Hello you. Great excitement this week, not only because it’s time for the first Near Mint Show of 2017, but mostly because for this latest episode of Resonance FM‘s number 1 show devoted to the joys of obsessive record collecting, I’m handing the keys over to fabulous New York based label The Ship to Shore Phonograph Company. Label boss Aaron Hamel has been kind enough to put together an exclusive guest mix for the show, hand-picked from their back-catalogue of cult film music, video game soundtracks and all manner of delightful weirdness in-between, reissued in deluxe vinyl editions – plus the odd wax cylinder. You are in for a treat!
Yes, it is indeed an embarrassment of riches, but the obvious place to start is a cut from one of their earliest releases (and the album that brought them onto my radar), a blood-red vinyl issue of the soundtrack to Manos: The Hands Of Fate. Notice I said ‘issue’ rather than ‘reissue’, because frankly I’m not sure many other labels would have considered giving this ‘brave experiment’ of a movie the OST treatment up to now. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of falling into the hands of Manos, I can reveal that it was a low-budget, low-talent, low-everything 1966 atrocity made as a bet by a Texas fertiliser salesman. Punishingly hard to watch, appallingly acted and bafflingly edited, it makes Plan 9 From Outer Space look like 2001: A Space Odyssey; yet if imbibed for long enough it’s becomes oddly, surreally entertaining.
What passes for a plot is a riff on that old horror staple of a family on vacation losing their way, with our heroes in this instance ending up at a remote desert ranch populated by Torgo, a creepy henchman with enormous knees and ‘The Master’, who looks not unlike a sort of satanic Bob Carolgees (ask your Dad). What we can say for sure about the film is that the fertiliser salesman won his bet. And that the soundtrack of skronky jazz and slightly skewed torch-songs is not without its lo-fi charms. Other soundtracks in the mix include the delightfully creepy main title themes from George A Romero’s Martin and Frank Henenlotter’s Frankenhooker. I have to confess to not having been exposed to either of these films as yet (and having read online synopsis I’m not sure I would wish to be), but the soundtracks do make me curious for more – plus both must surely be blockbusters in comparison with Manos.
As well as vintage film soundtracks, the label also specialises in archive video game music and the show features tracks from Taito house band ZUNTATA’s Arcade Classics Vol. 1 and Konami Kukeiha Club’s soon to be released soundtrack to the Sega CD game SNATCHER. Finally, things are brought right up to date with a track from Thomas Happ’s soundtrack to his own Axiom Verge video game, a recent release very much modelled on late 80s / early 90s side-scrolling platform adventures such as Metroid. Just as the graphics and gameplay take inspiration from the pixelated games of yore, the soundtrack also plays with the pallet of 8 bit bleeps and chirps beloved of that era and the subsequent ‘chiptune’ movement; but toughened with additional bass weight and additional shades of techno and dubstep over the top. Nicely done, Mr. Happ!
You can keep up to date with the label’s activities by visiting their website Shiptoshoremedia.com and I for one am trying very hard to resist the temptation to head there right now and throw $$$ around like it’s going out of fashion. Thanks to Aaron and everyone at the label for treating us to such an awesome mix and I’ll hopefully be welcoming them back on the show before very long. I’m pretty sure The Master would approve – isn’t that right, Torgo?
