Howl Yourself A Merry Little Christmix – 2019 In Review

Hello you. It’s that time of year once again where I present yet another highly opinionated and inordinately lengthly end of year mixtape, remark about what a fantastic year this has been for music and absolutely nothing else, then close by wishing you all a Very Merry Christmas. I don’t see any reason to divert from this tradition, particularly now that we’re all trapped in a dystopian Tory hellscape for all eternity, so I’ve crammed my festive mix to the brim with the usual consolatory bangers – over three and a half hours of them!

Sarah Angliss – Needle
Vanishing Twin – Invisible World
Polypores – Mycelia
Graham Dunning – Build My Gallows High
Dalham – Infinite Key
Gum Takes Tooth – Fights Psychology
Loula Yorke – LDOLS
Paranoid London – Cult Hero
Correlations – Deep on the Inside
Pulselovers – Woodford Hales To Fenny Compton In Five Minutes
Loula Yorke – Untitled #005
Sculpture – Untitled Locked Groove (From Projected Music)
Drew Mulholland – Worklode
Franziska Lantz – Ooosh!
Sculpture – Untitled Locked Groove (From Projected Music)
Dunnning & Underwood – Demon
Franziska Lantz – Give Air
Daniel Williams – You Can Do Almost Anything You Want With Them
Michael Donnelly – Thick Skull
Zeno Van Den Broek – Breach 2
Drew Mulholland – Return To The Desolate Shore
Tears I Ov – All Else Is Bondage (For A)
Simon Scott – Mae
Pulselovers – Badby ’80
Polypores – The Blusher
The Home Current – Tin Foil Express
Keith Seatman – Along The Valley Sidings
Vanishing Twin – Magician’s Success
Gaijin Blues – Grief, The Aftermath And A Faint Hope
Ekoplekz – K-Punk
The Heartwood Institute – Devil’s Riders
Central Office Of Information – Pools Of Witchlight
Dalham – NGC 493
Jonathan Sharp – Carlisle To Euston, 1974
Laura Agnusdei – Golden Kites
Drew Mulholland – She Remembers
Hainbach – Gestures 3
Grey Frequency – Elegy For Ginger Tom
Field Lines Cartographer – Ghosts In The Wires
Sculpture / Maria Chavez – Projected Reworks: Berceuse5
Rapoon – The Village
Richard Sanderson – Pequod
Iain Chambers – The Eccentric Press (Extract)
Sculpture / Mariam Rezaei – Projected Reworks: Improvisation I
Sarah Angliss – Egg
Paco Rossique – Next Symbol
Drew Mulholland – Irregular Pattern
The Utopia Strong – Brainsurgeons 3
Fennesz – We Trigger The Sun
Mark Peters – The Box Of Delights (MAPS Remix)
Hainbach – A Soft Adieu

Also absolutely proud and delighted to inform you that Howlround’s latest LP The Debatable Lands has been selected as one of Electronic Sound Magazine’s albums of the year, and while I haven’t had time to properly celebrate this fantastic news over the past manic week, rest assured I shall be proposing a toast to the staff of that fine periodical over the Christmas lunch table. What a way to end 2019! I never miss a copy, you know…

It’s been a manic final week of dashing around seeing off the year (and the decade) in fine style, with a trio of live shows for Sonic Cathedral in London, Ante in Shipley and The Vinyl Cafe in my hometown of Carlisle and it’s been a real treat catching up with friends old and new in the process. Soundtracking cult BBC series The Box Of Delights with Mark Peters was great fun and there might even be tentative plans in the works to do something with the recordings – we shall see. In the meantime, his Winterland EP is essential listening and the superb Maps remix of the opening track rounds off my Best Of Mix in fine style (with a tasty offering from Hainbach’s magnificent Gestures by way of an epilogue – but let’s not split hairs).

Thanks also to Ante for having me and a nod and a wink to fellow performers Reet Maff’l and GRST, the latter of whom also kept an eye on the sound levels during my set and did invaluable work preventing the PA from blowing up again. It was a pretty intense performnace with the machines in fine, slightly demonic voice and featured what might actually have been the longest loop of my career to date, even more so than the one from that underground reservoir in Copenhagen that time. And much to everyone’s surprise, it actually WORKED!

But the one show I look forward to more than any other at this time of year is Winter Solstice Soundscapes at The Vinyl Cafe, sharing a stage with fellow Cumbrian sound-sculptor The Heartwood Institute (not forgetting the ever-cheery Mrs. Heartwood!), affable hosts James and Lyn; plus this year a very special appearance from Psyché Tropes boss Steven McInerney on his mighty modular synth. It was only the third time Steve and I had performed the set we created together for The Delaware Road, and although we had a few gremlins in the machines (or at least more than the requisite amount you’ll have come to expect from a Howlround show), it was a very special evening of good friends and great company, as always. It’s a wonderful thing to have The Vinyl Cafe in my home town and to watch the local scene building around it – long may it continue. We’re making plans for next year’s event already!

More immediate plans also include getting stuck into Heartwood’s latest LP Tomorrow’s People on Polytechnic Youth, which I’m willing to bet will sound as fabulous as it looks. I’m planning on giving it a spin first thing on Christmas morning to get my long-suffering parents into some semblance of festive spirit, and am quite sure it will go down well – or at least better than the time I treated the breakfast table to a blast of Space Is The Place. Turns out Sun Ra doesn’t go down well before Sun Rise. But I digress…

I’m told Steve has safely arrived back in London and we’ll be working on this set some more in the new year in readiness for a further performance at Cafe Oto on January 25th. But for the moment, I think this photo of him taken through the window at soundcheck would make a rather fine Christmas card. What do you reckon?

