Hello you. First item on a fairly bumper agenda this week, I am absolutely thrilled and delighted to unveil the latest release in Howlround‘s growing catalogue:
The Blow Vol. 2, a split cassette with my old mucker Time Attendant will be released in November on Manchester’s Front And Follow label on a limited edition cassette plus download, but if you simply cannot wait until then it’s available for pre-order already. The second in a planned series of collaborative releases on the label and taking over from the excellent Volume 1 featuring Hoofus and IX Tab (now sold out physically), all of the music on my half was created by manipulating a single field recording taken in the Mojave desert ‘almost ghost town’ of Amboy, California:
The album was produced over the course of spring and summer this year, though the source material was originally recorded a couple of summers ago while on a pilgrimage to visit one of the great desert ‘readymades’, namely the dilapidated sign of Roy’s Motel which is the town’s most famous landmark. Straddling Route 66 some forty-three miles from Joshua Tree as the crow flies (and sixty-four by road), this is a remote location indeed. Did you even notice the enormous freight train making it’s way across the bottom right of the above picture? Must have been almost a mile long, but even that gets lost amongst such a vast and arid desert landscape. The population of this once-bustling town is now a mere ‘handful’ (which sounds slightly more optimistic than the 2000 census which put it at ‘4’), although bizarrely it does still maintain a working post office.
What’s even stranger is how wet and squidgy the resulting recordings have ended up sounding, something I can only attribute once again to the transformative properties of tape. The source material was created entirely by working the rusted and squeaking hinges of a cupboard door hidden inside the vintage writing desk pictured above, while my friend Kaitlyn patiently sat in the car enjoying the delights of air conditioning and Garth Brooks. At some point I’m hoping to return to Amboy and leave these newly transformed recordings back where they came from, perhaps also taking time out to enjoy another bottle of ‘Root 66 Beer’ and maybe, if I’m really lucky, meeting Chandra Brenner, the lovely yet somewhat vacant host of this completely batsh*t bananas documentary about the town. But all that might be a while off yet. In the meantime, do get your order in early, there are only 100 copies and if the first volume is anything to go by they’ll fly out pretty sharpish!
Meanwhile, there’s just a few days to go before Howlround’s SOLD-OUT performance at Brompton Cemetery Chapel as part of London Month Of The Dead and in anticipation of this historic event, I’ve been jumping onto the PR bandwagon. Firstly, I was interviewed for 6Music news by the splendid Elizabeth Alker, with the results played out on the Sean Keaveney Breakfast Show and again later on Radcliffe and Maconie. The first of these airings has been captured by a quick-thinking well-wisher and uploaded to Soundcloud if you fancy a listen. I haven’t actually done so myself yet, but I’m encouraged to hear that apparently there was a lot of giggling involved…
Even more excitingly, the nice people at Hook Research have made this short video of me in the studio briefly attempting to explain the Howlround philosophy and modus operandi before heading down to the cemetery on a sound-gathering expedition. Thanks must go to Sam Harris and Nick Fisher for doing such a great job and making me look and sound halfway professional. In fact, their sense of timing proved to be quite uncanny, as just after they’d left a small but vital part of the Studer machine that you can see me using in the clip decided to actually MELT...
— Howlround (@Howlroundmusic) October 2, 2016
It will be several weeks before the replacement part turns up and she’s ready to spool again. But it gets stranger: Several hours later in the German town of Halle, Howlround co-conspirator Chris Weaver experienced exactly the same phenomenon with a machine of his own! Seriously, in five years of working with tape we’ve never once had a pinch-roller do anything other than the pinching and rolling that is required of it. Then suddenly two of them melt on different machines in different countries on a single day! What are the chances? Unfortunately Chris came off rather the worse, as his own personal meltage incident occurred live on stage during a Resonance Radio Orchestra performance. I had just turned my back for three minutes while boiling the kettle.
Such an unlikely coincidence will hopefully mean there will be no further meltdowns for at least a couple of weeks, especially because after this Sunday’s adventures in Brompton Cemetery, Howlround are going to be playing Halle on October 16th as part of the Radio Revolten Festival, alongside Chris Cutler and Víctor Mazón Gardoqui. Details of this and a full schedule of events can be found at the Radio Revolten website. There’s also talk of an appearance at the Museum Of London, but more on that in due course.
And lastly, we come to the latest Near Mint show on Resonance FM, where this week we delve deeply into the world of ‘Rhodesian Communications’ through a brief investigation into the work of composer Sam Sklair. We’ll be listening to alternating extracts from two albums on either side of his lengthy career, 1965’s tourist-baiting Rhodesia: Safari On Sound and 1988’s corporate video soundtrack Interplay – The Communications Industry.