Hello you. This second part of my 2016 retrospective was supposed to appear on these pages over a week ago, but the new year has brought with it fresh challenges and fresh demands for my attention, so there’s been precious little time to marshal thoughts and stockpile memories to treasure. I realise that by now it’s probably far too late harp on about the old year, particularly as so many of you are probably trying to blot out the fact that it ever happened. Nonetheless, I’m a firm believer in starting each new year with a blank canvas, and that a certain amount of deck-clearing and slate-cleaning is paramount before doing so. Plus the fact is that despite the many unpleasant and upsetting incidents that occurred, both personally and in the world at large, the year still offered up a number of opportunities to engage in highly stimulating projects, many of which I consider to be worthy of at least one last hurrah before I finally send them packing. So here, with minimum of fuss, are ten randomly selected moments that actually gave me reason to get out of bed in 2016:
1. Live at the Brunel Museum:
Starting off nice and simple, Howlround’s final set of the year took place just a few weeks ago at the bottom of Brunel’s shaft in Rotherhithe, East London, courtesy of Adam Parkinson, Rob Mullender and Goldsmith’s EAVI collective. Could there be a more appropriate venue for our performance of industrial-mechanical concréte sounds played out on vintage equipment? Off the top of my head, only one, but that comes along later…
2. Radio Revolten:
As part of a month-long series of experimental broadcasts and performances in the East German city of Halle, Howlround provided two live Revolten sessions, the first a live performance alongside Chris Cutler (in fact, due to his having to catch an early flight we were technically headlining!) and then the studio session broadcasting live on FM across Saxany-Anhalt, from which the above clip is taken. Oh, and I also ended up DJing for almost six hours in the cinema and then spent most of my wages on weird old electronica LPs in a sleep-deprived stupor. A damn fine way to spend a week, all told, if little costly. Thanks to Knut and Sarah from Radio Revolten and Glenn from Octopus Collective for making it all possible, plus Gabi Schaffner for this decidedly spiffy photo:
3. Halim El-Dabh Profile:
What an honour it was to talk to the great man and pioneering composer Halim El-Dabh for Radio 4, in celebration of his new album Sanza Time, produced in collaboration with the musician Ron Slabe and released during his 95th summer. Halim first made electronic music history far back in 1944, and has no plans to retire any time soon (‘I have a whole big job ahead of me!’ he chuckled when I broached the subject), let’s hope we can all match that sense of wonder and excitement when approaching our own centenaries. Frankly I’m still amazed Radio 4 let me cover it…
4. East Tower Residency, White City:
Produced in conjunction with arts organisation White Noise and Resonance FM, Howlround’s brief here was to create a site-specific performance and a suite of recordings designed to capture the essence of this unloved and neglected part of the former BBC Television Centre complex in the weeks up to its demolition. Using nothing but the sounds of the building, the project began with wandering around the deserted upper floors gathering source material and ended with a live performance and broadcast from the top of the tower in front of an audience of invited guests. A personal highlight was discovering the most magnificent bass tones simply by pushing my sound recorder into a large cardboard tube left in one of the offices and hitting record – hey presto, phat dubstep-style bass with no effort at all! Strange to think that these recordings are now pretty much all that is left of this former long-term home of youth programming, the destruction of which came almost immediately afterwards. Whereas Amboy, that other main inspiration for recordings produced this year, had been a more or less a ghost for years and remains so today, this building was rapidly becoming one the entire time I was there. Now there’s practically nothing to show it ever existed. Apart from some luxury flats, but it’s not as if they’re in short supply in London nowadays, is it? Still got a handful of recordings from these sessions I’d like to put out at some point….
5. Delia Derbyshire Day:
A report produced for Radio 4 back in January, celebrating the legacy of the pioneering ‘sculptress of sound’ Delia Derbyshire through premiering rare and previously unreleased recordings from her archive, commissioning new works from modern artists inspired by her work; and even engaging in Radiophonic composition workshops for children and families. A pleasing mixture of unheard treasures and opportunities to inspire ‘the next generation of wonky musicians’ as workshop leader Caro C put it. ‘I think [Delia] would have been ticked pink …and then pitched in!’ added archive custodian Dr. David Butler. Could not have said it better myself…
6. The Museum Of Last Parties:
The most amazing evening, performing at the Museum of London at the behest of the ever dapper of Mr. Jonny Trunk. Howlround spooled tape loops with DJ Food on decks ‘n’ FX to create a sound installation over the course of several hours, all to an audience lounging on asteroid-shaped beanbags and all in the very shadow of the 2012 Olympic Torch! We haven’t yet had a moment to go through the three hours of recordings we captured that night, but I’m sure it’ll surface somewhere eventually. Quintuple vinyl box set, anyone?
