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!

All Cued-Up: Superstar DJs, Sounds From Below And The Strangest Song Ever

Hello you. It’s been a quiet couple of weeks on these pages, but relatively rowdy elsewhere. For starters, you may have heard the announcement that international snooker legend (and Howlround fan!) Mr. Steve Davis has now been announced as the superstar DJ special guest at this year’s Delaware Road festival, 17th/18th August in a top secret military complex somewhere near Stone Henge. I’m sure I’m not alone in being both a) very excited about this development and b) completely unable to say ‘Stone Henge’ without channelling my inner Nigel Tufnell. As if the lineup could get any more fantastic!

To celebrate this momentous news, Nick Taylor’s The Dream Machine have created the latest in what I hope will be a series of Delaware Road mixtapes. It’s the perfect soundtrack to accompany hasty ticket purchase or for staring at this rather super photo that I borrowed from elsewhere on the internet:

In other Howlround news, the machines and I recently unveiled a brand new and original sound design for the Under Ground London exhibition now on display at the London Metropolitan Archives in Farringdon. Designed for use at low-level and in accompaniment of archive footage of tube stations, sewers and civil defence installations, the soundtrack consists of Howlround tape loops combined with contemporary field recordings by London tour guide Andrea Vail. Obviously for optimum effectiveness it’s best to go down and view the work in situ, but those of you lacking speedy access to Farringdon can check out a brief extract below:

As explained on a nearby wall inside the exhibition space, our intention was to produce ‘…an abstract sound portrait of some of London’s hidden spaces[…] The intention here was to try and create an experience evocative of the sounds every Londoner will recognise: distant trains in tunnels, the squealing of wheels, the rush hour claustrophobia and the occasional sudden moments of unexpected calm and solitude. The creation of a modern soundtrack also acts as a slight juxtaposition to the more historical nature of the films on display, bringing the past into the present’.

Entry is free and this fascinating exhibition runs until 31st October 2019, which should be plenty of time for even the most geographically inconvenienced of you to pop down and check it out. Although I must add a note of caution, not all of it is for the squeamish:

The soundscape was produced as a spin off of sorts from the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project and is hopefully just one of many pieces of outreach and engagement work. The team are now over six months into this three year project to preserve and catalogue five thousand ‘at-risk’ analogue sound recordings and already we’ve unearthed all manner of fascinating artefacts, some of which end up online at our Londons Sound Heritage blog. My personal favourites so far have to include the embarrassment of riches on offer from the Inner London Education Authority, in particular this unassuming-looking tape ‘It’s A Gift’, which you can read more about in this blog post I wrote a few weeks ago entitled ‘The Strangest Song Ever Written?’

Finally, I’m pleased to announce an exclusive Howlround track closes the latest compilation from the ever-redoubtable A Year In the Country stable. The Watchers is the latest in the label’s long-running series of themed compilations and also features contributions from The Heartwood Institute, Grey Frequency, Field Lines Cartographer and many more. This time the theme was the ancient oaks of Britain and for my contribution I travelled down to Tilford, that picturesque village on the banks of the River Wey in Surrey. It’s the site of a good deal of happy memories (a significant portion of my childhood was spent in a nearby village), a rather nice pub (a significant portion of my childhood was spent never going there), and more pertinently an oak that is rumoured to be at least 800 years old. I’m willing to bet that in all those centuries it has witnessed very few things as ridiculous as the sight of your humble scribe scrabbling about in the dirt with a pair of contact mics, trying to persuade it to cooperate. But I hope you’ll agree that persistence has ultimately paid off. Pre-order your copy here.

Amongst Britain’s trees there are thought to be over 3,000 ancient oaks – those which date back 400 years or more – and of those trees more than 115 are 800 to 1,000 years old or more. They are part of a tree population that also includes ash trees that have lived for hundreds of years and a yew that is estimated to be between 2000-3000 years old or possibly many thousands of years older and that some consider to be the oldest living thing in Europe.These are living organisms which could be seen to be undertaking a very stately, still form of time travel, to be watchers and observers over the passing of the years, centuries and even millennia.

Given the nature of the album’s theme and the kaleidoscope of high-class experimental sounds to be found within the sleeve, I can’t help feeling that AYITC have missed a trick by not entitling this compilation ‘Bark Psychosis‘. You see what I did there? No, no, I’ll see myself out…

Musicity x Culture Mile At The Barbican

Howlround are absolutely delighted to have been invited to contribute to the latest project devised by Musicity Global and Culture Mile in association with The Barbican. Inspired by the wide variety of remarkable architecture on offer here in the ancient heart of the nation’s Capital and officially launched at the recent Sound Unbound 2019 festival, MxCM has commissioned a number of musicians and sound artists to each produce an exclusive audio work inspired by a different location in and around the Barbican complex.

The resulting tracks are then geo-tagged precisely to their respective locations in question and can be listened to only by physically visiting that area and logging into using a smartphone. It’s both a treasure trove of hidden surprises from some of London’s most intriguing sonic talent and also a neat way of engaging with your surroundings – Howlround’s own track ‘Heavy Works’ was inspired by the Beech Street Tunnel right next to the world famous art complex and you can read more on the work’s gestation over at the Musicity Global blog. Essential reading for anyone wondering just what we were up to that early Sunday morning when we turned up on site with THIS:

‘In an age when so much music is available in an instant, we want to bring back the joy of seeking it out. We want our audience to venture out, to be active not passive consumers of contemporary music, to explore cities and to experience the urban environment in new and unexpected ways, though music that is entirely connected with it’. Musicity Global

For those of you who are feeling lazy, a limited edition cassette compilation of all ten tracks can be purchased exclusively from The Barbican Shop. Although let’s face it, that would hardly be in the spirit of the endeavour – and since you’re already on site you might as well explore the site and get some exercise!

This Saturday In Shipley…