I promised you ‘Wildkatze’ last week, didn’t I? Well, prepare to receive them in abundance as Resonance FM‘s Near Mint show takes a second trip round the record box of genius composer, sound designer, performance artist and roboticist Sarah Angliss. Recorded in the studio of her flat in a very rainy Borough while husband Colin made us pasta, it’s another superb selection that moves from Schlager to Dietrich to prepared piano to Iggy without breaking a sweat, all mixed together with her contagiously effusive commentary. If you can think of a better way to pass half an hour, do please fill us all in.
In other news, please enjoy my latest BBC report on the subject of The Arkestra, the community of musicians that surrounded the legendary Afro-Futurist band-leader and interstellar ambassador Sun Ra, and continue to spread his message to this day; with 91 year-old director Marshall Allen still leading from the front.
‘The music world is full of larger-than-life characters, but surely few more extraordinary than the late Sun Ra, an African American bandleader who claimed he was visiting Earth from Saturn, leaving a trail of [incredible] music in his wake. His band, known as The Arkestra, is still touring the world, with 91-year-old director and leading man, Marshall Allen, very much at the helm. Robin [The Fog] spoke to Sun Ra expert and BBC 6 Music DJ, Gilles Peterson, about why, 23 years after the its leader passed on, the music and legacy of the Sun Ra Arkestra is perhaps more relevant than ever…’
In this report, originally aired on Radio 4’s The World Tonight and later repeated on The World Service, BBC 6Music DJ Gilles Peterson a Sun Ra curator, scholar and archivist (amongst many other goodly activities) tells us more about the great man’s work over some extracts from the excellent Strut Records compilation that he put together last year. There’s also some actuality I recorded at the band’s recent sell-out show at London’s Union chapel, captured in spite of a large man with an earpiece who demanded to know what I’d done with the recording permit they’d failed to provide me with, and the chap in front of me who seemed convinced that the whole enterprise was merely an elaborate ruse to cover my trying to record his conversation. With the best will in the world this was unlikely – he was sitting alone.
I must thank Gilles for a fascinating interview, conducted as it was in the august surroundings of the Brownswood Recordings stock-cupboard, and his team Dave O’Donnell and Simon Goffe for their assistance in making it happen. Isn’t it wonderful that we get to talk about Sun Ra on Radio 4? Meanwhile, The Arkestra are currently on tour in Europe and sounding as remarkable as ever, while Peterson-curated compilation To Those Of Earth And Other Worlds is out now. Featuring a number of previously unreleased or horrifically rare recordings from his own archive, it’s well worth a dig.
Speaking of exciting new releases, A Year In The Country’s The Quietened Village is finally out now and features an exclusive Howlround track as well as new works from Time Attendant, Polypores, The Rowan Amber Mill and lots more besides. As well as being available from A Year In The Country’s website, it’s also secured a release through the legendary online emporium that is Norman Records and a coveted slot in the Ghost Box‘s Guest Shop! Another beautifully hand-made and fabulously limited package that is set to disappear quick-sharpish. Swiftly investing in a copy would be highly recommended.
In other Howlround news, thanks to everyone who came down to the three-day Open Jack Weekender at New River Studios in Manor House last weekend, it was great to see so many friends and take in performances by Sculpture, Raxil 4, Guncleaner and Tom Mudd amongst others. Extra special thanks must go Thomas Blackburn for asking us to play and being the dynamic force behind the whole event (‘never again!’ he panted over his shoulder – but I’m quite sure he’ll change his mind) and to Lisa Hack for this shot of me looking confused yet oddly poised and confident. If I didn’t already have a couple of biographers, she’d certainly be in line for the job. And all this to end an exciting week when the Howlround studio took delivery of the latest addition to the family, an enormous old Studer which I predict will be a credit to the team, once we’ve ironed out a couple of slightly worrying tendencies:
Playing around with malfunctioning new tape machine seems to have opened a portal to another dimension: pic.twitter.com/nwIv9M3mq2
— Robin The Fog (@RobinTheFog) April 21, 2016
To conclude on a similar moderately sinister note, please accept this rather poorly-taken photo (no tripod or decent light-source to hand at the time of writing) of a Structures Sonores Lasry-Baschet LP on the Patchwork Library that has recently found its way into the Foggy crate. In all honesty this has nothing to do with any of the above and I have no particular reason for sharing it with you, other than to say it’s well-worth getting hold of a copy if you can find one and that the Pattern house sleeve (each release sharing this uniform design but in a series of different colours) is a thing of beauty. And most of all just to put the wind up my Near Mint co-host Hannah Brown, who is reportedly green with envy that I got hold of it before she did. How long can it be before our friendly rivalry spills over into bloodshed? Surely the time is nigh…
To those requiring further clarification, Lasry-Baschet and their collection of deeply unconventional instruments (perhaps we could refer to them collectively as the ‘Lasry-Baschet Cachet’) were a French group based around the brothers François and Bernard Baschet together with Jacques and Yvonne Lasry.
