Strøm: ‘A Study In Alluring Scary’

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Photos by Rasmus Kongsgaard

Well, what an adventure I had this week! Huge thanks to the Strøm Festival and to everyone who came down to the sold-out show at Cisternerne on Monday night to witness performances by myself and Logos. It was an honour to play in such an unique space with an incredible natural acoustic, so I made sure I stepped up to the occasion with a set of brand new material and the longest loops I’ve ever made, running for several meters across the space and balanced precariously above the permanently wet and grimy floor. They certainly appeared to impress the crowd:

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I realise it is customary at this point for me to include an audio extract from the performance via my Soundcloud Page, but on this occasion I regret to say that I’m unable to do so – the performance was deliberately tailored to play to the Cisternerne’s seventeen second reverb and so a simple ‘output recording’ would be missing half of the experience. I believe that there was some filming and recording taking place, so perhaps that will surface at some point, but for the moment those of you who couldn’t get a ticket will just have to take my word that it was an amazing experience. Plus I’m hoping that I will be allowed to give this historic structure the full ‘album treatment’ some time next year, a proposition that Strøm top-brass appear to be intrigued by, so all is not lost. Until such times, please enjoy these photos by Rasmus Kongsgaard together with some snappy sound-bites derived from running the article they came from through some slightly ropey online translation software:

Although cisterns are worth a visit in itself, it is electronic music of the most radical and uncompromising kind that is in the centre at tonight Power-event.

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There is no anywhere other than exactly here that these works may be noticed in this way. There’s nowhere else you can stand underground and fall in spell over a flickering candle while vaulting around you is echoing with issue noise from another world.

Distorted locomotive whistle, deep roar that could evoke an imam fair and elongated, umelodiøse soundscapes instantly puts the listener in a state of alluring scary. For although it is extremely difficult to get hold of the sonic bursts that puts both eardrums and stalactites in swings, and most of all sounds like the soundtrack to a dystopian sci-fi nightmare, it’s impossible not to be drawn into .

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The following afternoon I was performing my secondary role at the festival of leading a workshop on field recording and composition using some of the basic principles of musique concréte, as part of Strøm’s summer school programme open to students across Europe and beyond. This took place on a converted dredging ship by the docks, which made for a terrifically fertile environment for our class of 36 enthusiastic students to explore. Before long groups of people were scattered all around this waterside complex, looking for things to rub, hit and scrape. It was incredibly gratifying to observe these discoveries and to have such an attentive class, many of whom seemed to have a natural ear for spotting sounds ripe for manipulation – the small group I was leading found a very tasty drainpipe and nearly gave themselves permanent hearing damage in the process!

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A quick break from all the scraping, rubbing and hitting. Photo by Ingeborg Okkels

The plan had been for each small group to submit their best material to be dubbed onto quarter-inch tape and then for all the recordings to be appraised together as a class and worked into some sort of composition; while outlining some of the techniques that magnetic tape puts at one’s disposal. Unfortunately my quartet of reel-to-reels were feeling rather uncooperative that afternoon – perhaps still sore at spending the preceding evening in what was to all intents and purposes a dungeon – and so refused to put anything at anyone’s disposal what-so-ever. Thankfully I was still able to demonstrate some basic tape loop construction, though the bulk of the composition was demonstrated on my trusty-though-less-interesting laptop – did the job, just wasn’t as much of an immersive experience.

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Tape loop demonstration. Photo by Ingeborg Okkels

However, feeling that this itch hadn’t quite been scratched, I pulled out their recordings again when I arrived back at my studio last night and knocked the above short piece together. Hopefully it will retrospectively offer the students a clearer idea of the things we were discussing and provide some much-needed closure for me!

Before I forget, extra special thanks must go to Jim Slade (and family!), Pernille Krogmog and Allan Hansen for making it all happen, to co-performer and fellow-junglist Logos and of course to Laura Yawira Scheffer for being a shining beacon – quite literally as it was very hard to de-rig in the pitch darkness of the Cisternerne and her smartphone had a torch. Now I really must have a serious word with those naughty machines Daphne and Delia. I’m certainly not taking them on tour with William Basinski if they’re going to misbehave like this!

Oh, did I mention Howlround were going on tour with William Basinski? I did? Well, expect me to continue harping on about it for a while yet…

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Strøm Festival 10.08.15 – Sounds From The Cisternerne Sold Out!

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I wouldn’t say my career was ‘on the line’ as such… (arf arf!)