Anyway, that’s it for 2019. I was going to attempt some kind of retrospective, but as it’s been a hugely busy twelve months crammed with incident and intrigue and as I have an animation soundtrack that I promised I’d try and finish before Christmas (some hope!), I really ought to be cracking on. But I’d like to offer a big thank you to everyone who’s supported Howlround and my various other endeavours over the last year and Season’s Greetings to all of the lovely collection of music nerds, sonic oddballs and artsy weirdos that I’m honoured to call my friends. I’m now at home with the family and have temporarily swapped dragging a suitcase full of equipment around the country for being dragged around the countryside myself by a springer spaniel named Fergus and a miniature Schnauzer named Molly. That’s happiness enough for anyone, I reckon and I hope you’ve all found some equivalent of your own. Merry Christmas and see you in 2020!

Festive Fergus

Wyrd Winterland: Scooping Up Awards With Tooth And Claw, Howlround On Tour, Turntables Galore

Hello you. First off, what a fabulous evening at the launch of Projected Music, the brand new 5” lock-grove picturedisc by Sculpture at the Hackney Old Baths last week! Featuring live sets by Miriam Rezaei, Janek Schaefer and the zoetrope-bashing due themselves, plus a performance by a whopping great ensemble of no less than 26 turntablists. In keeping with the concept of the launch, the many-headed group featured one performer for each of the album’s locked grooves, including myself and many friends and comrades such as DJ Food, Graham Dunning and Chloe Frieda to name but three. All gamely engaged in noisy battle and much messy fun ensued:

My pictures are pretty rubbish as I was juggling my phone with one hand and a portable turntable with the other, but Pierre Bouvier Patron and Blanca Regina captured some fabulous images of the evening that can be viewed on Flickr.

Surely one of the finest nights of the year and in the company of so many friends too! Projected Music is now available to purchase and features an additional digital bundle of reinterpretations by Philip Jeck, Maria Chavez and others. As this is very much a ‘modular’ release it was always the intention for the grooves to be combined and remixed in different ways, so I would heartily endorse acquiring multiple copies and getting together with a bunch of your friends and creating your own versions. It’s tremendous fun!

Congratulations are also in order to Steve for picking up another award for A Creak In Time at the Instanbul International Film Festival. Astonishing to think that almost three years on from completion, this micro/macro stroll across the universe still continues to gather plaudits across the festival circuit! Copies of Howlround’s soundtrack, together with download and streaming links for the film can be purchased here. A busy year for Psyché Tropes once again!

Speaking of awards, further congratulations to Michael Umney and the Resonance team for having their recent Radio 4 documentary ‘In Tooth And Claw’ recognised by the prestigious Association of International Broadcasting. Presented by Charles Foster and featuring incidental music I composed for the occasion using Michael’s field recordings, this ‘Highly Commended’ documentary exploring mankind’s frequently violent relationship with the natural world can still be heard here. And anyone else with a documentary they need sound-tracking with some recordings of haunted nature are strongly advised to get in touch, I’ve developed quite a taste for this work!

On a slightly jollier theme, some time ago I was approached by Mr. Ian Holloway of Wyrd Britain and asked if I would be interested in contributing to regular feature on this esteemed blog, in which various artists, writers and other like-minded individuals are asked to pick ‘3 Wyrd Things’ and write about them. The only rule was that the three items in question – a book, a record and a film or TV series – all had to be of British origin. I duly obliged – indeed might even have got slightly carried away – and my selections can be found here, featuring spies, pies and a really quite bonkers vinyl surprise. Thanks to Ian for the invitation – a visit to the Wyrd Britain website is always an agreeable way to pass the time, as is his checking out his long-running Quiet World label.

Howlround are gearing up for a final trio of shows before the end of the year, after which I’ve promised myself I’ll knuckle down and start actually trying to knock the next album into shape. First up on December 17th is a collaboration with Mark Peters for the Sonic Cathedral event Opening The Box Of Delights at The Social on London’s Little Portland Street. It’s a special event celebrating the release of Mark’s cover version of the title music from the spooky 1980s drama series of the same name, so we’re teaming up to provide an improvised soundtrack to this cult 1980s classic. Original score was by Radiophonic Workshop legend Roger Limb, so no pressure! Mark is also about to release a new festive EP Winterland and they’ll be a DJ set by Maps, so do join us if you can. I’ve never yet managed to make the machines sound remotely festive but this might yet be the miracle breakthrough. Tickets are available here.

After that I’m heading north on December 20th for a very special return visit to my friends at The Kirkgate Centre in Shipley, playing alongside Reet Maff’l, GRST and more. Had a fantastic time with these guys earlier this year and I must say it really is very decent of them to invite me back after I blew up the PA…

And lastly, very excited to announce that The Heartwood Institute and I will be returning to Carlisle’s Vinyl Café for our third annual Winter Solstice Soundscapes event on December 22nd. We’ve even got a special guest joining us for the occasion, but Mum’s the word on that for the moment…

As the year draws to end, I realise it will soon be time to once again unleash another of my highly-opinionated Best Of Year Mixtapes upon a grateful world; and with 2019 being such a fantastic year for music (though very, very little else, as ever) it’s going to take a real Herculean effort to try and squeeze all of the amazing stuff I’ve heard this year into a manageable three-hours. So while breaths are bated and anticipations quiver, I thought I’d freshen your collective palettes by wheeling out my Best Of 2018 Mix again. Not only because it contains two-hundred-and-twenty-something minutes of ABSOLUTE BANGERS, but also because I feel the mix didn’t quite receive the place in the sun it deserved at the time; belatedly arriving several days into the new year as it did, thanks to my little niece taking advantage of the Christmas period to give the entire family some lesser shade of the black death. So it’s back on the block and your warmly advised to dive in. If the opening gambit of Soundhog, Twelve Hour Foundation and Daphne and Celeste doesn’t turn you on, then why would you even be here?