Recording and performing with their unique collection of remarkable home-made devices and active mostly between the 1950s and 70s, the group are perhaps best known in the UK for having one of their pieces, ‘Manège’, soundtrack the opening sequence to the long-running ITV Schools programme ‘Picture Box’, it’s combination of slightly sinister fairground tones mixed with blurry footage of a slowly rotating jewelled casket instantly recognisable to anyone who spent time growing up in the 1970s and 80s. There is a distinct chance that many regular readers of these pages will already be nodding along to this and saying ‘yes, yes, everyone knows already?’, but I thought I’d use the opportunity to re-visit this remarkable ‘extended version’ of the Picture Box opening titles just in case you haven’t seen it before. It’s well worth a look, partly because it’s very, very cleverly executed and because it takes the original video’s aforementioned slightly sinister overtones and blows them clean out of the water. But mostly because I’m reliably informed it made Jonny Trunk almost wet himself:
An absolutely classic Near Mint show on Resonance 104.4FM this week, featuring a trip through the record box of voracious digger Tom Central. Resident DJ of long-running club night Soundcrash, one half of the Shapes Of Rhythm duo and the man behind the rather super Keep Up! label, his collection is literally groaning with killer library, Bollywood and psychedelic jams from years spent scouring record shops across the globe for the rarest and strangest vinyl – that is now threatening to take over his house. We’re very happy he let us have a rummage – but also extremely jealous. Have a listen and you will be too!
Crumbs, it’s been a busy couple of weeks. Let’s start the beginning with my report for BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight on the recent Delia Derbyshire Day that took place at HOME, Manchester and that I was lucky enough to attend. Partly intended as an introduction to one of the great pioneers of the Radiophonic Workshop, much of the ground covered here will already be familiar to regular visitors to these pages; but listen closely and you’ll catch a couple of exclusive extracts from works that have lain unheard in Delia’s archive for decades! It’s a real privilege to be able to bring you even this small taster!
Part of my on-going commitment to keep the nation’s airwaves just that little bit Radiophonic, this report also went out on The World Service a few days later and was posted on The Today Programme’s Facebook page; all of which has hopefully helped to continue the festival’s stated aim to both preserve the legacy of this remarkable lady and to inspire new generations of electronic and experimental musicians to carry her work forward. This year’s third annual Delia Derbyshire Day, the brainchild of electronic musician and sound engineer Caro C, featured new additions to the archive in the shape of two films with original Delian soundtracks: One of These Days (1973) directed by Madelon Hooykaas (who flew over for a personal appearance!) and Two Houses (1980) directed by Elisabeth Kozmian. There were also two new artist commissions for the event, a beautiful original soundtrack and performance by Mandy Wigby (you’ll hear an extract from it closing the report) and film-maker Mary Stark‘s striking visual interpretation of a freshly-prepared sixteen-minute montage of sounds from the Delia’s archive put together by curator and archivist Dr. David Butler. David is the man who has been chiefly responsible for the mammoth task of cataloguing, restoring and preserving Delia’s archive since the University of Manchester took possession of it several years ago, and in his estimation, the freshly discovered archive material used for Mary’s film would have last been heard by the wider public at least forty years ago, if at all.
As you might well imagine, all this was absolute hog heaven.
What I found particularly inspiring about Caro’s approach to curating this event was her determination to look forward as well as back and to pass Delia’s work on into the future. ‘Someone’s got to inspire the next generation of wonky musicians!’ she laughingly tells us, and having sat in on the festival’s afternoon workshop and watched children of all ages happily creating their own experimental sound works with bowls, gongs and whistles, I’m certain the job has fallen into the right hands. Meanwhile, work on restoring the archive continues and hopefully before long they’ll be ready to share even more new surprises. But for now, bravo to everyone concerned and particular thanks to Caro, David, Madelon and Mandy for being such excellent and inspiring company. I could not have asked for a warmer welcome. Hope to see you again next year!
