Hello you. Crumbs, it feels like my feet have barely touched the ground this last week. The above recording was extracted from a marathon ninety-minute tape loop session broadcast live from the Radio Revolten studio in Rathausstraße as part of their month-long series of experimental broadcasts, performances, installations, workshops and much more taking place throughout October in the city of Halle, Germany. It was tremendous and chaotic fun and I have it on good authority that people were tuning in from as far afield as Catalonia, Ohio and Wales to savour the beautiful chaos of threading up four machines with slightly wonky tape loops and trying to keep them in order. Sadly, it being a radio broadcast, they didn’t get to also enjoy the equally beautiful mess we made of the studio:
The previous evening we had performed in the adjoining Club Revolten concert space to a packed house alongside legendary percussionist Chris Cutler and electronics whizz Víctor Mazón Gardoqui. As well as broadcasting it live, the good folk of Radio Revolten have podcasted our set in full for your enjoyment and you can also read an intriguing review by the artist Gabi Schaffner (who also took these photos) here.
“Loops are such strange things…or (better maybe) concepts? In one way they are limited, and in another way they are endless. In one way they connect to the myth of the Eternal Return, and in another way – like in modification or decay – they present an ongoing series of variations that mimic almost physiological processes […] Some of them recalled recordings made underwater, some howled like FM tones, some just hovered under your active awareness like a foggy notion. Close to the end of the concert a series of „standing waves“ piled up, slowly, one after another, and collapsed in slow motion … a showdown of acoustic phantoms reeling in epical dissolution.”
Thanks to everyone who came down or tuned in and thanks to Knut, Sarah and the Revolten team for not only having us but for giving us our own office in which to conduct a marathon two-day cutting and splicing workshop in preparation!
Despite all this relentless activity, which also included my marathon, non-stop, five-hour DJ set for local cinema Kino-Zazie, there was still time to enjoy excellent performances from Mary Stark and Willem De Ridder plus film screenings and a bespoke programme from the Full Of Noises archive curated by Glenn Boulter. There was even time for a field trip to inspect the transmitter, perched on a tower high above the town, which required a slightly terrifying trip up a spiral staircase hanging precariously off the parapet. Worth it just for the view over Saxony-Anhalt!
Anyway, Radio Revolten continues broadcasting on FM, AM and online until the end of the month, so do tune in. I’m particularly looking forward to catching ‘Dead Air Spaces’, a new bespoke work by Radiophrenia’s Mark Vernon on the evening of the 25th at 8pm (7pm UK time). Mark also very kindly gave me a copy of his latest LP Lend An Ear, Leave A Word, a project that mixes field recordings of contemporary Lisbon with vintage recordings from tapes, micro-casettes and dictaphones found in one of the city’s flea markets. It’s great!
The sleevenotes list the source material as including drunken conversations about stolen car parts, baby recordings, crying in a public toilet, pouring sparkling wine, wowing, fluttering, crosstalk, feedback, pause button clunks etc., and in Mark’s hands these recordings soon mulch and ferment together, particularly on the second side where the sounds leave their moorings completely and set course for uncharted territory. It’s perhaps his finest work to date. More information on both his performance and this album can be found at his own Meagre Resource website here. Take my advice and order yourself a copy of the vinyl quick!
In fact, while we’re discussing recordings made by fellow performers, I must also plug Mary Stark‘s Summoning Ghosts Of Industries Past, a limited edition cassette on Graham Dunning’s Fractal Meat label that covers subject matter very similar to her performance at Club Revolten, projecting hand-cut loops of 16mm film and mixing the optical sound with field recordings and amplified sowing machine to create beautiful eulogy to bygone industries and obsolete technology. It’s thrilling to watch her put it together live, of course, but the recordings are equally worthy of your attention. Only a tiny handful of copies left – be quick!
