Presenting for your approval, Howlround‘s remix of a track from the new album by Devon Loch. Sleep Scale is out now on the redoubtable Kit Records, and also includes interpretations by Beams, Yaaard, Adam Ono and others:
The title ‘Howlround Follows Them Down’ stems from the fact that our quartet of tape machines were each going through a particularly ropey patch at the time and throwing some decidedly wonky shapes into the mix, a state of affairs that I was mindfully attempting to embrace, rather than submitting to hand-wringing despair. Were I permitted to don my philosophical hat, I might speculate that part of what gives Howlround’s music its distinctive savour is the knowledge that both the elderly reel-to-reel machines and the magnetic tape on which it is produced are all gradually degrading and that each turn of the loop only hastens their demise. I might then add that perhaps such ‘managed decline’, if treated sympathetically can produce music of a distinct and fragile beauty, rather like the way dying leaves change colour in the autumn, before winter comes and they turn into withered husks lying forlornly around the place, completely incapable of anything productive and just waiting for you to stub your toe.
For these reasons, and with all philosophical headgear firmly removed, I was and am determined as far as possible to follow the Revoxes down the slippery spiral to the scrapheap and hopefully create some kind of extended swan-song out of the results. After all, you can never be sure with these machines just how much time you have left, a fact that a more gifted writer would doubtless be able to wring all sorts of metaphorical postulation from. As for me, I’ll just settle for remembering that the pioneering Louis and Bebe Barron produced some of their most far-out sounds for the Forbidden Planet soundtrack by actually recording the death-throes of the primitive electronic circuits as they burnt out. The results still sound amazing six decades later and so you could say that those primitive circuits have out-lived them both. And Leslie Nielson.
All this lofty aspersion and dubious metaphor aside, however, I was a little unsure upon listening back to my interpretation of ‘Rapid’ as to whether I was actually satisfied with it. You can waffle on about the beauty of decay all you like (and I do), but it still has to function as music or at least offer a pleasing listen. My initial concern was that it made everything sound quite knackered, as though the bottom had fallen out of the track. Thankfully, when Devon Loch himself finally got to hear it his response was most positive:
Job done. So, moving on, now that the remix is out in the world, a couple of people have asked me to elaborate on the origins of the ‘ghostly and enigmatic’ voices that gradually emerge from under the sea of crackle and hiss in the opening seconds. And what a can of worms they’ve unwittingly opened in doing so, for while I’m normally hesitant in revealing my sources; on this occasion I’ve decided to allow you all a tantalising peek up my sleeve. To that effect, I can confirm that they are taken from THIS festering little object found nestling amongst the usual piles of Johnny Mathis and David Essex in an otherwise unremarkable charity shop:
A flexi-disc! With a title that unblushingly hints at sordid delights supposedly buried within it’s floppy grooves! I paid my 50p, ignored the cashier’s accusing stare, and headed straight for the nearest turntable.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of, ahem, handling one, these disposable, low-quality discs were often given away free with gentleman’s specialist magazines in the seventies and eighties, providing an aural dose of dirty smut to complement their centrefold images – or so I’ve been informed. At the same time they were also used by Readers Digest to flog their box sets of Andy Williams and James Last, though I’ll leave it to you to decide which was the more sordid use of the medium.
Anyway, for added value and because I have nothing better to do with my afternoon, I’ve taken the trouble of transcribing some of the contents of this unsavoury little disc below. Our story begins (or rather it lurches falteringly into motion) with the appearance of one Mr. Brewer, a man who sounds not unlike the Grandfather in the Werthers Original advert fallen on hard times; and who has arrived to hold up his end (ahem) of an appointment with a lady. Or has he? OR HAS HE?! Sit back and let the gripping narrative sweep you into a whirlwind of drama, intrigue and simmering eroticism:
Woman: At last, I was beginning to have my doubts about him. [calling] Who is it?
Mr. Brewer [outside]: It’s me. I mean. Mr. Brewer. Tom Brewer. I rang a little while ago and, and I made an appointment.
Woman: I’m sorry, Sir. We’re terribly busy. There must have been some mistake. Are you sure you’ve come to the right place?
Mr. Brewer [outside]: Yes, yes, I’m absolutely sure. I know I’ve come to the right address. I took it down from your advert. Please let me in. You do remember me. Please. It’s beastly cold out here. I might catch something frightful like pneumonia. Please let me in.
Woman: What did you say your name was?