And finally, A Year In The Country’s latest compilation The Quietened Journey has just been officially released, featuring Howlround’s most abrasive track of the year, ‘Thrown Open Wide’. But that might be a bit much for our semi-festive purposes here today, so I’ll leave you instead with Pulselovers‘ fabulous opening track by way of an appetiser. A copy of this, the Sculpture disc and that Mark Peters single would make some rather fine early Christmas presents for yourself, don’t you think?

PS You know what would also make a fantastic Christmas present for the rest of us? Kicking the Tories out. Please don’t forget to vote this week!

Sounds Moving In Different Directions: Shivers, Witches, Mice and More

Hello you. Winter’s properly drawing in, isn’t it? Whatever your thoughts are on how much darker and colder it’s got since I last posted, we’re entering the perfect season for some spooky story-telling, and what better location than the 19th Century splendour of St. Mary’s Tower in Hornsey? It’s the latest from Sam ‘Sinister Masterplan’ Enthoven’s Shivers events, featuring a pair of classic spine-chillers told live by the great Lara de Belder with appropriately eerie sonic accompaniment by Sam and myself, all in the cosy-yet-suitably gothic environs of The Intimate Space. Limited tickets and further information here.

Photo by Mrs. Eds.

On a similar spooky theme, two new and exclusive Howlround tracks appear on Witchcraft & Black Magic In The United Kingdom, the latest release from Eighth Tower Records which arrived just in time for Halloween and features further exclusives from Grey Frequency, Rapoon and Daniel Williams amongst others. Initially a collaborative curation between Daniel and label head Raffaele Pezzella, this compilation has sadly ended up becoming a tribute after Daniel’s very sudden passing earlier this year. Raffaele’s determination in bringing this project to fruition in his honour is a credit to them both, and the resulting compilation, featuring two of Daniel’s own compositions, a worthy contribution to his legacy. Limited edition CD and DL out now and available here.

[A] chilling collection of All Hallows’s Eve horrorphonia, a little something touched with a hauntologists bleakness and certainly ripe for companion listening with similar audio manifestations escaping the A Year in the Country, Woodford Halse et al soundhouses […]  ‘Crypt of St John’ marks the first of two appearances by Howlround, this ‘un an eerie subterannic drone-r not unlike the more outsider-esque moments from the Wizards Tell Lies back catalogue, much like some haunted echo from the past it imparts a cold and harrowed bitter sweet aura that imagines some annual ceremonial gathering of the lost. Equally graced in the macabre, ‘Peck in the Crown’ is shadowed by an unsettling sinister touch that many familiar with the Aetheric imprint, notably the Kindred Spirits and Hole House releases, will feel a familair isolationist tug. Mark Losing Today

Daniel’s 2017 album Meet Me On The Corner is also very worthy of your time, while Raffaele’s considerable output both solo as Sonolgyst and as head of the Unexplained Sounds Group is the perfect soundtrack for whiling away a winter’s evening. Hopefully this compilation will encourage its listeners to dig even further…

There’s exciting album action elsewhere too, with highly esteemed blog, record label and publishing house A Year In The Country about to round off another busy twelve months with its third themed compilation of 2019. The Quietened Journey is ‘an exploration of abandoned and former railways, railway stations and roads, a reflection on them as locations filled with the history, ghosts and spectres of once busy vibrant times’, and features another Howlround exclusive, ‘Thrown Open Wide’. The original plan for this contribution was to try conjuring up some of my own youthful railway memories such as the twinkling enthusiasm of childhood hero Bob Symes, the sombre, elegiac tone of 80s docu-series The Train Now Departing; and even perhaps the odd hazy recollection of a distant past when travelling on a train made you a ‘passenger’ rather than a ‘customer’ and a trip to the facilities didn’t involve an encounter with a wise-cracking toilet. Further inspiration was to be sourced from a very small part of railway history right on my childhood doorstep: a former branch line-known as ‘The Dandy’, these days a footpath and one I must have traversed hundreds of times over the years, often in the company of a whirling pack of dogs. Closed since 1923, it now provides the perfect location for a walk in the country, a spot of quiet communion with nature and of course some field recording – if you can ignore both the whirling dogs and the bypass that tears through the centre of it all…

Nature is slowly reclaiming, or has already reclaimed, much of this infrastructure, with these testaments to industry and “the age of the train” being often left to quietly crumble and decay. The Quietened Journey is both a celebration and a lament for these now faded links across the land, of the grand dreams and determination which created them and their layered histories that – as these asphalt ribbons, steel lines and stone built roads once prominently were – are threaded throughout the twentieth century and even back to Roman times.

With these things foremost in mind, I set about planning a work that would somehow transform all of the above into a piece of warm, fuzzy, sepia-tinted bucolica – you know, like the stuff Howlround used to put out back in the days before I discovered the joys of turning all the dials up and just leaving them there. Almost entirely predictably, however, those dials had their way and I got the exact opposite of my intentions: ‘combustion, wreckage, rust, rage, anguish’. What started out as my attempt to conjure the ghosts of railways past now might actually be Howlround’s most uncompromisingly abrasive work to date. It sounds less like a quietened journey and more a giant combustion engine smashing and tearing itself to pieces. Perhaps all those years of being forced to use Virgin Trains are finally taking their toll on my battered psyche?