Speaking of recordings for sale, I did manage to find half an hour to sneak out for a quick browse in a local record emporium before the broadcast, returning with an armful of intriguing East German synth, scholastic and soundtrack bits and bobs that I shall endeavour to share with you anon. In the meantime, this brings us rather neatly back to the UK and to this week’s edition of Near Mint, which pays a return visit to the record bag of legendary collector, mash-up merchant and analogue synth-tinkerer Ben Soundhog:
Featuring this week some Ashe Bohsle, some Keith Mansfield, another banking jingle that unblushingly demands of its listener ‘why not get rich?’ and lastly, perhaps ultimately, a tragic spoken word disco monologue from this chap:
For those of you reading from faraway lands or those classed as ‘millennials’, Benny was a loveable simpleton empliyed as a handyman at the Crossroads Motel, a famously awful soap opera filmed on a budget of about £10 which ran on British Television for far, far too long and, despite it’s appalling production values remains fondly remembered nationwide by women of a certain age. So popular was it, in fact, that not only did my dear old Grandma Fog refer to it as ‘me programme’ when it came on, (and woe betide anyone who interrupted it to ask for a biscuit), but it’s legions of fans propelled this single and it’s blundering hat-bothering narrator to the giddy heights of number 39 in the British Hit Parade. Crumbs, Britain in the 1970s must have been a strange place…
Right, I was supposed to proof-read this before posting, but I’m meeting Father Fog and promised him a Halloumi Burger, so this will have to do for the moment. Typos, bad links and other complaints dealt with on my return…
Hello You. The tape Gods having been most merciful, I’m happy to report that Howlround escaped Brompton Cemetery last week with all but one of the machines intact. Sadly, latest addition to the team Jenyth has temporarily given up the ghost, which was particularly upsetting after last week’s melting incident put our grand old Studer Elsa out of service for a good few weeks. Still, the remaining machines did a throughly capable job, even if the loops did get a bit tangled and even if one of the spools did have to be rescued by a helpful member of the audience. Huge thanks to her and to everyone who came down and sold the place out, especially hosts Stephen and Suzette of Antique Beat and A Curious Invitation respectively.
It was a truly amazing night, albeit one that I’m having trouble recalling thanks to the extreme potency of the gin cocktails they were serving. In order to keep focused on the job I insisted on not partaking of mine until after our set, by which point, it later transpired, they had run out of pineapple juice and were making up for the shortfall by just adding more gin. Frankly, it’s a wonder I ever got home. At the time of writing I’m busy preparing for Howlround’s forthcoming show this Sunday as part of the Radio Revolten festival in the German city of Halle, so I haven’t had time to properly go through the recording of the night yet, but I shall post an extract online sometime soon. Meanwhile, this video recorded from the audience perspective is a thoroughly good place to start:
For those of you that happen to be either located in or passing through Saxony-Anhalt over the weekend, do drop into the Radio Revolten Club, Rathausstraße 3, Halle (Saale) where you can catch performances from Willem De Ridder and Mary Stark on Saturday 15th and Chris Cutler, Howlround and Víctor Mazón Gardoqui on Sunday 16th. Both events are free and part of an extensive programme of radio-related events, broadcasts and performances taking place in Halle during the month of October. A calendar of highlights can be perused here.
A personal highlight for me is the opportunity to DJ library, soundtracks and other experimental weirdness at Kino-Zazie on the evening of Friday 14th, following a programme of Radio Essays and short films at this rather fabulous-looking cinema. Come down, have a drink and enjoy some groovy radiophonic delights from the depths of the Foggy archives.
Am DJ-ing the aftershow party @KinoZazie this Friday. They have billed me as a ‘Klangkünstler’, which is now my favourite German word EVER!
— Robin The Fog (@RobinTheFog) October 10, 2016
In other news, following last week’s announcement of the forthcoming second volume of Front And Follow’s The Blow series now up for pre-order and featuring a side each of brand new material from Howlround and Time Attendant, the tapes have been flying out and the accolades have been flying in, chief amongst them this decidedly favourable review in the latest edition of The Wire:
Crumbs. One does not have their worked compared to a great lost Derbyshire and Hodgson score very often. Might have to re-write my epitaph. It’s bizarre to think with all this talk of sinister resonances that the original material was recorded in a motel cabin sheltering from both the bright desert sunshine and Kaitlyn’s Garth Brooks CD. What’s also quite bizarre is that this isn’t our only appearance in The Wire this month, as our track ‘Battle Tape Fragment 10.02.16’ appears on the also-reviewed mini CD compilation 23 Tracks, 23 Minutes, 23 Artists, a series of sixty-second compositions compiled by our old friend Farmer Glitch and released in a frighteningly limited edition on the small-but-noble Eastville Vending imprint:
‘Consisting largely of two high-frequency chirps, the tape echo flutter and bubble ornamentally. There is elegance in its simplicity’, writes Richard Thomas of ‘Battle Tape’. Thank you, good Sir. It’s fitting that these two releases should appear in the same edition of The Wire, as ‘Battle Tape’ is in fact an early version of one of the tracks from The Blow Vol. 2, albeit in a fairly raw state prior to quite a bit of remixing and extending. Still, in the unlikely event that anyone should feel short-changed by this, there’s 22 other tracks to get stuck into, including Laica, Kemper Norton, Revbjelde, Graham Dunning, Ekoplekz and much more. My personal favourite is a quite gorgeous piece from Sarah Angliss, which is worth the entry fee alone. I do wish she’d hurry up and finish her album!
