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!
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:
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…
Very excited to announce Howlround’s TV debut on the BBC’s flagship technology programme Click is now available here for your viewing pleasure (we feature about 10 minutes in). I’m posting all this slightly belatedly as I was out in the wilds of Yucca Valley without internet during it’s first airing and remained in blissful ignorance of such exciting developments for an unprecedented 36 hours. Anyway, please watch and enjoy affable host Spencer Kelly paying a visit to the New Broadcasting House studio featuring the creaking mic stand that has given Howlround so much raw material to play with over the past year; then heading to our own studio where we introduced him to the machines and allowed him free reign of the mixing desk. I think he rather enjoyed it!
As if all this wasn’t exciting enough, the track we created during the team’s visit is now available from Soundcloud as a complimentary download, so feel free to make a few Clicks of your own in this direction:
The feature also included footage from last year’s set for 4’33” Cafe at The Base Elements Gallery in the gothic quarter of Barcelona, so I thought you might appreciate another airing of the original video with a nod and a wink once again to our friends JP and Ale!
In other news, finally back from a whirlwind couple of weeks in the US, playing Howlround’s first American shows, doing a spot of record digging and having our minds expanded with a ‘Sound Bath’ at The Integraton, a truly remarkable domed structure out in the wilds of Yucca Valley – and the only venue I’ve ever visited that was financed by Howard Hughes and built under the guidance of alien intelligence. The day concluded with some late-night desert recording with my old friend Guy J. Jackson in freezing conditions under a full moon in the back of an abandoned tour-bus, though thankfully free of extra-terrestrial intervention. More on that at some point later…
Huge thanks must go once again to Erik and Ben of the excellent Gray Columns, to equally splendid support band Offret and to Andee, Allan and Kirk of aQuarius recOrds, San Francisco for making it all possible. And especial thanks to Guy and Holly, plus my ever-patient and brave travelling companions Gemma Ritson and Kaitlyn Spillane! When can we do this again?
Curiously, I had no trouble at all getting tape machines Elisabeth and Magdalena through airport security. As one official shrugged – ‘It’s cool, this is Portland’! Which may also help to explain my discovery of this little gem while perusing a local emporium. I can feel a new mixtape coming on already…
And finally, I must quickly plug the latest instalment of Art Assembly‘s ‘Saisonscape Decay’ radio programmes that was broadcast last week in anticipation of their show at Cafe Oto. Featuring Lisa ‘Sleeps In Oysters’ Busy, Graham Dunning, Kemper Norton and Sarah Angliss discussing their work in conversation with host Julia Dempsey and mixed and edited by myself and partner in tape Chris Weaver. In fairness, he got the lion’s share of the work as I had a plane to catch!
Taking place in autumn, “Decay” reflects on the natural cycle of the season – leaf litter and organic material dropping to the ground and breaking down into one, renewing the soil with a rich and nourishing composition. This programme focuses on artists who use archives of field recordings, folk story and who layer instrumentation, objects and found sound. Sounds, ideas and material mulch into new combinations, providing fertile ground for unexpected work.
New material is expected imminently from each of the programme’s guests and I’ll try and cover as much of it on these pages as possible, but for now I can confirm that Lisa Busby’s new solo album Fingers In The Gloss is out already and available here on limited CD. There’s also this decidedly eerie promotional video for the single ‘Hollow Blown Egg’ to savour. So many talented friends!
Absolutely delighted to present the brand new Howlround LP Tales From The Black Tangle, available to pre-order NOW from my special boutique imprint The Fog Signals. The vinyl has finally arrived and is looking absolutely fantastic, shrink-wrapped with a full colour sleeve in a tasteful matt-finish, with artwork by myself and a beautiful rear photograph by the talented Victoria ‘Ringmaster’ Hastings. We’re very proud and excited, even more so when I tell you that in less than twenty-four hours a THIRD of the stock has been snapped up! It’s selling fast, so if you want to get your hands on a copy, might I suggest moving swiftly?
And now the obligatory press statement: Following a busy summer that has seen the duo touring with “Disintegration Loops” legend William Basinski, profiled on BBC 6 Music’s The Freakier Zone, creating sound installations inside venues as varied as a Portuguese funeral parlour and a reservoir beneath Copenhagen; tape loop wranglers Robin The Fog and Chris Weaver are delighted to announce the launch of their fourth LP as Howlround – Tales From The Black Tangle
The pair create their music following a strict rule – all digital effects and artificial reverb is strictly forbidden. As with previous albums, Tales From The Black Tangle was created entirely by manipulating natural recordings on a trio of vintage reel-to-reel tape machines. Their increasingly spectacular live performances are no exception to their analogue-only rule, and see the pair leaving venues strewn with miles of tangled magnetic tape. Distant trains, industrial sirens, foghorns, ship to shore distress signals, and even a BBC microphone stand in need of some oil, are all are folded into the duo’s darkest and most eerily compelling work yet. A recent vinyl reissue of last year’s Torridon Gate album sold out in a single afternoon, so anticipation for this latest release is high.
You might remember that a small part of the sessions for this album were captured in this rather super Vine video Chris took over the summer, so it’s great to finally be able to present the finished results in a format longer than six seconds:
Right, I’d better get off down that post office. Thanks so much for all of your custom so far and for the very positive initial feedback I’ve been receiving. I haven’t even had time to do press yet, so there’s no official reviews to speak of, but you can rest assured that if they’re positive they’ll be trumpeted from the roof of Broadcasting House…
Pleased as punch to be part of this stellar line-up celebrating the launch of Buried Treasure’s gorgeous new 19-track concept compilation of modern day Radiophonia. The album (available here) is available now on CD for a mere SIX POUNDS and tickets to the launch party (available here) for include a complimentary download. I’m told both are selling fast, so don’t sleep on this one! Please enjoy this rather super trailer with further atmospheric details:
Now that the dust has settled, please take a moment to enjoy some sights and sounds from last week’s Saisonscape: Decay tour, where Howlround played a trio of dates across the UK alongside the great sound artist and tape-loop manipulator Mr. William Basinski and recent Quantum Natives signing Kepla. The video and images shown here were from the final night of the tour at The Kazimier in Liverpool, which was perhaps the most visually impressive of the three, with the loops teetering and wobbling upwards from the stage and disappearing over the balcony. It’s a miracle the whole thing held together at all, quite frankly, even with all the scaffolding parts and other heavy metallic items lying about backstage that we borrowed to stop the tape jumping off the spools…
My enormous gratitude must go to Art Assembly, in particular the amazing Julia Dempsey, as well as Messers Basinski and Kepla for being such affable and entertaining touring companions, not forgetting Victoria Hastings for doing such a fantastic job of documenting the whole thing. More photos to follow, no doubt, but I think it’s this one that makes me the most proud:
Must also thank everyone at The Kazimier as well as Cafe Oto in London and Salford’s Islington Mill for their warm welcome. I haven’t had a moment to go through all the recordings yet, but doubtless more audio from these events will surface before long. The response from the crowd each night was hugely encouraging and bodes well for the imminent release of our new album…. but more on that later!