Moving on, I’ve finally had a moment to upload our debut TV appearance on the BBC’s flagship technology programme Click onto youtube. Now you can sit back and enjoy our unique combination of fascinating sounds, vintage equipment and ravishing good looks just by clicking on the link below, rather than all that messing about with iPlayer. It’s also happens to be a rather useful introduction to just how we created some of the sounds that were used on our last album and the recent compilation The Delaware Road (plus a forthcoming Howlround album as it happens, but that’s not for a while yet). Assisted by the brilliant Victoria Forbes, the end section of the report has been extended a little in order to allow the viewer a longer, uninterrupted listen to the track we created that day with Spencer Kelly and his team. Though of course the track is also still available in full as a free download from my Soundcloud page if you want to go the whole hog. I figure it’s always nice to have options.
Speaking of compilations, I’m very excited to reveal that ‘OH’, our recent collaboration with Ray Carmen’s abandoned playground project has been chosen as the opening track of UK Experimental Underground 016 Survey, a new album from Unexplained Sounds Group and curated by sound artist Raffaele Pezzella aka Sonologyst. The latest in a series of compilations exploring the contemporary electronic music scenes in a number of different countries (and the second concerning the UK), it also includes works by Merkaba Macabre (aka Steve from Psyché-Tropes), Pascal Savy, Tom White, Ian Haygreen and much more. Check it out in full here and see if you can get permission to join their Facebook Group while you’re at it – it’s a veritable treasure-trove of curios and obscurities!
In other news, we’re rapidly approaching that time again where Resonance 104.4FM asks for the help of it’s many listeners and fans the world over in raising money to fund another year’s work, so please do what you can and help this remarkable station continue it’s mission in broadcasting the weird and the wonderful and giving sounds and voices on the margins a chance to be heard – not to mention it’s wide roster of valuable community, political and discussion programmes. For our part, Howlround are going to be auctioning off some rare vinyl (more on that to follow soon), but for now I’m hoping to encourage you to attend a special fundraising event I’m organising with my esteemed colleagues and longstanding Resonance teamsters Lucky Cat Zoe and Hannah Brown:
Please do join us at West Norwood’s Book And Record Bar on February 19th, where we’ll all be spinning some discs and raffling off some covetable items, with all proceeds going to help keep Resonance on air. I’m also very excited to announce that we’ve managed to convince legendary DJ, producer, graphic artist and Resonance supporter Strictly Kev of DJ Food to headline for us (though rumours of him planning to give away a significant chunk of the records he’ll be playing remain unconfirmed at the time of writing)! The Facebook event page is here, so please feel free to pledge your allegiance. And of course you can always donate to this worthiest of causes any time you like by visiting the Resonance website and pledging some money, which is like pledging your allegiance only even more so.
I’ve also been enjoying this brief but beautiful EP by John Hall, stalwart member of The Octopus Collective and Full Of Noises, our friends up in Cumbria. “Born in Ashgate Maternity Home in 1959 and again in 1973 in Some Kinda Mushroom Records on Newbold Road”, Four Short Guitar Tunes and Six Iron Gates was recorded in Ulverston and is available now as a limited edition 7″ through his own Bifocals website. Beautiful cover art too. My copy came with three collectable ‘Sweet Charity’ cards, documenting John’s adventures in Oxfams and British Heart Foundations up and down the country, so I guess I’d better start collecting those too…
And finally, a belated RIP to Denmark’s First Lady of electronic and concréte music, Else Marie Pade. From her earliest realised compositions in the 1950s, to working alongside Pierre Schaeffer, to a recent collaboration with Jacob Kirkegaard; her life-long quest to discover new sounds and her fascination with the subject right up to the end is truly humbling. And that’s before you even consider her work in the Danish Resistance during the war. A remarkable life indeed…
— BBC Radio 6 Music (@BBC6Music) July 18, 2015
First off, thanks very much to Stuart Maconie and producer Rebecca Gaskell for allowing me to play records and talk foley on BBC 6Music’s Freakier Zone this week. If you missed it and fancy hearing 100% exclusive extracts from Howlround‘s very-nearly-finished fourth album (including one track so new it had to be hurriedly assembled prior to broadcast) plus personal sound FX selections including the immortal ‘Grotbag’s Cauldon’, you can listen again here. There’s treats aplenty, even if I do say so myself!