Speaking of albums, let’s move on to this week’s Near Mint show, which is the first of two trips round the record bag of Ben Soundhog – scholar, raconteur, legendary collector, producer, musician, analogue synth enthusiast and the artist formerly known as Freelance Hairdresser (who brought us such classic mashups as ‘500 Bad Mice’ and ‘Knees Up Look Sharp‘). These days better known as one half of Loose Capacitor and busy mucking around with synths or creating experimental videos like the one above using a BBC Micro and a sense of adventure, he still found time to drag a box of records over to Fog Towers and serve up this week’s playlist of Joe Meek horror, 60s psychedelic whimsy, utterly brilliant Welsh pop, messianic electronics and even some banking advice for paperboys. Strap on your ear-goggles and let’s roll:
Much obliged, for such a fabulous show, Mr. Soundhog and can’t wait until next week’s second helping. In the meantime, I’m not sure if he’ll thank me for dragging THIS up again, but I’d somehow missed it the first time around and it made me giggle like a schoolgirl.
And lastly to the latest in Julia Dempsey’s ongoing series of Art Assembly documentaries, which was mixed and co-produced by myself and broadcast on Resonance FM this week. For this episode Julia looks into the subject of music to be played during labour – a subject in which she has an increasingly vested interest! This first of two programmes focuses on the use of sound as a tool to alleviate pain and anxiety in childbirth, and as mixer, editor and guy-with-a-room-full-of-the-stuff, I was charged with digging out some records that might fit the bill. In a move that might surprise the uninitiated, Julia wanted to include tracks that were more rhythmic and percussive as well as the more relaxing and evocative music you might generally associate with such occasions, so between us we finally decided on selections from The Boredoms, DJ Food …and a Humpback Whale.
I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t get just a little bit ‘hippy-dippy’ here and there and despite the recommendation of one of her guests I probably wouldn’t be that keen on ‘travelling up my own cervix’, even if I had one, but it is a fascinating subject and Julia’s approach is a lot less ‘Earth Child’ than the more cynical of you might be imagining. Seriously worth a listen, even if the thought of siring an heir does fill you with nameless dread…
Hello you. First item on a fairly bumper agenda this week, I am absolutely thrilled and delighted to unveil the latest release in Howlround‘s growing catalogue:
The Blow Vol. 2, a split cassette with my old mucker Time Attendant will be released in November on Manchester’s Front And Follow label on a limited edition cassette plus download, but if you simply cannot wait until then it’s available for pre-order already. The second in a planned series of collaborative releases on the label and taking over from the excellent Volume 1 featuring Hoofus and IX Tab (now sold out physically), all of the music on my half was created by manipulating a single field recording taken in the Mojave desert ‘almost ghost town’ of Amboy, California:
The album was produced over the course of spring and summer this year, though the source material was originally recorded a couple of summers ago while on a pilgrimage to visit one of the great desert ‘readymades’, namely the dilapidated sign of Roy’s Motel which is the town’s most famous landmark. Straddling Route 66 some forty-three miles from Joshua Tree as the crow flies (and sixty-four by road), this is a remote location indeed. Did you even notice the enormous freight train making it’s way across the bottom right of the above picture? Must have been almost a mile long, but even that gets lost amongst such a vast and arid desert landscape. The population of this once-bustling town is now a mere ‘handful’ (which sounds slightly more optimistic than the 2000 census which put it at ‘4’), although bizarrely it does still maintain a working post office.
