Near Mint And OST: Olfactory Excellence vs. Baking Bad

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A double-bill of Resonance radio treasures for you today. First off is the latest episode of the adventures in compulsive record-collecting series Near Mint, presented by myself and fellow obsessive hoarder Hannah Brown. This week Hannah take the controls to bring you a Synaesthesia special – to whit, a mix of ‘delightful smelling’ tracks – that is, it’s the music itself that smells nice rather than the vinyl it’s pressed on. Synaesthesia is a neurological condition where, in some cases, music can evoke ‘phantom smells’ for the listener, and Hannah, being something of an expert on the subject, has carefully curated a playlist of the highest olfactory excellence. It’s probably not a coincidence they sound pretty good too. Good work, Hannah Brown. Going to be very poor tracking down my own copies of these gems:

The Pastels – One Wild Moment (Stereolab Mix) (Up Records)
Happy MealsAltered Images (Night School)
Brooks & O’HaganCalibair (Ghost Box)
JontiNightshift in Blue (Stones Throw)
Jane WeaverIt’s Not Over Yet (Bird)
VermontÜbersprung (Kompakt)

Secondly, I should also thank Alan Gubby of Buried Treasure for joining me on last Saturday’s OST Show in Jonny Trunk’s absence and for bringing in such a fine selection of music, to all the listeners who rang in for the competition with their appallingly bad puns and to Ghost Box for letting us give the Hintermass album it’s ‘world exclusive first play’ (allegedly). The full three hours are available here in two parts, warts and all, exactly as they went out, which is quite a sacrifice for me – I usually don’t let anything out the gate until I’ve buffed it to a high sheen. You’ll hear an unreleased “John Baker” cue (we’re 99& certain!). lots of falling about laughing occasionally leading to coughing fits, a couple of slices of dead air you could drive a bus through, and the unfortunate use of the term ‘eclectic’; but also some truly extraordinary and sublime music. Kettle and earphones on…

On a similar note, Jon Brooks of the above Brooks & O’Hagan and Hintermass, but also of The Advisory Circle too has very kindly donating a signed test pressing of his solo LP Shapwick to the Resonance FM fundraising auction. An LP that was released in a very limited edition back in 2013, sold out within minutes and then a repress sold even faster. At the time of writing you have five days left to enter this auction or face paying £65 on Discogs for a copy. Once again, all proceeds go towards keeping the greatest radio station on Earth transmitting for another year. Worthy cause, great LP. Get with it:

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Resonance Fundraising Week 2016 – Rare Vinyl Up For Grabs And Much More!

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:

Torridon Gate Both Sides-lo

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!

Howlround - Tales From The Black Tangle LP - FRONT-LO-RES

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!

Digging Deep Poster - DJ Food

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.

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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…

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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!

Saisonscape - Beauty in the Bleak

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!

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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…

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How We Used To Live And How He Used To Loop

Not quite sure where the last week has gone, but here is my report for BBC World Service and Radio 4 regarding the recently released documentary How We Used To Live. Directed by Paul Kelly, written by Travis Elborough and Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne, with a beautiful original soundtrack supplied by the band’s Pete Wiggs, it’s an archive movie that has been getting some splendid reviews, including five whole stars in The Guardian.

Produced to promote a screening of the film with a live soundtrack at BFI Southbank in London as part of their London On Film season, it’s appearance on these pages is indeed a little late to be of any practical use, but the season continues throughout the summer with many other delights in store and I’m reliably informed that How We Used To Live will be imminently available on DVD via Heavenly Films. I certainly hope so, it’s one of my very favourite cinematic experience of the last couple of years. Have a listen while admiring the following stills to whet your appetite:

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In other exciting news I was granted a rare insight this week into the working methods of the late musicologist, instrument-builder and experimental musician Hugh Davies, with a trip to the Science Museum‘s labyrinthine storage facility at Blythe House in West London. Their vast archive contains a number of his original tape loops and other equipment donated by his estate, and it was my job as a reel-to-reel tape loop aficionado to help with their cataloguing and digitising, along with Aleksander Kolkowski (who you might remember was responsible for the museum’s Denman Exponential Horn exhibition last year) and Dr. James Mooney of Leeds University, whose research project into Hugh’s work was the catalyst for all this activity.

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The Science Museum Revoxes are a good deal shinier than mine, with lots of extra knobs. And knobs are important.

It was a task not without its challenges as much of the splicing tape used to create the loops had dried out completely over the years, requiring careful replacing – but in a way didn’t cause any damage to an already aged and brittle format, which required a most steady hand. Much of the material appeared to date from the early 1970s, though some may have been a decade or more older than that and indeed I worried that some of the tapes would be completely unplayable – apart from anything else it’s very hard to play even fresh tape loops without damaging them a little, they don’t give up their secrets easily. Thankfully they displayed tremendous fortitude and and nearly all of the loops in the collection rewarded our patience with some strange audio treasure of one sort or another. Housed in a variety of domestic cardboard boxes (including the former home of some Zartbitte Schokolade, complete with Hugh’s hand-written notes, doodles and another annotations, it was a humbling to think that we might be the first people to hear this material in over four decades. And of how much longer the sounds buried within these loops might have survived had they not been captured digitally. The boxes have disappered back into the archive and who knows when they’ll next see the light of day? It could be another thirty years!

Hugh Davies tape transcription 2015-07-30 DSC06384

Who better for this job, quite frankly?!

Obviously I’m unable to share any of this material with you – it’s not my research! But James was very excited by our findings, as we all were, and I’m sure at some point in the future he’ll be ready to share them with the wider world. Until that happens, I’ll leave you with a classic short clip of Hugh at work, including some virtuoso egg-slicer action!


The World Service Gets The Horn

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!

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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…


The Fog Gets The Horn

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Aleksander Kolkowski and the Denman exponential horn, with the Resonance FM studio in the background

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)

Howlroundнеизвежбан (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

Selections from Tod DockstaderRecorded Music For Film, Radio & Television: Electronic Vol.2 (Boosey and Hawkes, 1981 – reissue Mordant Music, 2013):

 – 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:

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The horn in it’s orginial position, image stolen from the Science Museum’s blog.

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!