Mr. Brewer [outside]: Er, Tom Brewer.
Woman: Brewer… Brewer, no I can’t say I recall that name, [and yet in clear contrast to what I’ve just said] it does sound faintly familiar. Did you say you phoned?
Mr. Brewer [outside]: I-I did. Please believe me. It was only half an hour ago.
Woman: Ah, yes, of course. I remember now. Do come in…
[This is where a more accurate dramatic portrayal might have inserted a door-opening sound effect]
Woman: Oh, you poor thing, you look so miserably cold, let’s warm you up with a nice cup of tea and take your coat off for you.
Mr. Brewer : Thank you. I didn’t expect to be treated like this. You know…
Woman: Now, don’t be like that, Mr. Brewer, if that is your name. There are some very peculiar men come knocking on the door. Disgusting men. I hate to think what sort of a place they imagine this to be. They’re dangerous too. Especially a night like tonight when I’m all alone. A lady has to be so careful.
Mr. Brewer : Of course, well, how stupid of me, I should have realised. How can I apologise enough for sounding so rude?
Woman: I should think so!
They continue on in this manner for some time. Just in case you’ve forgotten, gentle reader, that last harrumphing retort from our female protagonist has brought us almost halfway through a so-called ‘Uncensored Sex Party’. Do feel free to stop me if you were offended by any of the above, but I can’t help finding that title inaccurate on at least two counts – a third if you feel that it takes at least three people, some finger-food and the presence of a children’s entertainer to make a party.
For example, while this recording may indeed contain the full, unedited account of what transpired that cold evening; can something really be marketed as ‘uncensored’ if nothing that actually might require censure transpires? Surely this would mean programmes such as ‘Songs Of Praise’ or ‘Gardener’s Question Time’ could also market themselves as uncensored, suggestively-shaped vegetables notwithstanding? It’s all rather misleading, quite frankly, though from a commercial angle I am forced to concede that ‘Uncensored Sex Party’ does have more of a ring to it than other, more appropriate titles such as ‘Dreary Discussion Through Doorway’ or ‘Write It Down Next Time, You Dozy Tart!’
Not that my opinion counts for much amongst all this seediness, of course. As an outsider granted the merest occasional peep, I’ve always found the world of audio-only erotica slightly confusing. Remember my ‘Mucky Mixxxtape’ of a couple years back? The odds are that you do, it was by far one of the most successful endeavours I’ve ever placed a gentle-yet-firm hand upon. And after that there was my attempt to produce a short work for radio by systematically editing all of the smut out of a 1972 LP entitled ‘Midnight Cowpoke’. To my astonishment the resulting two minutes (from a forty-minute long-player) completely failed to make the final cut of a Radio 4 programme with the theme of ‘Misadventure’ – and I had been so confident they would bite my hand off. The point I’m trying to make here is that on both occasions you might recall my wondering aloud just what sort of audience might actually find these records appealing? Who were they aimed at? Why would anyone want to listen to the sound of two jobbing actors faking it?
Well, as far as I’m concerned the discovery of this flexi-disc has only deepened the mystery. The only form of intercourse engaged in during this ‘Sex Party’ is mumbling through some meaningless, utterly perfunctory dialogue that seems almost scientifically programmed not to be listened to. When you further reflect that anyone as concerned about catching ‘something frightful like pneumonia’ as Mr. Brewer would surely not be keen to partake of any activity that involved wearing less clothes, or that our unnamed female appears to be in the dichotomous sate of both expecting and being utterly flummoxed by his arrival; it becomes yet another entry into my canon of things that shouldn’t exist, but somehow do. It’s growing to be quite an impressive list, with recent additions including John Leslie’s Scavengers (Wheel Of Fortune presenter in deep space!), the ‘Loving Remembrance Musical Egg’ and THIS*.
Well, we’ve probably allowed ourselves to get a little side-tracked from our main thrust of business here. This is partly because today is a slow day and partly because I was so utterly depressed by the results of the recent election that I guess I’m looking for any excuse to lose myself in ephemera and try to forget that we’re now essentially living in a giant copy of the Daily Mail. The main thing you should take away from all this is that the Devon Loch LP Sleep Scale is out now on Kit Records and a beautiful thing it is too. Limited vinyl with a handful of tasty remixes and beautiful artwork by Sarah Tanat-Jones. Buy it here while you still can and let’s put an end to all this filth!