Or perhaps there were some darker memories at play. The title comes from the 19th Century poem ‘An Engine Driver’s Epitaph‘, found in a school library book and accompanied by an illustration of cold, rusting locomotives sat in a scrapyard; which to a child of faintly melancholic sensibilities was like peeking into a slaughterhouse. Then there’s all the archive Pathé and British Transport Films footage I’ve watched over the years of engines being torn apart by welders and angle-grinders in a shriek of metal and a shower of sparks, name and number-plates carelessly tossed aside. Then there’s that terrible fizz-bang at the climax of Keith Chegwin-fronted school safety film Robbie, where our hapless mop-top protagonist finds out the hard way what a third rail is for. Or every single horrifying second of John Krish’s The Finishing Line

All such questions of inspiration aside, what I can tell you is that these three minutes of hissing, spitting and snarling were recorded in a single take and to my mind pretty much sums up not only the present state of Howlround, but also the present state of our railways – and come to think of it, the state of absolutely bloody everything else. How I wish Cheggars was here to cheer us all up with one of his terrible jokes. Anyway, The Quietened Journey is now available to pre-order in the usual series of beautiful hand-made editions, featuring music from old friends such as  Pulselovers, Sproatly Smith, The Séance, Widow’s Weeds, The Heartwood Institute, Depatterning, Field Lines Cartographer, Dom Cooper & Zosia Sztykowski, Keith Seatman, A Year In The Country and that chap Grey Frequency once again. Need I say more?

Ian Rawes by Tome Jamieson

In other news, very excited to announce that Ian Rawes of the London Sound Survey will be joining us at London Metropolitan Archives for the next instalment of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage event ‘Sounds and the City: The Late Sessions’ and will be playing some recordings from his fascinating archive of London Soundscapes. Proceedings kick off Wednesday 20th November at 6pm (hence the inverted commas – it’s really not very late at all). I’ve attended several of these talks over the years and always come back for more – Ian has some of the finest period recordings I’ve ever heard and is one of those people who could turn reading out a shopping list into a sublime and exciting narrative, so this is absolutely not to be missed. Tickets are FREE and in short supply – get yours here.

Speaking of London Met Archives, thanks to everyone who came down to The Barbican for our recent presentation ‘Sounds Moving In Different Directions – The Far Out Music of a 1970s Classroom’. As representatives of the UOSH team, my colleague Kate and I lead an investigation into the strange and charming world of ‘Creating Music In Class’, an educational box set discovered in the archives of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) and featuring a series of experimental classroom instructions, psychedelic graphic scores and mind-bending sounds captured on reel to reel tape. This box set would’ve offered students and teachers alike a rare brush with the world of avant-garde sound and free-form improvisation – pretty advanced stuff for 1976. There’s also a certain John Baker credited as ‘audio producer/editor’ and we’re almost certain it’s the Radiophonic Workshop legend himself at the helm. Sadly, at the moment that’s all I’m permitted to disclose, but there’s some pretty amazing sounds on these tapes and the fact that it was aimed at – and in places created by – children aged 10-13 only makes the whole thing all the more tantalising. Hopefully I’ll be able to share more with you before very long. In the meantime, here’s a enticing glimpse of the box’s contents thanks to the previous week’s LMA Twitter feed:

The presentation culminated in a performance by musician and instrument builder Lia Mice, interpreting one of the box’s graphic scores using one of her own sound-making creations. We very much hope that the box set will encourage new creativity in the future and inspire fresh generations of music-makers, so getting Lia involved seemed like an excellent opportunity to set the ball rolling. The results were as intriguing as anyone who has witnessed her recent live shows, including a storming set at The Delaware Road would have anticipated. Hopefully I’ll be able to share that with you before long as well. In the meantime, here’s a video from her latest album The Sampler As Time Machine:

Actually, there is one more thing I can share – we used a couple of extracts in our talk from this wonderful film of slightly awkward children making experimental sound collages at the behest of groovy 60s teachers in Shoreditch. It’s entirely likely that if you’re a regular round these parts you’ll have seen this video numerous times already. But is it even possible to get tired of it? I come back to this video quite regularly as a palate-cleanser, a reminder that I need to keep my game up if I’m going to hold my own against a bunch of kids from half a century ago:


HOGAN’S RUN – From The Road To The Wood, Then Back To The State

Hello you. The fallout from Delaware Road continues into the autumn with both the above video extract of Howlround x Merkaba Macabre‘s banging live set finally surfacing online and the arrival of this very complimentary photo spread in the latest pages of Electronic Sound magazine:

For those of you who weren’t crammed into a Stone Tent somewhere in Wiltshire last August, Steve and I shall be recreating this show for The Engine Room at Iklectik on 24th October, along with Hanzo who providing those ace visuals and some very special surprise guests to be announced. Further details will follow shortly, but tickets are already available here, so jump in while you can.

Speaking of Iklectik, thanks to everyone who came down last Thursday to help celebrate The Tapeworm’s tenth birthday and enjoy awesome live sets by Blood Music, Tears|Ov and Zeno Van Den Broek among many others. It also marked the debut of The Howling, my duet with Ken Hollings in a performance that mixed a spirited recital of Ken’s ‘Trash List’ with random intercut audio fragments from some of the items mentioned therein (porno versions of Fairy Tales, Paris Hilton, the word ‘wacky’, instant cake mix etc. etc.) fed through the Howlround tape machines. A short but intense performance that was very warmly received by the crowd and definitely opened up some encouraging avenues for further exploration. Plus it was almost certainly the first airing Hulk Hogan’s Wrestling Boot Band has received in years, even if it was only the tiniest of snippets. This is not surprising as Hulk Hogan’s Wrestling Boot Band is an album at least seventeen times worse than you could ever have thought possible (seriously, click on that link, I dare you).

Anyway, thanks as ever to The Worm, to Ken for being my partner in trash and to the indomitable Beth Arzy, not only for these snazzy photos but also for being that one person who said ‘you two really should do something together’ one evening in a Balham pub while we were midway through an earnest discussion of the merits of Manos: The Hands Of Fate. And of course extra special thanks must go to Hulk Hogan for gifting the world Thunder In Paradise – it’s basically Knight Rider with additional muscles and a speedboat, but minus the charm – a spectacular reminder that during the 90s our doomed species would literally watch any barmy old crap as long as it contained girls in bikinis, weaponised forms or transportation and – inexplicably – Patrick Macnee. But I digress…

In celebration of this anniversary the label are adding a bumper crop of new releases to the already bulging portfolio, including the very fine label sampler XYZ, curated and mixed by the so-called ‘Tilda Swinton of the London electronic scene’ Dale Cornish. Among the delights on offer is a brand new and exclusive Howlround track ‘Bastarding’, named after one of the choice phrases I used to describe my internet service provider in an apologetic email explaining why I was still in the process of sending it over several hours later. The track itself was recorded in real time and so came into being far more easily – one take with no edits or overdubs followed by a cup of tea three minutes later. There’s plenty more on offer too, 26 tracks in total mixing further exclusive goodies with sneak previews of forthcoming releases from this ever more prolific and exciting label. Order your copy here and long live the cassette! 