Speaking of exclusive treats, I’d like to hereby present for your approval Howlround‘s first ever promo video and the unveiling of another brand new track ‘OH’, produced in collaboration with abandoned playground aka US musician and fellow tape enthusiast Ray Carmen:
The track is created entirely from microcassette recordings made by Ray in the 1990s – of his infant daughter, chimes in the park and distant train sirens. As soon as we heard them it quickly became apparent that they were crying out for some deep spool action and Ray has very kindly obliged. Some have called the results our finest work yet, or at least our most accessible. I’m happy to go along with either, quite frankly.
Howlround are also very pleased to reveal that an edited version of the above features on a brand new 16-track charity compilation XPYLON, released on August 5th and featuring Kemper Norton, Cindy Talk, Time Attendant, Dolly Dolly, Ekoplekz alter-ego Gloria Gloucestershire and side-projects by members of Hacker Farm and Band Of Holy Joy – all artists released by or associated with the now sadly-defunct record label and radio show Exotic Pylon. 100% of proceeds from the sale of this compilation will be donated to mental health charity Mind, so it’s a worthy cause as well as a thoroughly stimulating listen. Pre-order your copy here.
Incidentally, the compilation also features an exclusive track by The British Space Programme, the latest project by ace music producer and Quiet World label-boss Ian Holloway. The debut BSP album Eyes Turned Skyward is out now and is really rather super. Unfortunately Ian recently had a rather nasty altercation with a flight of stairs, resulting in a horrific-sounding knee-injury, swiftly followed by hospitalisation and surgery, so it looks as if future projects might be somewhat delayed. Thankfully he appears to be on the road to recovery, though justifiably a little miffed with being house-bound. Why not help speed that recovery along by browsing the extensive Quiet World catalogue and perhaps making a purchase or two? Just a thought…
Finally, you might have noticed the ‘OH’ promo video is dedicated to broadcaster, inventor, and polymath Bob Symes, who sadly passed away earlier this year. The reason for this dedication will be immediately apparent to anyone aware of the great man and his work, but I would urge everyone else to take five minutes out of their lives and watch this clip of him in action on BBC TV in the 1970s. Whatever your opinion regarding modified coffee tables, if the sheer, unbridled enthusiasm he shows towards the subject (as for seemingly everything he turned his hand to) doesn’t warm your heart, nothing will. An ‘eye-smiler’ as my flatmate observed when I forced her to sit through it. Or as Bob himself might say, ‘Really remarkable’. Bravo, sir, and RIP.
Rather a treat for lovers of banging tunes from The World Service this week, as the latest instalment of it’s on-going Global Beats series is now available for your listening pleasure – and this time I’m pleased to say it was my hands on the faders. In this edition, DJs from Denmark, Brazil, Russia, Thailand, Spain, Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan share their stories, clubbing tips and their current favourite floor-fillers, with quite a few surprises along the way. First broadcast last Sunday, those who missed out have some 28 days at the time of writing to listen again.
The programme is presented by 1Xtra’s DJ Edu, hastily juggling his voiceover duties around his current job of travelling all over Africa sampling some of it’s finest nightclubs and actually getting paid to do it, which sounds like a fantastic job, though I’m informed is actually quite tiring. It was produced by Catherine Fellows and mixed and edited by myself in a marathon, 15-hour, caffeine-fuelled, deadline-thrashing super-session. In fact, far from travelling to Africa, swanning around in nightclubs or hobnobbing with our global selection of tastemakers, Catherine and I barely got to leave the studio or see daylight for about three days, except to fill up on coffee and crisps. I realise that it is possible to shave a few hours off these sessions by just doing basic fades in and out of the music, but as you’ve probably worked out long ago, that really isn’t how I roll.
Anyway, we we’re both very pleased with the resulting programme, which we’ve tried to make sound as close to a DJ set as possible, with all the music punching through nice and loud and neatly slotting together – with perhaps the honourable exception of the bouncy techno from Bishkek, which is in a class all of its own. I certainly picked up on a few fantastic tracks that I otherwise would most likely have never discovered and am at this moment seriously considering emigrating to either Copenhagen or Bangkok; torn as I am between the strident electro of the former and the vintage Thai funk of the latter.
It would hardly be necessary at this point for me to launch into some sort of rapture about the glories of music bringing people together, but I will say that it’s a truly great thing that even in these straightened times there is still room for this kind of cultural feast on the World Service. Where else am I going to find out what they dance to in the clubs of Kyrgyzstan? Long may it continue.
