tape noise that I’ve ever produced, but frankly what other kind of reaction would have been appropriate? Hopefully it proves as cathartic to listen to as it was to make.

Bonus points if you can correctly guess the original source material, which was actually quite a harmless and inoffensive sound until I started pushing it into the red and running it through a broken mixing desk. Like I said, entirely appropriate…

Sitting In A Room – MSCTY School Of Sound Art Meets Project DivFuse

Hello you. Very excited to finally unveil a new project that I’ve been sitting on for the last few months, created in collaboration with Nick Luscombe’s MSCTY, the long-running arts and educational hub dedicated to exploring new ways to experience the world through sound and space. Having conducted manifold installations, workshops and educational programmes in locations all over the world, for this latest endeavour they’ve tasked me with taking things back to basics. And so I’m delighted to present the first of a new series of video tutorials aimed at those relatively new to the wonderful world of sound art and seeking some inspiration for their own creative practice – but which will also provide some inspiration to those a little further down the line.

Sound creative extraordinaire, Howlround founder, tape machine manipulator and long time pal of MSCTY, Robin The Fog will have you reeling with inspiration [!]* as your teacher in the first series of MSCTY School of Sound Art.

Our mission is to demystify the world of sound’s relationship with spaces + places. We then empower you to create your own sound works in response. Using only minimal equipment and no prior knowledge, inimitable teacher Robin will open your mind to new ways to make, and have some fun along the way too. The first school term runs from February to June 2022, with lessons landing monthly via our YouTube channel.

This first episode involved a trip to Project DivFuse in Hackney, the small but perfectly-formed venue/art pod in founded and run by the artist and curator Livia Garcia. Shortly before the official opening, Livia and I conducted one of my all-time favourite sound experiments, using the four walls of DivFuse as both a source of inspiration and a sonic canvas. This video might be more of a beginner’s guide but the results were still amazing, as you’ll see in the video – what better way to prime the space for all of the intriguing artworks and performances it has played host to since?! Further assistance comes from the beautiful animations of Tim Iloobia and Steven McInerney, putting things into shape like the damn fine editor he is. So why not head over to MSCTY.Space and get involved? There’s a whole world of sonic intrigue to explore and even for you more experienced sound nerds, a quick round of resonant frequency bingo is always plenty of fun!

The launch of this video couldn’t be more perfectly timed, because this weekend I shall be returning to Project DivFuse to finally conduct the sound workshop and performance that was postponed last December. Join us on February 12th at 6pm for a unique event where tape loops will take over the entire venue – and the audience will be very much expected to help hold it all together! Tickets are only a fiver, but there are only 10 available due to the cosy dimensions of the venue – email divfuse@gmail.com for availability and payment information. I’m told there will be a small choice of non-alcoholic refreshments for sale on site – but it is possible we might end up in the pub afterwards. See you there?

The Howling onstage. Thanks to Philip Marshall for our tasty new logo!

Thanks so much to everyone who came to A Picture Of The Picture Of Dorian Gray at Iklectik last weekend to watch the second ever performance (and first in two years!) by myself and Ken Hollings as The Howling, plus amazing sets from ALPHA, Laura Agnusdei and the ever-wondrous Tears|Ov, who masterminded the whole thing. An amazing turn out and fantastic energy all night – plus our new work sounded amazing on their surround-sound PA system! The masters of our forthcoming album have now been approved, so hopefully they’ll be further developments before too long. In the meantime, what better note to end on than this image of my being flanked by David Guest and Michael Jackson, while simultaneously obscuring the image of Liza Minelli? If you were there, no further explanation will be necessary…

*That wasn’t my pun. Honestly it wasn’t…

This IS Relevant – A Picture Of The Picture Of Dorian Gray

Thrilled to announce the second ever performance by The Howling, my duo with Ken Hollings at IKLECTIK on 5th February as part of A Picture of The Picture of Dorian Gray, an evening of performances very (VERY) loosely based on the Oscar Wilde novel. Or ‘Elctroacoustic soundtracks and spoken word on the conditions of vice, vanity, and science fiction’ as promoters Tears|Ov have eloquently put it. They’ll be performing as well, alongside Laura Agnusdei and ALPHA, so while it’s not an official event of The Tapeworm and it’s sister label Wormhole, the presence of so many artists from the their rosters certainly makes it feel like it should be!

Tickets are available here and all being well the debut album by The Howling should surface later in 2022. In the meantime, check out the clip below. It’s sounding heavy!