Hard to believe that a mere twenty-three years separate these two records or that they come from the same world, let alone the same composer, but I do like to think that you can hear a similar optimism and search for progression in both of them – after a fashion, at least. Curiously, despite featuring a narrator that makes Alan Whicker sound like a bingo-caller and its evident pride regarding the modern embellishments ‘from strip tease to parking meters’ being enjoyed by a nation that stopped existing quite some time ago, I’d almost be tempted to say that Safari On Sound has dated better. But then I remember the considerable debt that contemporary artists such as Oneohtrix Point Never and James Ferraro owe to albums such as Interplay and I’m less sure. Besides, the latter has just about one of the greatest covers of all time. Design like this NEVER goes out of date:
Well, that should about do it for now. Hope to see you on Sunday. And don’t forget to order The Blow!
Postscript: For the avoidance of doubt, I feel I should clarify that it was a Garth Brooks CD that Kaitlyn was enjoying, not actually Garth Brooks himself. Though I’m sure if he had come along they would have got along famously. In hindsight, maybe we should have invited him? Bet he would just love to collaborate with Howlround!
Very excited to announce that our guest on Resonance FM’s Near Mint show this week is the one and only Mr. Luke Vibert. Otherwise known as Wagon Christ, Plug, Kerrier District, Amen Andrews and a whole bevy of other pseudonyms, Luke hails from Cornwall and was originally part of the county’s fabled 90s electronica scene alongside long-time friend Richard D. James and members of the legendary Rephlex Records. Releasing numerous albums on that label as well as Warp, Ninja Tune and Planet Mu to name but a few, his discography is as long as both my arms and includes house, disco, acid, jungle, hip hop and all kinds of joyously leftfield squiggly stuff in-between – and I do personally think ‘squiggly’ is the best way to describe his multifarious output.
His reputation as a DJ and crate digger precedes him as well, so when we got in touch and asked him to pull only the weirdest records out of his magic box, we knew we’d be in for a treat. And so it’s proves: A Gala Performance, a Karate Robot, an ultra-rare and complete bats**t-crazy outtake from the Jungle Brothers, a visit to Borstal, an equally bats**t outburst from the Stardust Cowboy and the never-more-haunting theme from Picture Box to round things off – by pure coincidence it’s second appearance here in the last few weeks. A loose theme for the show might be ‘records that probably shouldn’t have been made – but thankfully were’. Anyway, it’s a joy and a privilege not only to have Mr. Vibert on the show but to use this as an excuse to share the above vintage photo nicked from one of his Discogs pages, of which there is surely nothing more to be said. By his own admission Luke doesn’t really do social media, so I’m hoping it will be up here quite some time before he notices and demands I remove it. Must say that it’s certainly convinced me to include at least one owl in the next Howlround photoshoot…
Speaking of Howlround, I’m playing a solo tape loop set at Bad Timing’s ‘The Other Side – An Audio Séance’ in Cambridge tonight, but I’m reliably informed the gig is sold out and the tickets are waiting-list only, so there’s not much point in my trying to convince you to come along. Really looking forward to it, however, as it also includes performances from English Heretic’s Documents project and Evie Salmon and James Riley performing ‘Dust’ (plus DJs and hopefully cold beverages).
I’m keeping today’s post relatively brief as I still have to dub off some fresh loops for my set and go do my heroic Buster Keaton routine juggling a heavy suitcase full of gear against a desperately ticking clock and a rush-hour train. Plus I’m still getting over this rather nasty cold that laid me up for the best part of last week and has resulted in my ‘to-do-eventually’ list swelling to monstrous size. With Howlround shows in Cambridge today and Cardiff in a couple of weeks plus a number of radio packages that require my golden touch (I currently have three in the works and one in the wings), it’s going to be snotty-nose-to-the-grindstone for the next few weeks, which I’m hoping will at least clear out my sinuses. Allow me to close for now by tying things up neatly with my all-time favourite Luke Vibert track that salutes another great town not too far from Cambridge, 2001’s ‘Kings Lyn’ from the Ataride EP on Ninja Tune. For some reason nobody ever seems to mention this track when discussing his work, but I think it’s one of the most delightful pieces of modern electronic dance music made by Luke or anyone else. Having dated far better than much of his contemporaries output by sounding oddly timeless, I do love how the different elements of the track seem to whirl around each other and how the chopped amen break flips and contorts but never loses the funk. Completely squiggly – am I right?!
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:
The scene is almost absurd, and very British; a Cleesian visual element to a superlative chorus of outsider sound art. Concrète theatre. The drone thunders on, temporally alien and multilayered. Defeated, Robin places the machine down and lowers the squall. “That’s as good a place to stop as any, I suppose,” he says. Oto cheers. It’s glorious. Drone isn’t supposed to be fun, is it?