What’s even stranger is how wet and squidgy the resulting recordings have ended up sounding, something I can only attribute once again to the transformative properties of tape. The source material was created entirely by working the rusted and squeaking hinges of a cupboard door hidden inside the vintage writing desk pictured above, while my friend Kaitlyn patiently sat in the car enjoying the delights of air conditioning and Garth Brooks. At some point I’m hoping to return to Amboy and leave these newly transformed recordings back where they came from, perhaps also taking time out to enjoy another bottle of ‘Root 66 Beer’ and maybe, if I’m really lucky, meeting Chandra Brenner, the lovely yet somewhat vacant host of this completely batsh*t bananas documentary about the town. But all that might be a while off yet. In the meantime, do get your order in early, there are only 100 copies and if the first volume is anything to go by they’ll fly out pretty sharpish!
Meanwhile, there’s just a few days to go before Howlround’s SOLD-OUT performance at Brompton Cemetery Chapel as part of London Month Of The Dead and in anticipation of this historic event, I’ve been jumping onto the PR bandwagon. Firstly, I was interviewed for 6Music news by the splendid Elizabeth Alker, with the results played out on the Sean Keaveney Breakfast Show and again later on Radcliffe and Maconie. The first of these airings has been captured by a quick-thinking well-wisher and uploaded to Soundcloud if you fancy a listen. I haven’t actually done so myself yet, but I’m encouraged to hear that apparently there was a lot of giggling involved…
Even more excitingly, the nice people at Hook Research have made this short video of me in the studio briefly attempting to explain the Howlround philosophy and modus operandi before heading down to the cemetery on a sound-gathering expedition. Thanks must go to Sam Harris and Nick Fisher for doing such a great job and making me look and sound halfway professional. In fact, their sense of timing proved to be quite uncanny, as just after they’d left a small but vital part of the Studer machine that you can see me using in the clip decided to actually MELT...
— Howlround (@Howlroundmusic) October 2, 2016
It will be several weeks before the replacement part turns up and she’s ready to spool again. But it gets stranger: Several hours later in the German town of Halle, Howlround co-conspirator Chris Weaver experienced exactly the same phenomenon with a machine of his own! Seriously, in five years of working with tape we’ve never once had a pinch-roller do anything other than the pinching and rolling that is required of it. Then suddenly two of them melt on different machines in different countries on a single day! What are the chances? Unfortunately Chris came off rather the worse, as his own personal meltage incident occurred live on stage during a Resonance Radio Orchestra performance. I had just turned my back for three minutes while boiling the kettle.
Such an unlikely coincidence will hopefully mean there will be no further meltdowns for at least a couple of weeks, especially because after this Sunday’s adventures in Brompton Cemetery, Howlround are going to be playing Halle on October 16th as part of the Radio Revolten Festival, alongside Chris Cutler and Víctor Mazón Gardoqui. Details of this and a full schedule of events can be found at the Radio Revolten website. There’s also talk of an appearance at the Museum Of London, but more on that in due course.
And lastly, we come to the latest Near Mint show on Resonance FM, where this week we delve deeply into the world of ‘Rhodesian Communications’ through a brief investigation into the work of composer Sam Sklair. We’ll be listening to alternating extracts from two albums on either side of his lengthy career, 1965’s tourist-baiting Rhodesia: Safari On Sound and 1988’s corporate video soundtrack Interplay – The Communications Industry.
Hard to believe that a mere twenty-three years separate these two records or that they come from the same world, let alone the same composer, but I do like to think that you can hear a similar optimism and search for progression in both of them – after a fashion, at least. Curiously, despite featuring a narrator that makes Alan Whicker sound like a bingo-caller and its evident pride regarding the modern embellishments ‘from strip tease to parking meters’ being enjoyed by a nation that stopped existing quite some time ago, I’d almost be tempted to say that Safari On Sound has dated better. But then I remember the considerable debt that contemporary artists such as Oneohtrix Point Never and James Ferraro owe to albums such as Interplay and I’m less sure. Besides, the latter has just about one of the greatest covers of all time. Design like this NEVER goes out of date:
Well, that should about do it for now. Hope to see you on Sunday. And don’t forget to order The Blow!