* If you clicked here and managed to last right the way through the musical number, I’ll happily stand you a pint. You’ll be needing it.
Another year, another bout of the dreaded winter lurgy, resulting in two weeks of shocking inactivity, where my most productive achievement was alternating between staring at the ceiling and the discovery of several justifiably obscure shades of Glen A. Larson on youtube:
Rather beneath my dignity, I’m sure you’ll agree, but slightly more engaging than the ceiling.
My recovery has been significantly, ahem, ‘energised’, however, by the simultaneous arrival of several new projects from some esteemed friends and former colleagues, and as a token of my gratitude to these brilliant people I’d like to share them with you here and now. It will help to both spread the word and also make me feel less bad about having few of my own 2015 achievements to shout about as of yet. First up is the long-awaited publication of a collection of short works by storyteller, broadcaster and former America’s Got Talent contestant Guy. J. Jackson:
In this collection of rare, hard-to-find, and often too-short short stories, Guy J. Jackson wields his not particularly helpful but still relatively charming (at least compared to being chased) worldview in order to pretty much study and correct all of humanity’s foibles, or at least the ones that need correcting by the end of this year.
More familiar as a performer of stories in the verbal tradition, through innumerable shows on both stage and radio, short movies and a couple of albums (you might remember our collaborative Notes On Cow Life cassette from 2012), Guy’s distinctive mix of creeping intrigue and amiable surrealism loses nothing in it’s translation to the page (though I’ve included a recording of his reading an extract below for added measure:
The stories vary from several pages to the merest few lines and are great to dip into, but better to immerse yourself in – indeed I read the whole thing in one big greedy sitting. Grab your own copy here.
Next up, are you familiar with the work of DCW Briggs? He’s a graphic artist, comic publisher, musician and all round good chap, who has produced a huge body of work over the years, under a number of pen-names [pun intended] such as Hills Have Riffs, which just happened to be the nome de plume he chose when we collaborated on a 2013 mini-album Earl Grey Whistle Test, recorded in Bush House’s Studio S6 in the months leading up to the Ghosts Of Bush sessions:
Dave’s latest exploit is a collaborative exhibition with Andrew Walter at Studio 73 in Brixton Village at the behest of the excellent Indestructible Energy zine, featuring new works, collage, short-press comics and more. This Saturday (17th) sees the closing party, with live music from Mark Dicker, formerly of Trencher playing on a PA system loaned to him by noisy tearaways Part Chimp. Several years ago I found myself on the same bill as Trencher, and seem to remember their set being so loud that those watching in the front row actually appeared to be swimming through a sort of hot and viscous sound-soup. The prospect of one of their number playing on any kind of sound-system that Part Chimp consider fit-for-purpose in a space that small strikes me as a thrillingly brave and foolhardy move.
So, come down on Saturday, pick up some great short-press comics and original artwork by Dave and Andrew, have your ears blasted off and served back to you and perhaps invest in a copy of Indestructible Energy’s latest issue too. And of course you can always visit Dave’s DCWB Website. He doesn’t update it all that often, but it’s always worth the wait.
Moving onto equally exciting news, namely the recent launch of a new collaborative EP from Franziska Lantz and Howard Jacques. Franzi has of course appeared in these pages before, when we collaborated on Whirled Service, a session for BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction that I keep meaning to dig out the archive. Howard you may know from Resonance FM‘s excellent Bermuda Triangle Test Transmissions Department. The duo’s debut 12″, recorded as DPM357x is the first release on Franzi’s Global Warming Records, and while I know it’s a bit early to claim this as one of my records of the year, stranger things have happened! Purchase your own copy direct from the artists after their performance for Club Integral at Stoke Newington venue ‘The Others’ on January 23rd. I shall be there (in my capacity as a fan) and hope you’ll join me. Further information for those of you who are socially-mobile on their Facebook page here, including details of the other acts on the bill – No Cars, Flameproof Moth and Rucksack Cinema. Who says we’re running out of band names? UPDATE: You can also purchase it HERE. Which you jolly well should.