We’re charmed and humbled by this article on Howlround in FACT magazine and the splendid Mr. Tom Howells, particularly the description of the delightful chaos that ensued during that Cafe Oto set alongside Mr. William Basinski. And for digging out a track from Soundcloud that we’d practically forgotten making! Eagle-eared listeners might have noticed that it’s actually an early version of this track from our second album:
— FACT (@FACTmag) March 16, 2016
The fact that this embedded Tweet insists on sitting to the left of the frame instead of in the centre is really affecting my OCD impulses….
Howlround’s first live performance on 2016 occurs this Thursday 10th March at The Amersham Arms in New Cross as part of this rather super line-up that also includes Nuances, Design A Wave and much more. Further details can be found by visiting the event’s Facebook page here.
It certainly will be a pleasure to return to venue with a long history of supporting experimental and electronic music. I seem to remember the last time I was there was quite a few years ago now, orchestrating a chaotic piece of audience-participation performance art based on a gigantic game of ‘Simon Says’. Against all expectations it was a total triumph, ending up in a dead heat between two guys attempting to slow-dance while whistling for an imaginary cat; both determined to win the grand prize of a whole pint of lager. The game was finally halted when the promoter pointed out that one of them was on crutches. Spoilsport…
Yep, it that’s time of the year once again where the world’s greatest radio station asks its listeners and supporters to dip hands into pockets and donate towards keeping them on air for another year. But it’s by no means a one-way street as there’s a whole pile of special broadcasts taking place all this week and an online auction with plenty of fantastic objects, artifacts and experiences you can win in exchange for your cash: Record bags, festival tickets, a psychedelic tour of London in a Rolls Royce – the full list can be found on the bespoke Resonance Fundraising website here. I’m currently bidding on brunch for two at the Oxo Tower. There are a couple of Howlround items up for grabs as well:
First off, the final remaining copy of the Torridon Gate LP, number 100/100, hand-numbered and stamped, screen-printed cover by Hannah Brown and printed translucent sleevenotes. A one-off pressing of 100 copies only, the entire stock sold out in a single afternoon back in April 2015, but we’ve been holding this one back especially. Click on the above image to bid!
Secondly, an even-rarer test pressing of latest album Tales From The Black Tangle. Hand-written label, numbered 2/6, in full-colour LP sleeve. This album is also now completely out-of-print and despite lots of harrumphing from the populace in general, there will be no re-presses. Sorry, all, but a promise is a promise! This is your last chance to own a slice of Howlround history! Click on the above image to bid!
Next up, and forgive me for banging on about this again, but I really am super-excited about this coming Friday (19th), when we’ll be rocking the Book and Record Bar in West Norwood, with all proceeds going to the fundraiser. Lucky Cat Zoe, Hannah Brown, Michael the Landlord and myself along with very special guest DJ Food will be manning the decks from 8pm and there’s a raffle with fabulous prizes and a bar (please don’t spill any on the vinyl). Rumours that DJ Food will be giving away a large chunk of the records he plays remain unconfirmed, but persistent. Part two of his guest appearance on mine and Hannah’s new Resonance show ‘Near Mint’ is repeated this Friday at 10am, but you can also now listen to both parts on my Mixcloud page here.
The following afternoon, I shall be heading to the studio to present a marathon fundraising special of The OST Show in regular host Jonny Trunk’s absence. I’ll be joined by Radiophonic expert and Buried Treasure Recordings commander-in-chief Alan Gubby, who in a message probably unintended for publication has assured me he’s cooking up a stew of everything from “gritty 7″ rock n rollers to groovy radiophonic funk with lots of abstract tape experiments and early synth minimalism in-between – a couple of unreleased [insert names of legendary Radiophonic Workshop figures] bits, plus a competition prize package of Buried Treasure releases including the last vinyl copy of The Vendetta Tapes” – that last being, of course, the vinyl LP of unreleased John Baker cues, released last year and leaving Radiophonicists the world over in a state of complete frenzy. If you missed it the first time around, here’s one final chance to get your hands on a copy. Tune in, 15.30 on Saturday…
Speaking of Radiophonics and proof if any were needed of just how important Resonance FM is as an alternative broadcaster, have a listen to Rebecca Gaskell’s documentary on Delia Derbyshire Day that was broadcast last week as part of the station’s regular ‘Clear Spot’ feature. You might recall my BBC report on the event from a few weeks ago, but this goes into far more detail than can be achieved in four minutes and really lifts the lid on just what a remarkable composer she was, featuring lesser known extracts from her archive plus extended interviews with festival curator Caro C, archivist Dr. David Butler and musician Mandy Wigby – plus I’m proud to say I had a small consultancy role and sourced some of the music. It’s always nice to be useful!