In other news, thanks to everyone who came down to the Tape Letters From The Waiting Room launch party last Friday and also A l’écoute d’Éliane Radigue the following evening, what an amazing turnout to both events and what an absolutely fantastic weekend it ended up being! So lovely to be part of something so inspiring and to catch up with so many old friends. Mark Vernon’s live soundtrack to Steven McInerney’s latest film and the audiovisual collaboration of Pascal Savy and Hanzo Schwartz were sublime highlights of the Friday night, while the Saturday evening’s sound projection of Radigue’s pieces Arthesis (1973) and Kyema (1988), performed by GRM Director François J. Bonnet through the AMOENUS sound system that surrounded the audience was truly a rare and memorable experience.

In the round… Soundchecking the AMOENUS system

It seems only good and right to celebrate this event and the great composer’s 90th Birthday this week by dedicating the latest episode of Fog Cast to playing (almost all of) her magnificent 1978 work Triptych, which is now online and available to listen again via the link below. Happy Birthday, Eliane!

Oh, and this is happening:

…But more on that later!

Hello Darkness – A New Year Meets Old Haunts

Hello You and belated Happy New Year! Hope you had a restful festive period and managed to spend some time with your nearest and dearest. It’s been a manic start to 2022 here at Fog Towers, embarking on yet more Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Audio Preservation work, a rather intriguing new radio drama (more on both in due course), preparing for a rather important anniversary and a rapidly filling schedule of new performances and releases. Still, I reckon there’s just enough time to unload another breathless and infrequent update onto these pages…  

Let’s begin by bidding 2021 adieu, starting with my annual End Of Year Mixtape. Having compiled these for several years now, this latest episode counts as something of a departure, as I’ve decided that with so much incredible music out there casually tossing around words such as ‘Best’ and ‘Of’ was either optimistic or just hopelessly misguided. Instead this is simply a selection of sublime new tracks that happen to have crossed my Foggy threshold over the past twelve months. It’s certainly a remarkable collection of work, but by no means any kind of attempt at a ‘best of’, no siree, Bob. Such an endeavour would have involved almost certain financial ruin and definitely run to far longer than three hours. Plus I find that anything north of three hours tends to make my laptop explode.

A justifiably more confident Best Of features in the December issue of Electronic Sound magazine – and I was absolutely delighted to see that the “wonderfully tripped out” debut LP by The New Obsolescents made it to number 26! Plus they gave our recent performance at Levitation the double-page spread treatment just after the editorial! What an accolade!

Three cheers also for Buried Treasure’s Octocorallia which made it into the ES Top 5 compilations of the year! Still available to purchase and featuring two slabs of Howlround heaviness, lest you forget….

In most other respects I wasn’t sorry to bid out the old year at all. The heightening of the continued Covid Kerfuffle around Christmas resulted in the last two live shows I had booked for 2021 being postponed (including my favourite Vinyl Café’s Winter Solstice Soundscapes for the second year running!), but I’m glad I was able to squeeze in a performance as part of a duo with Andrew ‘Raxil 4’ Page at New River StudiosSKRONK 100 all-dayer at the beginning of December. I’ve known this maestro of deep dark drone for a number of years now and shared stages with him on many occasions, yet he assures me this is somehow the first time we’ve ever actually played together. Just as well he was recording it!

Also documenting the proceedings was the artist Gwendolyn Kassenaar, who created this stunning pastel drawing using our sounds as inspiration – then very kindly gave us permission to use it as cover artwork for the digital release. Have a listen below while checking out more of Gwen’s activities on her Instagram page, her work is incredible!

Originally the performance had been billed as a trio with Sam ‘Sinister Masterplan’ Enthoven, but sadly this redoubtable fellow succumbed to ‘the trendy virus’ just a couple of days beforehand. But he remained with us in spirit – and in the form of a tape loop containing a recording of his Theremin that he had emailed me the previous evening, so all was not lost.

Sam and I finally got to perform together last weekend, along with his Sinister Masterplan partner-in-crime Laura Sampson, both now thankfully out of isolation. This was part of Dark Tales and Strange Sounds at Copped Hall, a night of the weird and the eerie at the titular mansion, a ruined 18th Century country pile that has been partially restored after the devastating fire that gutted it a century ago. The event was masterminded by Andy Popperwell, one of the Hall’s army of volunteers working on the restoration, but almost certainly the only one in possession of a Masters Degree in Historic Soundscapes. Such academic intrigue was surely the inspiration behind gathering myself, Sinister Masterplan and the performer Julia Stallard together and putting on an evening of stories and sounds themed around the history of Copped Hall and the local area.