7. The Blow Vol. 2:
So proud of this split cassette recorded with Time Attendant for Manchester’s Front And Follow label. Howlround’s side of the cassette was created entirely from a single sound source discovered on a trip to legendary almost-ghost town Amboy in the Mojave desert, with my friend Kaitlyn and a Garth Brooks CD. The strangest thing is how cold and slushy it ended up sounding, despite being recorded on one of the hottest, driest days I’ve ever experienced, something that I’m putting down once again to the endlessly transformative properties of tape. The reviews went even further:
‘Manually manipulating reels that feel like they’ve only recently been exhumed, the duo weave a dense tapestry as haunting and immersive as Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson‘s Legend Of Hell House Soundtrack’ – The Wire, Nov 2016
8. Live at Brompton Cemetery:
Beating Brunel’s shaft by a narrow margin (not a sentence I ever imagined typing), venue of the year was certainly the gothic domed splendour of this listed Victorian chapel as part of the London Month Of The Dead festival. Set in the heart of one of London’s historic ‘Gardens Of Sleep’, could there be a more suitable venue for a candlelit autumnal performance of Howlround’s ghostly tape loops, unearthly wheezings and spooky clankings; all consumed by a sell-out crowd through the warm fuggy glow of a Hendrik’s gin cocktail, one of the strongest liquids this scribe has ever imbibed? I very much doubt it! Once again, nothing has been done with the recordings as of yet, but I’m quite sure they’ll come back to haunt us all eventually, once I get a moment to go through them! Thanks to Stephen from Antique Beat, Suzette from A Curious Invitation and that one lady who jumped up to help when one of the tapes started spooling all over the floor of the chapel. Greatly obliged, all….
Thanks must also go to Nick and Sam of Hook Research, who shot this rather super video of my preparations for the performance as part of an article entitled ‘Hearing Hidden Worlds’:
9. Cities And Memory London Underground Sound Map:
Cities and Memory in collaboration with The London Sound Survey produced this epic sound-map of the London Underground that mixes up field recordings of many of the stations on the network with a number of artistic interpretations provided by a diverse selection of musicians, producers and sound artists. Perfect for getting lost in, you could spend hours happily immersed in the huge amount of work available for you perusal. Or if you happen to be in a hurry, Howlround’s own contribution, a treatment of Embankment Station, can be found here. Far more pleasurable than having to interact with the London Underground in real life, as I’m sure I won’t need to tell you.
10. A Creak In Time:
As a final choice this was a no-brainer. Two years in the making, Howround’s fifth album proper is the soundtrack to an astonishing experimental film by Australian director Steven McInerney, released on 180g vinyl (complete with streaming and download links) on his own Psyché Tropes imprint. Almost certainly the most beautiful looking-and-sounding project I’ve ever been involved with. It’s early days still, but already had kind words from DJ Food and Dr. Alex Paterson of The Orb, with hopefully more to follow. Order your copy here.
For this soundtrack, the group have created their most ambitious work yet, made entirely from tiny and insignificant sounds, that, when amplified and extended via magnetically charged oxide particles of the tape, take on a dramatic new identity. Taken from source material discovered in London, Yosemite and the Mojave desert, these sounds, through simple manipulation, gradually cast off their moorings and head into space, chiming perfectly with the film’s recurring themes of transformation and altered perception, switching scale in a heartbeat from microscopic topography to the vast distances of the cosmos. Shot entirely on 16mm film with a musique concréte soundtrack, it’s both science and fiction combined, marking a dramatic new direction for all involved.
Well, that’s enough to be getting on with. There was so much else I could have written about, so many other great moments – I haven’t even touched on all the amazing episodes of Near Mint, for example – but this is probably enough to be getting on with. Plus the bar where I’m typing this is playing a soundtrack full of those heartfelt acoustic songs that are always about catching people if and when they fall, so I think we’ll just consider my slate well and truly cleaned and hopefully you’ll join me in heading into the New Year with a smile on our lips and a song in our hearts.
I’m probably the last person on Earth to get round to it, but ‘Happy Belated New Year, Everyone’! Wishing you and yours all the very better for 2017….