And lastly, another superb Clear Spot from a couple of weeks ago was ‘Beauty and the Bleak’, produced by Art Assembly’s Julia Dempsey and mixed and edited by myself in a frantic scrabble to meet the Tx deadline – but it was more than worth it! The second of Art Assembly’s in the series of Saisonscape: Decay programmes, this edition features extended interviews with poet and musician Autumn Richardson and sound artist Lauren Bon discussing their work. Their locations and subject matter differ greatly, but their approaches to the subject of decay, isolation and, yes, bleakness, compliment each other beautifully. A real pleasure to work on, this one, event if it was a bit of a narrow squeak to get it finished!
And lastly, while it doesn’t really have anything to with Resonance, there’s another chance to hear Howlround’s sound installation ‘Mansion House Clocks’ produced for Vespertine York last September, at St. Mary’s in the city’s Castlegate area. From 17th-20th, Vespertine York are kicking off the year by exhibiting some of the bespoke works they’ve commissioned over the past year along with a programme of workshops and other delights. Further details here. That was a jolly fine installation, even if I do say so myself…
Straight out the gate and into 2016 is Trade And Distribution Almanac Volume Five, the latest in the ADAADAT label’s on-going series of compilations exploring the fringes of contemporary experimental electronic music. And just look which contemporary experimental fringe-bothering duo have been chosen to kick the proceedings! You can hear Howlround’s contribution, exclusive new track ‘Bush Fountains VIP’ by clicking here. The opening track on the compilation, it features a sample of a drinking fountain recorded in Bush House that somehow managed to get left out of the Ghosts Of Bush sessions.
Must say I’m very pleased to have been asked to contribute as releasing something on ADAADAT has been on my bucket list for the best part of a decade, thanks to it’s long and distinguished catalogue that also includes chip-tune gabba classicism from the mighty DJ Scotch Egg, splattery hardcore from Germlin and pretty much everything else from the criminally-overlooked Hungarian Surf-rock duo Agaskodo Teliverek (seriously, watch the video). Still alive and well today, ADAADAT’s latest release features twenty solid tracks of contemporary experimental electronics by the likes of Rutger Hauser, oMMM, Atom Truck and label head Romvelope. What’s not to like? Thanks to Mr. Bjørn Hatleskog for masterminding this one. We owe you a shandy!
In other new release news, goodly egg and fellow Radiophonicist Matt Saunders formerly of 4AD darlings Magnétophone is all set to launch the latest album from his Assembled Minds alias. Creaking Haze And Other Rave Ghosts is the inaugural release on Patterned Air Recordings and has received airplay from Gideon Coe and Tom Ravenscroft on 6Music and the nod of approval from Simon Reynolds and Wyrd Britain amongst others – and deservedly so, it’s a fine piece of work. I was very pleased recently to receive a CD in the post, which arrived in the most splendidly elaborate packaging, with lots of inserts, sleeve-notes and a nice leather cord to keep it all in place. It also contained a press release, which, as has become something of a tradition, I feel moved to quote from at length, rather than come up with any fresh ideas of my own. It’s been a rather long day, you see:
This is an album that almost doesn’t exist. It’s a cloud of old memories, a collective remembrance-pool of distant Saturday nights out, rave-fields, night-clubs, dancing getting intimidated, getting high, feeling the love of the tribe but always looking over your shoulder for some dark threat or other (and best not to mention the bad trips).
Creaking Haze is foggy, hauntological techno; a strange mix of British suspense/horror film tension and euphorically happy-beat-cycling. Listen closely and you’ll hear rust-flakes from the eerier moments of Tubular Bells, broken pistons from a flipped Detroit techno juggernaut, even flickery moon-bell-echoes of Morris jigs and baton clashes. It’s a wyrd electronic album of rural myth and country-fear and it’s flipside, city-rites and night bus anxiety…
Can’t argue with any of that, can you? Though I must say, having read both press release and sleeve-notes before listening, I was fully expecting it to be a rather gloomy and fragile ‘Death Of Rave’-style affair, like the work of occasional collaborator Farmer Glitch’s erstwhile Hacker Farm, Leyland Kirby or even one of Burial’s slightly less polished efforts. And while there is nothing wrong with any of that in the slightest, this album is actually a more rousing effort, mixing its fuggy and spectral electronics with liberal dollops of house and techno and pushing up the tempos steadily as the album progresses. Either way, it’s been on solid rotation for the last few weeks here at Fog Towers, particularly in the mornings, when I take it with coffee whilst trying to prepare myself for the day’s first coherent thought. Early contender for album of the year? Quite possibly…
Buy it here and check out the Patterned Air’s website here. The label claims to fall in the sweet spot between ‘early electronics, old techno, classroom composition, sleep music, general eeriness and weird things’, which I’m guessing will tick an awful lot of boxes for you as well. One to watch, I shouldn’t wonder, especially as there is said to be a collaborative work between members of Coil and Mount Vernon in the works. Now THAT should be interesting!