I know I’ve been harping on about the Denman Exponential Horn installation at the Science Museum quite a bit here and on the social networking of late, but the fact is it’s just an amazing object that has to be both seen and heard in-situ to be believed. However, with this report produced for BBC World Service and broadcast last week, I’m hoping I’ve finally got the whole thing out of my system. You’ll hear Aleksander Kolkowski, the audio historian responsible for restoring Roderick Denman’s magnificent creation explaining both the past and present of the horn, accompanied by a selection of sound effects from the BBC archive, selected and mixed by my Foggy self. Those of you who heard my OST Horn Special a month or so ago will find many of these sounds familiar, including the fabulous historical recording of Tutankhamun’s Horn that opens the piece; but given the response I’ve had so far, I can’t imagine repeating this ‘glorious cacophony’ will cause too much upset. And just to clarify, that recording of Tutankhamun’s horn actually dates from 1939, as no original 13th Century BC recordings are thought to exist. I do hope this revelation will not impair your enjoyment too greatly.
The exhibition runs until 27th July and I urge you to pay a visit before the horn falls silent again!
PS In hindsight I could probably have chosen a more dignified title for this blog post. Doesn’t really chime with the usual shroud of mystique in which I smother my work…
Presented for your approval, here is last Sunday’s OST Show Denman Horn Special, recorded live at the Science Museum and broadcast, depending on your geographical location, either down a colossal 27-foot exponential horn or on Resonance 104.4FM. Regular host Jonny Trunk was off down the seaside, doubtless trying to bag himself a coconut, or treat the family to some retro donkey-riding action; so once again I was charged with the task of steering Resonance FM’s soundtrack / library music programme through the choppy arts radio waters.
I’ve presented the OST show on numerous occasions, but never before had a 27-foot horn to play with, so I was determined that this special edition of the programme should have a bespoke playlist specifically designed to best honour Roderick Denman’s enduring legacy; not forgetting the efforts of Aleks Kolkowski and his team in bringing it back to life. The resulting hour is perhaps a little more ambient and drifty in nature than the usual groovy titillation, but features some quite marvellous new releases from Public Information and Arc Light Editions; as well as some classic radiophonic obscurities. Best appreciated on headphones if you don’t have a great big horn of your very own. As it were.
Or you can download it if you’re in a hurry. Here’s that horny tracklisting in full:
? – Tutankhamen’s Horn (archive recording from 1939 – source BBC)
Delia Derbyshire – Theme From Tutankhamen’s Egypt (The Music Of Africa, BBC Records, 1971)
Ingram Marshall – Fog Tropes (Fog Tropes / Gradual Requiem, rec 1984, Arc Light Editions, 2014)
Evelyn Glennie – The Seaside / In The Womb (Touch The Sound OST, Normal, 2004)
BBC Sound Effects – Fog and Ship’s Horn Montage (various, mixed by Robin The Fog)
Dick Mills – Seascape (The Soundhouse: Music From The BBC Radiophonic Workshop, 1983)
Howlround – неизвежбан (Secret Songs Of Savamala, The Fog Signals, 2013)
Selections from Happy Machine: Standard Music Library 1970-2010, (Public Information, 2014):
– Brian Hodgson – The Craters Of Mars
– Brian Hodgson & Reginald D. Lewis – Song Of The Wilderness
– Elliot Ireland, Allessandro Rizzo & Tom Greenwood – Sonus Soul
– Silver Float
– Stardrift In Two
– Snowbell Waltz
David Vorhaus – Sea Of Tranquility (A/B) ((The Vorhaus Sound Experiments, KPM, 1980)
Bill Fontana – Landscape Sculpture With Fog Horns, Live Radio Version, 1982 (KQED-FM, 1982)
As a bonus treat and an attempt to recreate a little of the magic of standing in front of the horn during the programme, here’s a recording of the above BBC Sound Effects montage made using a simple hand-held hard-disk recorder and sitting in the front row, approximately seven feet from that cavernous black mouth. This was made by sneaking out of the studio and grabbing a front-row seat, thereby simultaneously becoming both host and audience. Nothing can truly recapture the magic of hearing this recording while standing in front of a 27 foot horn, but until I can afford a big enough studio to build one of my own, it’s not a bad start:
Resonance continues to broadcast on-site until the end of the month, while the Exponential Horn exhibition ‘In Search Of Perfect Sound‘ continues until the end of July. I urge you to visit if you haven’t already, as nothing can truly replicate the experience of standing in front of the horn. No microphone will do it justice, it’s a full aural immersion, go and hear it while you can!