Presented for your delectation, my now traditional (this is the third!) musical review of the departed year in mixtape form, featuring great big slabs of some of the amazing sounds that graced the Foggy turntable over the last 12 months. 2016 was an absolutely fantastic year for music of all genres, which is just as well, because it was a truly rotten year in just about every other respect. And in these straightened times, I’m convinced that it’s more necessary than ever to accentuate the positives and try and use the current rude health of our culture as a noisy way of blotting out all the crass, vulgar, wealthy, sneering, tax-avoiding faces that otherwise seem to have a complete monopoly on the media….
To whit, just have a look at some of the produce on offer here: From Kid Lib fusing my two great loves of Radiophonics and Jungle, Sculpture at the top of their game and new releases from old friends such as Brood Ma, Kemper Norton and Mark Vernon; to discovering artists such as Vanessa Amara, Tongues Of Light and even a new release from legendary electronic music pioneer Halim El Dabh! I could go on (and frequently do – incessantly, so I’m told), but it’s probably better just to let you dive in and the sample the delights first-hand. Strap on your ear-goggles and let’s roll:
Of course there were many tracks I didn’t have time to include, but honourable mentions must go in particular to Tom White, Rothko with Johny Brown, Tetherdown, Puce Mary, rkss and Monkeys In Love (for this adorable promo video alone – admit you wish these people were your friends). It’s amazing how quickly two hours vanishes when you have so much quality to choose from.
If forced to pick one musical highlight of 2016, I would say the biggest musical surprise was certainly the return of Aussie sample overlords The Avalanches – with apologies to those of you who apparently assumed it would be a recording of a squeaky gate or a radiator or something. If you had told me this time last year that they would be imminently releasing a follow-up to their much-loved Since I Left You after a sixteen year hiatus, I would never have believed you. Had you told me it would actually prove to be on a par with their debut (and in some ways eclipse it), I would have summoned you a nurse. But there you have it, sometimes the hype truly is justified. It should have been a sprawling, unfocused mess and in many ways it was, but complete with a gossamer light touch and the sense that it was all being flung together effortlessly in front of your ears. And, most crucially, in a year in very short supply of simple joy, Wildflower was an album completely stuffed with it. Bravo, gents. Just don’t keep us waiting so long for a third….
That tracklist in full (because it seems Mixcloud doesn’t do that any more):
- Tongues Of Light – Healing (Extract)
- Kid Lib – Falling
- Demdike Stare – Sourcer
- Lone – Triple Helix
- Sculpture – Zyprazol
- Brood Ma – Molten Brownian Motion 1
- Konx-om-Pax – Stay
- The Sprawl – Drowning In Binary
- Ordinate – OR21
- Matmos – Ultimate Care II (Extract)
- Graham Dunning – Fictional Toxins
- Cosmic Neighbourhood – Dragonfly
- Dan Hayhurst – Polyphase
- Cavern Of Anti Matter – Hi Hats Bring The Hiss
- Merz – Serene
- Assembled Minds – Through The Morris Light
- The Avalanches – If I Was A Folkstar
- Beatrice Dillon & Rupert Clervaux – A Different River Once (Extract)
- The Avalanches – Saturday Night Inside Out
- Tom Scott – Dewpoint
- Freeholm Wilson – House By The Sea
- The Dandelion Set – Judy Switched Off The TV
- Anohni – 4 Degrees
- Revbjelde – Strensham Chunt
- Ekoplekz – Working Man’s Dub
- Halim El Dabh & Ron Slabe – Cirrocumulus
- CukoO – Rain
- Drömloch – Beguine
- Sarah Angliss – Jellied Heel
- Kemper Norton – Seven Stones 2
- Tongues Of Light – Healing (Extract)
- Vanessa Amara – Untitled (From ‘You’re Welcome Here’)
- Mark Vernon – Cracked Shell (Tape Transplant)
- Mark Vernon – See You On The Other Side
Hello You. Hope you have had a splendid Christmas with lots of family, food and fun in the correct ratios. I got two whole days off and spent them mostly outside surrounded by a blur of dogs, so I was happy. I was even happier on Boxing Day, which brought glad tidings of not one but two lengthy packages aired by the BBC that evening, in spite of my being ensconced up in the hills of Cumbria in the midst of the aforementioned canine-blur. Thanks to these tidings, I’m able to finally share with you a short radio drama I produced a few months ago with award-winning Nigerian-American author Nnedi Okorafor. It’s a piece of fiction she wrote inspired by a particular 419 Scam letter that went viral earlier this year.