Last week I was at West Norwood’s Book And Record Bar again, putting in another shift on Out Of The Wood, the weekly Sunday afternoon session broadcast live from the shop on WNBC Radio. As it had been rather a late one attending the launch of Franziska Lantz’s splendid new double LP of banging Techno the previous evening, I decided to keep the proceedings mellow and turn the show into another one of my quietly spectacular ambient sets. And while this did mean that my freshly minted copy of Forming Tropical Cyclone, Franzi’s latest blast of ecologically-themed face-melting electronics was doomed to remain in the bag for the duration, I have to say this show was a really fun one to put together, featuring recent releases from Caterina Barbieri, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, Polypores, The London Sound Survey and a couple of tracks from the excellent new LP by The Utopia Strong, which is not only a fantastic listen, but must surely win cover art of the year as well. Pre-order your copy quick!

…Mind you, Forming Tropical Cyclone features some pretty snazzy cover art too, all hand-stencilled and spray-painted by the artist herself! Naturally this record will be the cornerstone of any future face-melt action. In the meantime you can pick up a copy now from Global Warming Records and all respectable vinyl emporiums:

Next up, do you remember how much fun we all had at A Midsummer Night’s Happening a few months back? A spectacular event organised by Ghost Box and Trunk Records, held at the state51 compound and featuring The Soundcarriers, Pye Corner Audio, a weird Star Wars Reggae cover and much more besides? Well, you may also recall that it featured a very special tape and piano improvisation set by myself and Steve Beresford, using genuine reel to reel tapes from the Basil Kirchin archive, which was performed in front of a packed crowd and a rather overzealous dry ice machine, which I seem to remember having to switch off at one point as I’d lost sight of my hands.

Petty visibility issues aside, the set went down an absolute storm and I’m delighted to be able to announce that state51 have now released it on their youtube channel. Perfect for those of you who couldn’t make it on the night or who were there but are having trouble remembering anything at all thanks to the venue’s extremely well-stocked bar – not pointing any fingers. That said I myself have absolutely no recollection of anybody filming the proceedings, so this is all a very pleasant surprise. Have a watch and a listen below:

And lastly, I’m off for a couple of weeks on a much needed holiday, so I’m going to leave you with this very silly video that has been making cracking me up all week. It’s entirely likely that nobody else is laughing at all, but I got used to that a long time ago…

Hopefully see you on the 24th. Oh, and stay off the beach, kids. Seriously, I dare you…

Sounds And The City – London Songs, Paper Spools And Flower Tent Fighting

Hello you. A rather hurried post this week to invite all those of you located within convenient distance of Farringdon to attend Sounds and the City: The Late Sessions, occurring this Wednesday at London Metropolitan Archives as part of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project that I’m currently involved with. The title is only partially accurate – the event commences at 6pm, which is still early afternoon as far as my bodyclock is concerned – but it is indeed London and its multitudinous soundscapes that will be the order of the day, as I’m chairing a discussion with a panel of invited experts, each asked to play and talk about a particular song that best represents the city to them. Audience participation is strongly encouraged and attendees will be invited to join in and nominate their own London songs. Tickets are FREE, though spaces are limited and you’ll need to register on the Eventbrite page. There may even be tea and coffee supplied, though I’ll need to look into that.

Anyway, here’s the official blurb: Unlocking Our Sound Heritage (UOSH) is a National Lottery funded project aiming to preserve the UK’s most rare and at risk sound recordings. Here at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) we are proud to be one of ten regional hubs for the UOSH project, digitising and cataloguing some of the capital’s most extraordinary audio collections.

Inspired by the different types of music we’ve digitised as part of the project, this FREE evening talk will explore how important music is to our experience of London and understanding of its history. We will be joined by a panel of guest speakers who will each pick one piece of music that represents London to them. From old music hall songs to the influence of calypso, ska and reggae, through to the emergence of jungle – all music is welcome! Ahead of the talk we invite you to think about the type of music you most associate with the capital. What would be the playlist of your London?

Can you, dear reader, guess which person will be talking about Jungle?! Hope to see you there, and do make sure you pop your thinking caps on and tell us about your own favourite London song – or add to the conversation over on the LMA Twitter feed if you can’t make it in person. Speaking of Twitter, do feel free to subscribe to @LdnMetArchives if you haven’t done so already, along with our London’s Sound Heritage blog it’s the best way of keeping up to date with this most fascinating of projects. To whet your appetite here are a couple of highlights from the tapes I’ve recently been working with, starting with this little beaut from the 1950s. The subject in question was the speaker’s memories of being a Prisoner of War and the tricky decision as to how to spend one’s incarceration – playing bridge or improving one’s mind via classic literature, with access to both apparently not being an issue at all – sounds pretty cushy. And while it’s true that reverence for the content of these tapes always takes precedence over the physical carrier itself, on this special occasion it was a pretty close call:

Secondly, the most recent addition to our regular #TapeBoxTuesday feature, which has been making me laugh all week. There’s actually another two full minutes of this lengthy account on the recording, hopefully I’ll get to share the full thing with you at some point. The Brent County Show of 1977 really must have been quite a happening:

Meanwhile, over the the blog we have an interview with Mr. Ian Rawes of the London Sound Survey, to celebrate both the donation of a huge body of his recordings to the London Metropolitan Archives and also the recent release of Thames, his superb LP of field recordings made along the great river. Ian chats to UOSH project volunteer and sound recordist Paul Skinner about the origins of the project, his work capturing the many and varied sounds of the city, the changing nature of the London soundscapes and there’s even some tips for aspiring field recordists too. Read their fascinating chat in full here.