Postscript: For the avoidance of doubt, I feel I should clarify that it was a Garth Brooks CD that Kaitlyn was enjoying, not actually Garth Brooks himself. Though I’m sure if he had come along they would have got along famously. In hindsight, maybe we should have invited him? Bet he would just love to collaborate with Howlround!
Firstly, a reminder that there’s now just over a week to go before Howlround hit the cemetery. I’m reliably informed ticket sales are doing briskly, so do make sure to avoid disappointment (yours and mine) and get in early.
Secondly, I’m very happy to announce that Near Mint, Resonance FM’s finest programme devoted to obsessive compulsive record collecting is carrying on up the jungle for a second wonderful week.
You might recall that the previous edition was a ‘Twisting in the Jungle’ special, providing the perfect soundtrack for dancing around the kind of culturally-insensitive cannibal’s cooking pot featured in the final scene of that world cinema classic ‘Biggles: Adventures In Time’ – and certainly every bit as grounded in reality and historical accuracy as that might entail. Well, this week it’s a ‘Lounging in the Jungle’ special, and as you might imagine it’s a rather more sedate affair, featuring another lovingly hand-picked selection of library, exotica, children’s records and even some vintage electronics. All are united in their attempts to transport you to a land of steaming jungles and festering swamps, while sounding more like the soundtrack to a quiet night at a down-at-heel Tiki Bar near an airport exit ramp.
Deeply unconvincing. But as I’ve often commented, there’s nothing I love better than a bit of heroic failure (‘Biggles: Adventures In Time’ notwithstanding) and I might even be so bold as to label this one of the greatest episodes of Near Mint ever. There’s tracks from classic LPs by Roger Roger and KPM, some ‘Jungle Blues From Jupiter’ and the whole thing concludes with a slightly disturbing party game soundtracked by flatulent synthesiser noodling and presided over by a talking jungle horse. Despite my best efforts (a full three minutes idling on Google while waiting for kettle to boil), I’ve not been able to discover much about Alphonse, our equine master of ceremonies; though it sounds as if he hailed from the west country and may have been drinking. And I’m willing to bet that’s more effort spent on him than whoever designed the hideous LP cover. It’s best not to think for too long about what those balloons might be tied to. Crumbs, being a child in the 1970s must have been excruciating…
While the aforementioned ‘Biggles: Adventures In Time’ does have an admittedly meagre connection with our business here today, I would like to take a moment just to quickly share this quite ridiculous slowed-down version of that movie that’s been uploaded to youtube, before the inevitable take-down by the Forces of Babylon. Presumably slowed down to avoid detection from the copyright holders, it’s a sort of ‘Chopped And Screwed’ treatment of the film, if you will, and therefore should probably be consumed using the methods traditionally favoured by the likes of Houston legend DJ Screw and his Screwed Up Click: imbibing heroic quantities of codeine-laced ‘purple drank’ and turning the bass RIGHT UP. Skip straight to the scene at 6:52 where Biggles and his ‘time twin’ Jim The American groggily slur their introductions to one another before running away quite slowly. This is TOTALLY how David Lynch would have directed it…
Oh, and one very last thing:
More on that later. Lots more!
The most pressing news this week is the timely reminder that Howlround plays its biggest performance to date on Sunday October 9th in the candlelit gothic splendour of Brompton Cemetery Chapel, a dome-capped slice of classic Victoriana at the heart of this historic ‘Garden Of Sleep’ in West London. Tickets are £12 and include a complimentary Hendrik’s Gin Cocktail – and as I have commented on these pages before, I can think of no finer and more appropriate way to consume our unique brand of haunted loops and ghostly radiophonics than the shadowy environs of a domed chapel through a gently befuddling haze of gin – can you?
The concert is part of this year’s London Month Of The Dead festival organised by Antique Beat (responsible, amongst other things for the magnificent ‘X-Ray Audio’ project) and A Curious Invitation; with the cemetery playing host to an impressive programme of lectures, workshops and performances over the course of October. Visit their website to find out more.