419 letters, a kind of ‘phishing scam’ designed to trick gullible people into parting with their money, are a common enough occurrence, of course. Shortly after the death of Michael Jackson, I received an email that purported to be from his Doctor, claiming that as the King Of Pop™ was now unable to complete the ‘charity tour’ he had been planning, this had somehow freed up millions of dollars that he now wished to donate posthumously to sad orphans with leprosy or something. It speaks volumes that this arrived in my inbox at roughly the same time as the quack in question being sentenced to jail on prime-time US television for the involuntary manslaughter of the most famous person EVER. Most 419s are more sanguine and keep their feet firmly on the ground: they are generally written by pastors or exceptionally pious widows who happen to find themselves sat on a veritable goldmine that they can’t access due to a cruelly bureaucratic twist of fate – and only a random internet user like YOU can save the day. Generally banal but not inconceivable, it’s certainly true that very few of these letters play quite so fast and loose with the outer limits of plausibility as this one from a Mr. Bakare Tunde:
I am […] the cousin of Nigerian Astronaut, Air Force Major Abacha Tunde. He was the first African in space when he made a secret flight to the Salyut 6 space station in 1979. He was on a later Soviet spaceflight, Soyuz T-16Z to the secret Soviet military space station Salyut 8T in 1989. He was stranded there in 1990 when the Soviet Union was dissolved. His other Soviet crew members returned to earth on the Soyuz T-16Z, but his place was taken up by return cargo. There have been occasional Progrez supply flights to keep him going since that time. He is in good humor, but wants to come home. In the 14-years since he has been on the station, he has accumulated flight pay and interest amounting to almost $ 15,000,000 American Dollars […]
You get the idea – it’s basically a piece of science fiction that has now inspired another. Produced over the course of several weeks during the summer and with a voice track recorded from Lagos down the world’s worst ISDN line, ‘Afrofuturist 419’ was finally published a month or so ago in science fiction journal Clarkesworld Magazine, who very kindly allowed it to be broadcast on the BBC World Service’s flagship news programme Focus On Africa in celebration of Nnedi’s recent awards success. Here, Focus presenter Audrey Brown introduces the story:
It’s traditional to tell each other spooky stories at this time of year, but today we’re bringing you something a little bit different. The Nigerian American writer Nnedi Okorafor has had a particularly busy year, with her science fiction story Binti winning both the 2016 Nebula and Hugo Awards for best novella, adding to the long list of accolades for her stories that explore other worlds and fantastical realms while retaining a strong connection to her Nigerian heritage – part of a wider tradition that has become known as ‘Afrofuturism’.
Here she presents her own take on a rather less noble form of storytelling that also got a lot of attention in 2016 – a so-called ‘419 scam letter’ begging for help in getting a stranded Nigerian Astronaut back to Earth. Recently published in celebrated American journal Clarkesworld Magazine, this audio version stars famous Nollywood actor Tchidi Chikere, members of the BBC’s Hausa service – and our own Robin [The Fog] on hand to provide the Sound FX. It’s not for the faint hearted…
Incidentally, it may interest you to know that the various sounds of ‘The Thing’ that features in the story were largely created with handfuls of paper and soap, while the bleeping spaceship atmosphere was provided by analogue synth tinkerer Mr. Jonny Stutters. You can find the transcript as it appeared in Clarkesworld here. The post also features the original audio files of the story, which can be accessed directly here. But for the full effect, listen again to Focus On Africa’s Boxing Day edition here for the next thirty days or so. Extra special thanks to Nnedi and Tchidi for being such a pleasure to work with, Haruna, Maura and Rachel from the BBC’s African services, Jonny and his magic bleeping boxes and of course to Clarkesworld Editor-in-Chief Neil Clarke for allowing us to broadcast it in the first place. Much obliged to you all!