My own contribution was a sound installation in the recently restored State Room, an exclusive new tape work entitled ‘Ruled By Darkness’, inspired by an inscription underneath the sundial on the building’s facade. The source material was a single field recording made in one of the partially-refurbished upstairs rooms, manipulated on tape and recorded in something of a panic-stricken rush the previous evening (my old ‘Douglas Adams’ approach to deadlines striking once again).

Should probably have been ‘Spooled By Darkness’ in hindsight…

Combined with such turns as Sinister Masterplan’s eerie recounting of the true-life tale of a burglary in the Hall and Julia’s re-casting Boudicca as a 21st Century Essex girl / football hooligan, it made for a most entertaining evening with a sell-out crowd, who very sensibly kept their masks and coats on throughout – Copped Hall is literally the coldest building I’ve ever known and the only place I’ve ever encountered where one warms up outside! Tickets sold out in just two days, with all profits going to the restoration fund that helps the Hall put on events such as this and other community activities. A rematch is currently on the cards, so watch this space for more details. Certainly Wendy, my trusty Revox B77 seemed to enjoy her first trip outside the studio for the best part of a decade…

Seriously, I felt every pothole….

Also on the subject of new works, 2022 has already seen the first fruits of what will hopefully be a busy year for Howlround, with two appearances on the newly released Eighth Tower Records compilation album Hauntology In UK. A term that will be familiar to many regular visitors to this page, the concept of Hauntology originates of course in the work of the philosopher Jacques Derrida, but gained wider traction and cultural resonance through the writings of the late critic, theorist and blogger Mark Fisher, to whom the album is dedicated.

Fisher has posthumously assumed the sort of legendary status reserved for thinkers considered to be among the most important or insightful of their time. In Fisher’s view, the 21st century is oppressed by a crushing sense of finitude and exhaustion”; the current cultural moment is “in the grip of a formal nostalgia”, in which ostensibly “new” things are produced only through the imitation and pastiche of old forms. It was originally as a way of understanding the “loss of the future” that Fisher – in correspondence with the music critic Simon Reynolds – began to invoke the concept of hauntology.

Mark Fisher

In Ghosts of My Life, Fisher says that “What should haunt us is not the no longer of actually existing social democracy, but the not yet of the futures that popular modernism trained us to expect, but which never materialised. Hauntology is not, therefore, primarily about nostalgia: it is about imagination. Any progressive politics worthy of the name is founded on our ability to imagine a world better than the one we presently have. If capitalist realism represents the attempt to take our political imagination away from us, then hauntology can do the work to get it back.”

As well as contributions from legends of the genre such as Sonologyst, Rapoon, Pascal Savy and Grey Frequency (who also shot the rather spiffy cover art), it features two unreleased and exclusive tracks from the Howlround vault, recorded a few years back when the project was still largely considered part of Hauntology’s second wave (or it might have been third, my memory of those days is already as fuzzy as those loops were). Still, I’m certainly proud to have my work included on such a fine album and in honour of such a hugely influential figure – I’ve not forgotten the speed an enthusiasm with which I devoured Ghosts Of My Life! The limited edition CD is available to purchase here.

Tape Letters From The Waiting Room

I’ll be working with Pascal once again on January 21st as part of an event he’s curating at Iklectik. Tape Letters From The Waiting Room is both a fundraising concert for the homeless charity Crisis and also a launch party for the album of the same name: Mark Vernon’s magnificent new vinyl soundtrack to Steven McInerney’s latest film, out now on Psyché Tropes. Mark and Steve will both be performing on the night and I’m hoping to present a brand new piece I’ve been working on recently using just voice and tape – providing I can get the damn thing finished in time. If all goes according to plan it will prove something of a dramatic contrast to my more ‘p*** and vinegar’ material I’ve been working on over the past couple of years. Perhaps I’m finally mellowing in my old age? No, that can’t be it…. Anyway, tickets are available here. and the performance will be live-streamed for those who cannot attend. Can’t wait for this!

Photo by Eleonore Huisse

I’m also thrilled to announce that for the following two days Iklectik are hosting A l’écoute d’Éliane Radigue, a two-day celebration of the work of legendary composer, with GRM Director François J. Bonnet (aka Kassel Jaeger) coming in from France to act as sound projectionist in her absence. They’ve asked me to provide a DJ selection for the opening night and needless to say I jumped at the chance. What an absolute thrill to finally hear such incredible works on their amazing new soundsystem! Further details here

Shaping up to be a busy year already, isn’t it?! 

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.