Finally, do you remember my writing last year about the kickstarter campaign to fund the recording of the Synaesthete album Array? Well, I’m happy to say the campaign was a success in more ways than one – this debut long-player from Sarah Tanat Jones’ sophisticated synth-pop project would be brilliant even if you weren’t a complete sucker for multi-tracked vocals, syncopated hand-claps, tick-tocking drum machines and lush, hand-painted artwork (Sarah takes care of that too). Available now from Kit Records and hugely recommended for fans of Tune Yards, Glasser and other left-of-centre electronic pop delights. Jolly good label, that Kit Records…
Right, that’s probably enough to be getting on with and certainly enough to stave off any more forbidden Glen A. Larson-cravings (or ‘Grand Larson-y’, if you’ll pardon the pun). As for my own affairs, I’ve got a couple of rather intriguing tape-music projects lined up for the next couple of months, which could prove most interesting as long as long as my own health and that of my tape machines holds out. They’ve been rather poorly too, of late, but I’m determined that the usual battle between triumph and disaster will resume with renewed vigour next week. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for this, out soon on Buried Treasure:
A few random bits and pieces to bring to your attention this week. Firstly, do you remember that remix I produced for shouty London groove-merchants Chips For The Poor back in 2012? Well, I enjoyed doing it so much that it’s only taken me two years to produce another (with apologies to Gum Takes Tooth, who have been waiting almost a year for theirs – I swear I’m working on it!). This latest reworking is for the new Brood Ma Remix album on the awesome Quantum Natives label, that shadowy collective of beat-makers, programmers and graphic designers that includes Ornine, Yearning Kru and Brood Ma himself amongst others. If the name sounds familiar, it could be because his second album P O P U L O U S was the subject of a very flattering review in last month’s Wire magazine. To my ears it sounds like OneOhTrix PointNever or Autechre trying to make an oldskool hardcore record (with hammers), and indeed Daniel Lopatin has confessed himself a fan. Wasting no time at all, remix album re P O P U L O U S is out this week, and I’m very pleased to have asked to add a contribution. Two remixes in as many years? Nothing can stop this runaway train!
“r e P O P U L O U S” is a view of the original work from 7 different perspectives, as seen through a virtual reality headset slowly fossilising under ash and magma. Two of the album’s tracks, ESTEEM and NRG JYNX, have been rehewn and augmented, different stresses placed on the nervous euphoria and heat-hammered visions of the originals: Ornine’s chittering percussive trance ritual, Al Tariq’s industrial dancehall schematics, Recsund’s melodic electro strata, Yearning Kru’s cthonic collapse, Lyd’s open-air psychedelic zone, Robin the Fog’s claustrophobic pleasure release, and Ana Caprix’s distant, mourning viewpoint. These excavated snapshots reveal a wider panorama of a world moments before the inevitable”
You can check out re P O P U L O U S on the above soundcloud link or download the entire album here for FREE! There’s plenty more to be had, including the original P O P U L O U S long-player at the delightfully panoramic Quantum Natives website, while Brood Ma’s debut full-length F I S S I O N for Mantile Records is also well worth hunting down. I’m a bit of fan, can you tell?
Next up is Sarah Tanat Jones, a musician and illustrator that Chris and I met when Howlround took over the Alien Jams show on NTS Radio back in May (or rather we were invited by host Chloe Friedman and politely made ourselves at home, but ‘took over’ sounds more edgy and exciting). Sarah produces electronic synth-pop under the name Synaesthete, equally groovy illustration under her own name (the above ‘Record Shops of Soho’ is, entirely predictably, my favourite) and co-runs the Kit Records label. Her music is very much in the vein of artists such as Glasser, and I’d even go so far as to say that her recent EP Earth and Air contained more glacial electro pop brilliance in its four tracks than on much of the former’s recent album. This is my personal favourite:
Now Sarah is asking for help to record her debut LP, Array, a CD and picture-book project combining her two talents. Releasing albums being the expensive business that it is, there’s a Kickstarter campaign that could do with your support here, with lots of nice benefits up for grabs. including original artwork. At the time of writing the totaliser is nudging just over the halfway mark with less than three weeks to go, so get cracking. You can also buy the Earth and Air EP here.
Lastly, and on a note that couldn’t be more different if it tried, I was sorry to hear this week of the death of Francis Matthews, the actor who, as part of a long and distinguished career, played detective Paul Temple; but was probably better known – somewhat to his chagrin- as the voice of ‘that bloody puppet’ Captain Scarlet. The archetypal dashing and debonair Englishman, I was lucky enough to interview him along with Alex Fitch for Resonance FM’s ‘I’m Ready For My Close-Up’ way back in 2009; and as there doesn’t seem to have been much else in the media by way of a tribute, Alex has dug up the original podcast. Hope you enjoy spending some time in his company as much as we did!