All this excitement was followed a few hours later by something much more earth-bound and traditional, a seven-minute report I produced on the history of audiobooks at Christmas that closed that evening’s edition of The World Tonight on Radio 4. Introduced by Matthew Rubery, author of recently-published The Untold Story Of The Talking Book, it features numerous ghosts of Christmas past – quite literally with the inclusion of a 1934 recording of perennial favourite A Christmas Carol as well as the vintage voices of Charles Laughton and Dylan Thomas bringing us some festive tales of days gone by. You can listen to the feature as it went out on The World Tonight on the BBC website here (about half an hour into the programme) for the next few weeks, thought it’s probably best consumed within the next day or so, while savouring your last vestiges of Christmas cheer.
Speaking of which, while it doesn’t have much to do with our business here today, I used my Christmas gift token to buy a copy of the new Oxygene 3 album by Jean-Michel Jarre. Dear old Father Fog used to play me a cassette of the original Oxygene to calm me down as a baby, in doing so perhaps unwittingly kick-starting my complete infatuation with all aspects of electronic sound. It’s a work I’ve always loved and this latest volume is a most worthy addition to the series, but I can’t help feeling that someone in the packaging department might be harbouring a grudge against the Gallic synth master:
Not very respectful, but it did raise a giggle or two when shared on Facebook. Don’t worry, M. Jarre. I still love you! I really do, actually…
Hello you. It’s been an exciting couple of weeks, what with the physical stock of the new Howlround LP A Creak In Time finally touching down at Psyché Tropes HQ and our undertaking a busy weekend of live shows to celebrate its arrival. It all kicked off on Friday afternoon with the vinyl finally showing up – and the curious sensation of something in the air that evening as I travelled across the capital on my way to yet another one of my glamorous showbiz shindigs. Moments later I was proved quite literally correct when I emerged from Liverpool Street station, looked up at the sky and beheld that the very moon itself had taken on an uncanny resemblance to the album’s sleeve-art. Next thing I know, I’m getting a buzz in my pocket with the news of a long-awaited arrival in Hackney Central. Could this be some sort of sign? An emphatic YES, quite frankly:
I was regrettably unable to personally capture this moment – commuters were tutting and zig-zagging past me, plus my phone doesn’t even have ‘Snake’ on it – but thankfully fellow sound-shaper Janine A’Bear responded to some frantic texting and took the above photograph from her garden in Amhurst Road. Of course a mere snapshot could never do justice to the full incomprehensible wonder of the celestial miracle being worked high above our heads (the moon being quite a long way from Hackney, after all), but I do hope it offers you some idea of the kind of mystical forces that are clearly throwing their cosmic heft behind this latest project – bending the conventional laws of physics to give the UK’s premier experimental tape-loop quartet a lunar leg-up. I hereby have the utmost confidence in proclaiming Howlround the first ever band to successfully incorporate a heavenly body into a promotional campaign and to henceforth brand this the greatest and most cost-effective piece of viral marketing EVER. How you like them silver apples, Coca Cola?!
The following morning I was able to inspect the vinyl first-hand and I have to say it’s been more than worth the wait. A Creak In Time looks and sounds absolutely magnificent, beautifully mastered and pressed on heavyweight 180g vinyl with full-colour inner and outer sleeves, as well as a link to stream the film in full online and of course the obligatory digital download. Full credit must go to film director, creative whirlwind and Psyché Tropes lynchpin Steven McInerney for doing such a fantastic job of putting it all together. Please watch the trailer, enjoy these glossy promotional shots of the album in all its glory, then head over to the Psyché Tropes website to order a copy of your own:
Thanks also to everyone who came down to IKLECTIK the following evening for the official launch party, held as part of a two day residency by sound artist Pascal Savy. The event featured live performances from Pascal, Steve under his Merkaba Macabre alias and of course ourselves; as well as the premier screening of the A Creak In Time in front of an extremely enthusiastic audience. Could their be a more appropriate venue for launching such a project into the world than this secret corner of central London that still retains much sense of its previous life as a Buddhist monastery? Thanks once again to Pascal for inviting us. Hoping to hear new music from him in 2017 as well!