Resistance Is Fertile: A Delaware Road Retrospective

Hello you. It’s taken me a fortnight to finally upload some of Victoria Hasting’s magnificent black and white photos (and the rather super video above) from The Delaware Road – Ritual and Resistance, the fabulous audio-visual extravaganza that recently took place in a military training facility deep within MOD land in the heart of Wiltshire at the behest of Buried Treasure supremo Alan Gubby. I must apologise for such tardiness, but the fact is it’s only now that I’ve finally had some time out to process it all – surely I can’t be the only one who took a few days to come back down afterwards?!

Soundcheck is always a tense time when you work with tape machines, especially if they’ve been dragged halfway across the country and feeling uncooperative…

It’s certainly true that a lot of attendees will have slept deeply the following Sunday night – there was an awful lot of cross-country trekking, plus camping, plus a very late bedtime on Saturday after the eye-and-ear-blogging spectacle finally ended sometime around 4am. But the bleary eyes and sleepy smiles of those milling around drinking much-needed coffee the following morning spoke of just what a night they’d had – a testament to Alan’s vision and the growing community of artists, performers, musicians, producers, DJs, film-makers (plus strange characters in green facepaint) that it brings together from across the land. I think it’s fair to say that the three Delaware Road events so far (including the previous 2017 event at Kelvedon Hatch ‘Secret’ Nuclear Bunker) have played a vital role in forming this largely disparate collection of artists and labels from all over the UK into a genuine scene, creating new support networks and forging countless collaborations and alliances on the way.

…Which is why it took ages!

Speaking personally, this event was like a massive holiday camp crammed not only with a huge number of my favourite artists but a lot of my best friends too. My biggest regret of the night was just how many of those performances I had to miss. But with justifiable reason – Howlround and Merkaba Macabre (aka A Creak In Time director and synth tinkerer Steven McInerney) were playing our first ever collaborative set inside the largest of the so-called ‘Stone Tents’ (squat concrete psuedo-houses dotted around the site that looked for all the world like something out of a Protect and Survive video) and frankly the preparation and execution of such a set took up an awful lot of valuable dancing/drinking/ear-boggling time.

Got there in the end, though…

Totally worth it, though, I’m delighted to report the set went down a storm and the Stone Tent was full to bursting – indeed I’m told that a number of people missed our performance because they couldn’t physically fit inside the room!

Howlround x Psyché Tropes live at Delaware Road. Photography by Victoria Hastings

Over the last few months I’ve been experimenting with creating more rhythmic, beat-driven tracks, using the same closed-input feedback loop techniques that fuelled the last Howlround LP The Debatable Lands, but attempting this time to create something not a million miles away from wonky acid techno. This was the first time the fruits of those experiments had been tested in public on a big system and I have to say it sounded pretty banging, particularly with Steve’s modular synth drones and squelches over the top. Every time I looked up it was just a sea of faces and nodding heads (with even some ‘dancing a bit like a tree’ where space permitted) and the crowd gave us a proper ovation when we’d finished. Even earned me a hug from Steve Davis! What a wonderful thing to have such a supportive turnout, it certainly gives us the confidence to keep moving in this direction!

Due to lack of space, I’ve only included a handful of Victoria’s photographs (plus a couple of colour pictures of my own that I had to resort to after she took it into her head that driving all the way back to London at 1am was a solid plan), but there are many more online and I would urge you to visit the official album on Facebook. I believe there might even be more video footage of Howlround and Merkaba Macabre forthcoming, once it’s been mixed with the desk recording. More news soon…

The Corporation seemed pleased also…
Stone Tents
Lone Taxidermist rocks the main stage

Ben Soundhog enjoying my joke about the hiccuping nun…

As for other highlights, I’ll leave those to Bob Fischer’s Haunted Generation site and also DJ Food’s blog, both of which provide more in-depth reports of happenings elsewhere in the festival and plenty of additional photographs. But I think I can safely say it was the best night of the year so far and possibly the best since the previous Delaware Road, truth be told. And I think we can all agree that DJ Food and Steve Davis was the perfect high to end on. Crumbs, I don’t think I stopped smiling all night. Not sure they did either!

Superstar DJs, there they go: Strictly Kev and Steve Davis closed the main stage in fine style

There are an awful lot of people I need to thank, starting with Victoria for these photographs (and many more besides), Steven McInerney for bringing the whole Psyché Tropes room together, our endlessly cheery, accommodating and unflappable technical crew Billy Pleasant and Henrique Mattias, Hanzo on visuals, fellow performers Mark Vernon, A’Bear, Sculpture and of course whoever it was that remembered to bring beer. I could go on. Basically, it was thanks to a Herculean effort on behalf of all of these people that the room looked and sounded so great and remained so busy all night. Very proud to have been part of such a fantastic team!

Found this randomly on my phone the following morning

I must also say a huge thank you for the absolutely saintly efforts of Karina Townsend in squeezing five people and all of our equipment into her van, getting everything safely there and back, providing us with all the tents and camping equipment we could possibly want and being delightful company as usual in the process. Karina, what would we have done without you?! I still don’t know how we fitted everything in…

But I think the biggest thank you of all has to go to this man, Mr. Alan Gubby, whose feverish imagination dreamed the entire thing up and whose determination and grit brought so many people together from all over the country to produce one of the finest festivals this tape-manipulator has ever attended – no doubt at not a little cost to his own sanity! The Delaware Road community salutes you, Alan! Now, when are thinking of holding the next one..?