Tremendously excited to announce further details of my performance as part of the Strøm Festival in Copenhagen next week. I shall be playing a solo tape-loop set of almost entirely exclusive material, quite possibly including tracks from the forthcoming Howlround LP (which now has a title, a full track-listing and is awaiting the gentle touch of our mastering engineer – but I’m not giving anything else away just yet)! And just LOOK at the venue we’ve been given to play with! This is Copenhagen’s Cisternerne, an underground former reservoir with a seventeen second natural reverb. Seventeen seconds, ladies and gentleman!

Cisternerne I shall also be running a sound recording and composition workshop the following day on a converted dredging boat, so it just goes to show you how skilled the Danes are at turning recycling interesting locations into amazing arts venues! Both have now sold out, but you can learn more about the former here and discover what my biography reads like in Danish here. The mighty Logos is playing on the same evening, so it’s shaping up to be quite an event. Hopefully see you there, if you managed to get a ticket!


A Horse Hospital Howl (Plus Some Clanking)

Howlround’s first live performance of the year (and for almost a year!) occurs at ‘The Light And Shadow Salon’ on June 25th. An evening of varied audio-visual performances, film, improvisation and even magic lanterns, it’s the brainchild of our friends Speak No Evil and takes place at historic London arts venue The Horse Hospital.

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There’s a Facebook Event page with details of the rather super line-up in full, plus you can learn more about this most fascinating building (and how you can play a part in saving it from the relentless march of the sterile corporate behemoth currently ravaging our fair city) here.

Our tape machines are looking set to make up for lost time with a busy summer playing at festivals in both Viseu, Portugal in July and Copenhagen, Denmark in August; further details of which should be arriving on these pages soon, as well as details of a new Howlround LP in late summer/early autumn. To be honest I’ve no real idea yet what shape it might take, but I can reveal we’re sitting on a sizeable reserve of new material; and that after the vinyl reissue of Torridon Gate sold out in a single afternoon, I’m very keen to follow it with something fresh. Rest assured that any subsequent developments will be trumpeted loudly from the rooftops.

Speaking of reissues, you might remember Brood Ma‘s excellent P O P U L O U S (not to mention the follow-up r e P O P U L O U S featuring remixes by Yearning Kru, Ornine and myself), released on his Quantum Natives label last year. Well, it’s now been reissued on vinyl by Untold’s ever-superb Hemlock Recordings and sounds fatter than ever. I was going to write ‘phatter’, but I’m not sure that’s been culturally acceptable since about 1996. Suffice to say it still bangs and squelches in all the right places and I’m happily rinsing it round at Fog Towers all over again.

Equally excitingly, Ghost Box have just put out two of their finest releases on vinyl for the first time – 2007’s Quatermass-channelling Seance At Hob’s Lane by Mount Vernon Arts Lab and The Advisory Circle‘s sublime Other Channels from the following year. Both are highly deserving of the heavyweight vinyl treatment and Julian House’s artwork looks better than ever in twelve inches. And as if this wasn’t enough, The Advisory Circle’s Jon Brooks, never one to rest on his laurels, has just released another excellent new LP, Walberswick on More Than Human Records. Whatever his secret is, I do wish he’d bottle it!

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And finally, while it doesn’t really have anything to do with the above business, this wondrous thing finally turned up in the post last week:

Sesame Street Record Box

Isn’t it beautiful?

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I’ve been hunting a Sesame Street record box for a number of years now, even going so far as trying to sneak off with one belonging to fellow Sesame-addict DJ Food while his back was turned. Now, after a decade of impatient online scouring and bungled petty-thievery, this little beauty has pride of my place on my shelf and plays host to my modest collection of slightly battered CTW and other Muppet 45s (including ‘I Love Trash’, as you’d expect), a rather marvellous single by Bert entitled ‘Clink, Clank’ and – though I’m embarrassed to admit it – my copy of the decidedly non-canon: ‘Big Bird & His Blowers’. That’s right at the back of the box, as you might expect and it should probably stay there.

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The colour gives it away. Purple records are seldom wholesome.

Anyway, the discovery of this box and the aforementioned glut of reissues by some of my favourite artists have contributed not only to making June a rather exciting month musically, but also to my recent inability to put my hand in my pocket and get a round in. And so, as an act of contrition I thought I’d leave you with this charming performance of ‘Clink, Clank’ I found on youtube. Some might argue that all this is veering dangerously off-topic, but I feel I should point out that Bert’s delight in the strange sounds produced by his apartment’s plumbing not only has vague echoes of my own childhood but also sums up the Howlround modus operandi pretty neatly.

Besides, I love going off-topic. Get to it, gentlemen:


Wheel And Listen Again, Selectors – Global Beats DJ Special On BBC World Service

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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.

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DJ Edu striking the classic ‘Devious Masterplan’ pose

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.

You can listen to the programme here and check out lots more from Global Beats series here. I’ve also included two of my personal favourite tracks below. Fill your Global Boots, as it were!