The following evening, and in keeping with Howlround’s ever-growing reputation for playing in unusual venues, we played the Rotherhithe Shaft at the Brunel Museum, a remarkable piece of engineering history now given a new life as a performance and exhibition space. Part of another two-day residency, this time courtesy of Goldsmith’s College and their regular EAVI events; we shared the bill with Lee Patterson, Áine O’Dwyer and the duo of Wajid Yaseen & Anthony Elliot. I must say this was one of my favourite performances of the 2016, an absolutely fantastic event and a great way to finish off a busy year. Even if Elizabeth did conk out about ten minutes into the show. Oh, those stubborn old ladies…
You can jude for yourself by listening to an extract from our set above, a loose interpretation of one of the tracks from the A Creak In Time using some of the loops that didn’t quite make the final cut. It might not quite capture the effect of blazing it out at high volume deep within the bowels of the earth, but it will hopefully offer an impression of just how deep and dark things got – literally! Thanks again to Adam, Rob and the team for having us. I wonder where we should try and play next? ‘First band on the moon’ would certainly be a nice accolade and after this week’s happenings it all seems a little less highly implausible…
Finally, in a change of subject, please enjoy not one but TWO editions of Resonance FM’s Near Mint show, in an attempt to atone for my slackness in bringing them to your attention over the last couple of weeks – although frankly there are only so many hours in the day. Entitled ‘Copenhagen Contemporary Classics’ and ‘Slightly Strange Sevens’ they respectively contain some of the most beautiful recordings I’ve bought to you over the last few months – and some of the very strangest. For best results, listen to these shows end-to-end, enjoying the curious frisson that comes from juggling the austere minimalist majesty of the likes of Vanessa Amara against recorded instructions on how to play the bongos, balance your ‘equipment’ or operate a typewriter at 130wpm. As so frequently happens on these pages, it’s a chance to celebrate once again the subtle interplay between the utterly sublime and the completely ridiculous:
Right, that’ll do it for now. Suppose I’d better get cracking on putting my end of year music mix together. It’s been a particularly bumper crop for 2016, which given the state of the world at the moment is just as well….
Hello You. And welcome to a most exciting and auspicious day in the History of Howl! For it is today that, following a seemingly endless period of keeping the whole thing under our hats, I can finally reveal to you Howlround’s latest and greatest work, a unique audio-visual project produced in collaboration with filmmaker Steven McInerney and bearing the title A Creak In Time.
Two years in the making, the original soundtrack LP is now available to pre-order from the Psyché Tropes label, pressed on heavyweight 180g vinyl with printed inner sleeve. Plus each copy comes complete with digital album download and a link to stream the film in full online. All that for a bargain £12 plus shipping. Not too shabby!
It’s a hugely proud moment to be sharing this with you, it’s been a long trip putting this project together we’ve been stubbornly refusing to let anything out the gate until it was just right. Steve in particular has been a real lynchpin, agonising over every shot, every cut and every frame – but as you can see from these production stills it’s been more than worth the effort. Just take a look at some of the images below, they’re nothing short of astonishing!
From The Obligatory Press Release:
The players: Comprised of Robin The Fog, Chris Weaver and four reel to reel tape machines, Howlround create unique and immersive compositions and performances by direct manipulation of natural acoustic sounds on magnetic tape, with all additional effects and artificial reverb strictly forbidden. For this soundtrack, their most ambitious yet, the group have created a striking body of work made entirely from field recordings of different objects creaking: tiny and insignificant sounds, that, when amplified and extended via magnetically charged oxide particles begin to take on a curious new identity.