The Delaware Road – Final Tickets Unleashed

Hope you’re prepared for The Delaware Road this weekend? It’s going to be the event of the year, quite frankly, a lot of people have been waiting for this day right from the very moment they stepped outside of Kelvedon Hatch Nuclear Bunker following the last Delaware extravaganza back in July 2017. To those of you who have only just had word of this highlight of the festival calendar (voted among the ‘Top 10 Niche Festivals’ by The Observer – there’s that n-word again!), it’s my duty to inform you that a final batch of tickets have been announced at the last moment, and are being eagerly snapped up as we speak. If you’re still in need of one yourself I would recommend visiting the Delaware Road website as a matter of urgency. Can you really afford to miss such a dazzling line-up as the one above?

As if all that weren’t enough, I’m taking the opportunity to unleash a brand new Howlround live set in collaboration with Psyché Tropes. The working title of the forthcoming album is currently Rage Against The Machines and if you’ll join us in The Stone Tent on Saturday night you might just be granted some small insight into why!

See you on Salisbury Plain!

Snap, Crackle, Pop, Skronk, Howl

Hello you. First and most importantly, the next Howlround performance occurs this Tuesday 9th July as part of the collaborative event Skronkdrone at New River Studios, Manor House. It’s the brainchild of old friend and redoubtable drone legend Andrew Page aka Raxil4 and boasts a programme of live collaborations in one of my favourite North London venues. It’s a FREE event and further information is available here (although how much do you really need other than the fact that it’s FREE?!), so attending is really something of a no-brainer.

Speaking of live shows, thanks to everyone who came to down to A Midsummer Night’s Happening, presented by Ghost Box and Trunk Records at The state51 Factory in Shoreditch – what a fabulous evening! Great music, visuals, food, drink and friendship, plus an absolute honour to perform alongside Steve Beresford using original unreleased tapes from the archive of legendary pioneering composer Basil Kirchin, complete with his own hand-written liner-notes! Thanks must go once again to Jonny Trunk for entrusting me with such precious cargo. As well as memorable performances from Pye Corner Audio, The Soundcarriers, Sharon Kraus and Justin Hopper, the event had an important social function as well – not only did I bump into many old friends, but also quite a number of fellow enthusiasts I had only previously met online. One such person was the writer Bob Fischer, who has written a glowing review of the event on his blog The Haunted Generation, so I’ll just leave the explanations to him and tantalise you with one last reel from the Kirchin collection:

It wasn’t all good news, however, as tape machine Daphne (very much the workhorse of the Howlround live show) suddenly stopped functioning during soundcheck. I mean the lights were on but she wasn’t home. Thankfully (and entirely predictably) the Kirchin reels were so sonically impressive as to hardly be in need any embellishment, but being one Daphne down certainly has significant implications for the busy summer I have planned for my quartet of old ladies. I’ve said it many times before, but this is truly the Howlround curse – these heavy, unwieldy yet incredibly delicate machines are simply impossible to predict. They produce fabulous and thrilling sounds when they happen to be in a cooperative mood, but there’s an equal chance that they’ll produce the square root of diddly squat once the spotlights come on – and they always seem to pick the least convenient moment to duck out. I still remember all too keenly Delia’s behaviour the time that Chris and I carted her all the way to Portugal for the Jardins Efémeros festival: Behaved like a dream all week, soundchecked without complaint, then suffered total meltdown less than one one minute into our performance before staging a miraculous recovery the very next day. Every time this happens you do have to wonder ‘Is this finally the end? Am I going to have to finally give up with tape and learn the flute or something?

Thankfully my regular tape machine doctor Moshi was available and very kindly arranged an emergency appointment. Unfortunately there was no way she was going to be fixed in time for Radio Activity at Palace Electrics the following Sunday, but at the time of writing she appears to be making a reasonable recovery, so the summer festivals are very much still on. Keep her in your thoughts, won’t you? I’ve got at least another twenty albums I want to force out of the machines before we all retire!

Radio Activity itself was a huge success, although without Daphne (who, lest we forget is charged with creating the feedback loop that gives a Howlround live show not only its name but also that extra frisson that always comes from wondering if you’ll accidentally blow up the PA again) my ‘evisceration’ of LL Cool J wasn’t quite the full-blown annihilation I’d planned on. Thankfully the packed crowd was most supportive and I reckon I managed to pull it off with something as near to aplomb as dammit. Plus Kumo and DJ Food absolutely rocked the joint with their respective treatments of Joy Division and Kraftwerk (plus a soupçon of Meat Beat Manifesto) as did the hugely enjoyable opening performance of John Cage’s ‘Music For 5 Radios And A Newsreader’. Huge thanks to John Barrett for the fabulous pictures below. Palace Electrics is turning into a major force for good in South London and I’m hoping they’ll be many more events to come. Not just because I only have to drag my gear onto a single bus to reach them – although I must say my spine and I are always delighted about that fact.

Another very exciting thing to happen this month was a brief but fruitful collaboration with the sculptor Marylyn Molisso, who very kindly allowed Howlround to come in and add some sonic tinkering on the final day of her Snap, Crackle Pop installation at Penge’s recently opened Tension Fine Art Gallery. Field recordings of the sculpture being re-assembled by the artist (a weekly occurence that saw the work continuously transformed anew) were processed through the Howlround feedback loop (using Wendy the B77 in Daphne’s absence, fact fans), with the resulting ‘sand-blasted roar’ being installed for the final day of the exhibition and in direct contact with the work. I was really delighted with how well the sounds seemed to complement the sculpture so naturally – anxious art for difficult times. Hopefully we’ll get to collaborate again before too long, do check out more of her amazing work at I’m a huge fan already!