Really looking forward to this event and to getting the machines back into action again after a rathe chaotic couple of weeks. As you might have heard, we had a break-in at Howlround’s studio a fortnight back, though thankfully nothing of any great value was taken and no significant damage was done – unlike our poor neighbours whose place got pretty well rinsed. I suppose the contemporary thief has no interest in reel-to-reel tape recorders or other pieces of vintage equipment – a stance I can readily appreciate, particularly when I think of the pain and misery I caused several friends and trusted advisors when moving the damn things into the studio in the first place. Still, it was all rather distressing as you can imagine. But there was one thing about the whole sorry affair that did make me smile just a little. In their haste, the pillaging vermin knocked over my box of Brian Eno ‘Oblique Strategies’ cards. And would you believe it, only one single card landed face-up:
What are the chances, eh?
Also, this week, please enjoy the latest edition of Near Mint on Resonance FM, which this week comes swinging in on the vine with a a bit of a ‘carry-on up the jungle’ special, searching for lost treasures and some beautiful trash, with a programme of library, lounger and exotica that attempts to conjure up the exotic delights of steaming tropical forests and crocodile-infested swamps, while probably never getting that much further than a Safari Park. Pith helmets at the ready:
It’s a pretty uptempo show this week, perfect for cannibal dancing, spear-waving, and doing the limbo. Listen out for Buddy Bow’s ‘Twisting in the Jungle’, which might actually be one of the seven greatest pieces of music ever created…
A quick and very late update this week, typed in haste while sat on the floor in Amsterdam airport, returning from a digging trip to Slovenia and the Netherlands with some rather groovy ‘Ex-Yugo’ electronica LPs under my arm and a slight headache. But that’s not important right now. I must just very quickly draw your attention to the latest episode of Resonance FM’s crate-digging showcase spectacular Near Mint, which this week features a thumb through the stash of the Ljubljana-based turntablist and producer DJ Woo D. And what a stash it is….
Knocked together in a single take from recent acquisitions, lounge oddities and the kind of fabulously obscure funk that you and I don’t stand a cat-in-hell’s chance of ever finding for ourselves, it’s a heady brew that I’ve had on loop for the past week. And certainly a damn sight better than the Toni Braxton and Chris DeBurgh currently emanating from the airport toilets. Bad taste knows no borders….
Near Mint rides again this week, with the second part of it’s Back To School Special, produced to mark the coming of a new term at Resonance FM and a new academic year in the wider world. Following the previous edition’s attempt to cheer up any younger listeners despairing at the prospect of another stretch in kiddie-prison, through funk-filled lessons on numeracy, the alphabet and grammar; this week we’re slipping on our plimsolls and heading into the school hall to have our creative expressions facilitated.
The show features extracts from a series of British and American LPs from the 60s and 70s, all designed to have children using their minds and their bodies to express themselves, both in song, dance and ‘fantasy play’, as the sleevenotes would have it. There’s Girl Guides, Radiophonics, The legendary Bruce Haack providing insight into how robots dance, while the less renown, but equally ernest Edna Doll gives instruction on how to bend like a tree in a hurricane, which is thankfully less terrifying than it sounds. There are also at least two quite large ‘shocks’ to be found, but it’s alright because then we have some easy-listening to calm everyone back down again.
I vaguely remember having to take part in such shenanigans during my own school days and hating every single shame-inducing minute of it, but that was probably more to do with the fact that Mrs. Hand once forced me to do it in my pants. In my experience nothing makes you wish the ground would swallow you up harder than having to stand there in mustard-coloured smalls pretending to be a chicken. Mind you, everyone else seemed to enjoy it and I think I was probably quite a pale child.
Some listeners might be surprised that I didn’t feature anything from perhaps the most famous release of whole ‘Kidiophonics’ scene (my own expression – aren’t I clever?!), the BBC’s classic 1969 LP Movement Mime and Music. And trust me, nobody loves that record more than I do – except perhaps Julian House. But in this programme I wanted to concentrate on some of the lesser-known examples of the genre – comparatively-speaking, at least. John Baker’s ‘Structures’ remains one of my all-time favourite pieces of music, but I’m guessing many regular visitors to these pages will already know it backwards! I’ll wager than far fewer of you are familiar with Steve Wienecke’s beautiful ‘Whispering Winds’, which closes the programme. In fact, I reckon it might be about time for further investigation into the work of the mysterious Mr.Wienecke – anyone whose career can include an album entitled ‘Parachute Activity For Senior Adults’ is surely due a reappraisal. In fact, that might be a useful theme for a future programme if I can get hold of a copy of the LP. Anyone care to point me in the right direction?