…Taken from source material discovered in London, Yosemite and the Mojave desert, these sounds, through simple manipulation, gradually cast off their moorings and head into space, leaving their original identities far behind and chiming perfectly with the film’s recurring themes of transformation and altered perception, switching scale in a heartbeat from microscopic topography to the vast distances of the cosmos. Shot entirely on 16mm film with a musique concréte soundtrack, it’s both science and fiction and marks a dramatic new direction for all involved.
The Director: Steven McInerney is an Australian born multidisciplinary artist based in London. He is the founder of Psyché Tropes, an experimental label and film project focusing on the synaesthetic intersections between sound and its visual counterpart. Working predominately with 16mm and sound he creates recherché non-narrative works using in-camera and camera-less filmmaking techniques while performing live audio visual shows as Merkaba Macabre.
Official Album Launch and Premier Screening on Saturday December 10th
Of course any album worth it’s 180g needs a launch party and it just so happens that we have two – sort of! First off there’s the Official Launch and Premier Screening of the film at London’s Iklektik on Saturday 10th December as part of a two-day residency by artist Pascal Savy. It will be the first ever public outing of A Creak In Time and there will be live performances by Howlround, Steve’s Merkaba Macabre alter-ego and of course Pascal himself to celebrate. A former Buddhist temple and one of the Capital’s best-kept secrets, we can’t think of a more appropriate venue from which to launch this new project in style! Further information is available here and tickets, which are expected to sell sharp-ish, can be found here. Please come celebrate with us if you can!
If you can’t make Saturday night, Howlround will also be playing a (moderately!) more traditional tape loop set at the world-famous Brunel Museum the following evening, Sunday 11th December. No stranger to unusual venues, we’ll be spooling up inside the tunnel shaft itself alongside Lee Patterson, Áine O’Dwyer and Wajid Yaseen & Anthony Elliot, all at the behest of of Goldsmiths as part of their regular EAVI events. OK, so not exactly a launch party per se – it would be a little cheeky/wildly inaccurate to suggest that all these goodly folk were gathered here purely because we happen to have a new record to show off, but we’re certainly hoping it will help spread the word a little further. Tickets are available here. NB as both of these events happen to be spread over the weekend, do please make sure you’ve got the right dates!
Hello you. A hurried post today in an attempt to partially clear the decks for some rather large business that’s expected to be announced imminently. But before I get caught up in whirlwind, heat and flash, I wanted to make sure that before anything else happened you had a chance to get your ears around the latest edition of Near Mint on Resonance FM, which this weeks pays a return visit to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and the record collection of DJ, musician, collector, anglophile and cultural historian Nick Daly, proprietor of the Diagonals blog.
It’s another classic selection of beautiful treasure and glorious trash, the former provided by the Children of the Italia Conti School and our old friend Jean Jacques Perrey amongst others, the latter very much in attendance thanks to the appearance of a snippet of that hardy old classic Picking Up Girls Made Easy!, a rather sordid 1970s LP apparently designed to offer dating tips to unbelievably shallow young men with unbelievably tight trousers. This grubby little volume and I have crossed paths before, as it appeared on the third episode of my 2013 Resonance FM series Looking Good, Feeling Great (the aptly-titled ‘A Peculiar Kind Of Emptiness‘) and yet somehow it still remains miles outside of my price range. For this reason I must thank LPCoverLover.com for unwittingly allowing me to borrow their high-def scan of the cover:
But that’s not all, folks. Nick spent so much time agonising over both this week’s show and the previous instalment that he’s actually compiled a third mix of outtakes and off-cuts which is actually significantly longer than both of these shows put together! I was going to embed it right here on the blog, but for ridiculous reason that I can’t understand or explain, WordPress is having absolutely none of it and refusing to let me embed the Mixcloud player. So I shall have to just inform you that you can find it complete with a full tracklist and sleevenotes on the Diagonals blog HERE and leave you to it.
Bravo once again, Mr. Daly. Rumour has it he might just have some sort of album of his own due in the new year. Keep your ears to the wind for that one…