A Year In The Country’s recently released compilation The Watchers seems to be going down very well amongst the periodicals, including some kind words regarding Howlround’s closing track ‘The Winter Dream Of Novel’s Oak’ in the latest edition of the ever-redoubtable Electronic Sound Magazine. I really should send them a cake or something for all the support they’ve shown to Howlround this year. You can find a more comprehensive breakdown of the various channels of exposure on the A Year In The Country website and order your limited edition CD copy here while stocks last.

…The bizarre thing is that there wasn’t actually a single bird featured in the recording – it was a gloomy day in January!

Also very proud to have a got a name-check in Bob Fischer’s Haunted Generation column in the latest issue of the The Fortean Times. Another tick off the bucket list, plus a splendid article on Folk Horror to seal the deal!

And finally, this happened. Just look at those colours, won’t you?!

Somewhat Bazaar: Musicity Midsummer and Keeping Radio Active

Hello You. Please enjoy the breathless update from Fog Towers as I gear up for another busy week. First off, if you happen to be in the vicinity of The Barbican on Tuesday night, why not join myself, Tanya Nwachukwu, Bump Kin and host Nick Luscombe for the first in a series of talks about the recently launched Muscity x Culture Mile project? 6pm at the Life Rewired hub (with Tanya and Bump Kin at 7pm) and it’s all FREE! Should be a fun and stimulating evening, plus a useful primer for anyone who has ever asked me ‘Er, what exactly was all that about?’ – and such people are LEGION, trust me! Further details can be found here.

Very excited to be playing at A Midsummer Night’s Happening this Friday, a one day spectacular put together by Ghost Box and Trunk Records in association with The state51 Conspiracy. Jonny and I will be presenting The Kirchin Tape Lab, in which impossibly rare, unique and previously unheard recordings from the tape archive of the legendary composer Basil Kirchin will be played and mixed on the Howlround live quartet for the first time ever, along with the accompanying piano improvisations of Steve Beresford. Also performing on the night will be Pye Corner Audio, The Soundcarriers, Justin Hopper and Sharon Kraus and much more besides. Of course I would normally point you in the direction of tickets and further information, but sadly the whole event sold out almost immediately, even before I could share the news on any channels (almost before it was confirmed I was playing, if you can believe that). Heartfelt apologies, fellow tape heads. Hopefully they’ll be more of this stuff in the future…

Being given access to such an extraordinary body of unreleased recordings from this most maverick of composers has been an honour and a privilege, although I can tell you that getting it back to Penge all the way from the Trunk compound was a rather nerve-wracking experience – I kept expecting my tote bag of sonic treasures to be snatched at any moment by avant garde muggers. Thankfully tapes and bearer alike arrived at Fog Towers in one piece, and while I naturally can’t divulge any of the audio contents on these pages or anywhere else, I’m sure Jonny won’t mind my sharing a few tantalising glimpses of Basil’s handwritten sleevenotes.

And what of those aforementioned undivulged contents? Well, it’s a mixture of fleshed out compositions, tape experiments, field recordings, electronic doodles, plus – as you’ll notice – PIGS. And as far as I’m concerned they can and should serve as a much-needed call-out to all those of us working in similar fields to pull our socks up and just DO IT BETTER! And just think – these are merely a few tapes out of hundreds in the Kirchin collection! Hopefully they’ll all see the light of day at some point, but in the meantime, just remember: Basil Kirchin is your friend.

My Special Message: Pigs

…And I made another new friend too!

Jonny and Frank

Continuing with tape, but on a slightly more accessible front, the excitement continues on Sunday 23rd when I’ll be contributing to the latest event from Palace Electrics as part of the 2019 Crystal Palace Festival. Three local artists have been asked to reinterpret a famous song that has the word ‘radio’ as its theme. No doubt you can readily guess what inspired the title:

I’ve been tasked with dismantling a 1985 rap classic from Mr. LL Cool J, though given the way the sessions are currently progressing, it’s less reinterpretation and more evisceration. I’m starting to wonder just how much control I actually have over my tape loop arsenal and whether in reality I’m just hanging on for dear life. Anyway, entry is FREE, it’s a killer line up and last time I played Palace Electrics it was absolutely banging, so you really can’t go wrong – and if you subscribe to that whole ‘mistake as hidden intention’ philosophy, neither can I! Seriously, Kirchin to Cool J in 72 hours – who else could boast such an unwieldily career arc?

Howlround at Palace Electrics, 2018. Photo by John Barrett

Rather belatedly, I must point you in the direction of an exclusive new Howlround track that appears on Warwick Bazaar 2018, a rather splendid download sampler from the titular Carlisle shop-cum-live venue that just happens to be my favourite Cumbrian-based shop-cum-live-venue-that-isn’t-Vinyl-Cafe – and that’s no mean accolade! It’s a compilation of some of the artists that played there last year and proves to be an impressively varied role call, featuring a string of excellent band names such as Death Bed, Cosmic Cat and the like, plus my old mucker Heartwood Institute aka Jonathan Sharp. Incidentally, Jonathan’s solo LP under his own name will shortly be dropping on Castles In Space and is already getting some very approving nods from those in the know – hopefully my own copy will be arriving any day now so I can join in with them!

In the meantime Warwick Bazaar 2018 is available now as a name-your-price download and I know a lot of care an attention has gone into this sampler, so do be sure to bung them a few quid. May I whet your appetite by hereby presenting the previously unreleased track ‘Middle Gelt’. A dear friend once described this track as ‘like angels wailing’, which I’m taking as a compliment despite the fact that she claimed playing it at four in the morning was freaking her out a bit:

Finally, do please head on over to the London’s Sound Heritage blog if you have a spare moment, where our latest post features a cache of vintage recordings from London’s Pirate past (pirate radio, that is, not the shivery timbers kind) courtesy of one DJ Wrongspeed. There’s also this exciting discovery we made as part of our regular #TapeBoxTuesday feature, which I’m still giggling about even now. Nice work, Caroline!