Digging Deep And Deeply Delian : Sounds Explained And Unexplained

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.

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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:

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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…

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[1924-2016]

Click Bait: Howlround’s TV Debut, First US Shows & More…

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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!

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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:

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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…

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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?

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with Offret (left) and Gray Columns (right)

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…

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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!

Hollow Blown Egg HD720p from Lisa Busby on Vimeo.

Radiophrenia – How It Is

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Very pleased to announce the launch today of Radiophrenia, an art radio station broadcasting live on 87.9FM for one week only (13th-19th April) to Glasgow and the surrounding areas, also streaming worldwide via Radiophrenia.scot. Curated by Mark Vernon and Barry Burns and with a programme of several hundred exclusive and original radiophonic works, including contributions from Octopus Collective alumni John Hall and Felix Kubin, Jez Butler, The Resonance Radio Orchestra and many, many more. My own submissions include another collaboration with the brilliant Leila Peacock and a brand new tape-composition using a recording of a New Broadcasting House microphone with a squeaking cradle. You’ll have to tune in to hear them in full of course, but magnanimous fellow that I am,  I’ve included a sneak preview:

The schedule can be perused here and you can also follow the latest updates on Twitter. I’m predicting that I shall be listening to this a lot over the coming days, partly owing the relentlessly high-calibre of people involved, but also to attain some respite from heroically supervising the packing of thousands of records into boxes. But that’s for another time…

Another recent collaboration that I can finally reveal is Michael Garrad‘s entry to the Kings College Creative Responses to Modernism competition, a dramatized extract from Samuel Beckett’s 1961 novel How It Is. Barry Ward provides the voice and I provide the soundtrack. The results are as relentless and visceral as anything I’ve been involved with to date, and it’s about as intense and bleakly thrilling (or thrillingly bleak) as anything the great man ever wrote.

This recording is interested modernism’s concept of making it new and conversely how outmoded techniques can evoke the futuristic and etherial. A squeaking drawer is the source for the electronic sound, recorded and manipulated on ancient quarter-inch tape machines, extracting hidden sound. The reading is monotone, breathless and the digital recording eliminates dynamic with harsh sibilance, distortion and extreme compression.

I can’t claim to be much of a Beckett scholar, though from my own perspective he made a huge contribution to radiophonic drama with works such as pioneering radio play All The Fall in 1957. It’s said that he was hugely influenced by the creative possibilities of then-nascent reel-to-reel technology, a fascination that manifests itself most obviously in works such as the quietly horrific Krapp’s Last Tape. And on a more personal note, I have a print of the Beckett quote ‘Fail again, fail better’ blu-tacked to the wall of my studio next to the mixing desk. It’s been a constant source of solace, as anyone who invests their career and general happiness in the functioning of a number of broken down and erratic tape machines will be able to readily imagine. Hand-painted by Sarah Tanat Jones as a reward to donors to her recent Kickstarter campaign, it’s a quote I first read on the back of a Peanuts calendar, of all things, a surprisingly deep nugget of wisdom compared to the previous day’s entry – ‘take snacks on long road trips to avoid having to buy them’.

In the selection from How It Is, the narrator, static in an abstract land of mud, has a lucid moment, reminiscing of ‘life above’ with his wife, whose death torments him. The piece crosses futures and pasts, warmth and harshness, and in its form exists out of body, place and time.

It’s another rather hurried post from me, unfortunately, as I must return to my frantic box-related activities. But hopefully these two and the promise of many Glaswegian radiophonic delights for the week ahead will keep you sated until THIS happens:

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Come Splice With Me / Come OST: Special Prizes For 2015 Resonance FM Fundraiser

It’s #FundRaisingWeek once again at Resonance FM, which means another seven days of special broadcasts, one-off events and lots and lots of highly desirable items up for grabs in this year’s Ebay auction, with all money raised helping to keep the greatest radio station in the world on air for yet another year. And in these straitened times they need your help more than ever. So, what’s up for grabs in 2015? Here’s my own contribution:

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‘A Howl-To Guide’: A Day Of Tape-Loop Creation With Robin The Fog

“A glorious morning spent searching for extraordinary noises in ordinary places in the company of sound artist and composer Robin The Fog, followed by an instructive afternoon dubbing those sounds onto magnetic tape and creating and editing wondrous tape loop compositions, with the results to be broadcast on Resonance FM at a later date. Recording and editing equipment, including tape machines and razor blades, will be provided and the lucky winner(s) will be sent home with a tape spool of their handiwork”.

Speaking personally, a day spent doing this sort of thing is my idea of heaven, and I’m hoping lots of you will agree at least enough to make a decent bid. Further details (including an important disclaimer against razor-related loss of thumbs or other injuries) plus innumerable other delightful items available at the Special Resonance FM Fundraising website here. But the vast majority of you who require no more persuading to support this worthiest of causes can simply whizz straight over to the item’s Ebay page and BID NOW!

Please make the bids nice and high, because 100% of the money raised goes straight to Resonance, and of course because playing with tape is tremendous fun and I’m reliably informed that I’m reasonably affable company. If this workshop ends up being even half as profitable as last year’s ‘Howlround Haunts Your Home’ project, the lucky winner is in for a very enjoyable experience indeed:

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Another item currently up for grabs is an old favourite – ‘Play OST For Me‘, in which the highest bidder wins the chance to present their very own bespoke edition of The OST Show, with all their favourite soundtracks and every whim indulged by that redoubtable broadcaster, smutty raconteur and general man of letters Jonny Trunk, who has promised to be on his very best behaviour for the occasion. This item always proves surprisingly popular, so GET BIDDING QUICKLY! I shall be popping up on this Saturday’s show to promote both this and the aforementioned tape editing workshop, plus we’re also expecting a visit from the brilliant Pete ‘Monsterism’ Fowler; who has very kindly donated this completely awesome original work to the cause:

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My sources tell me there may also be a four-year-old guest on the show, but he is purely there for entertainment value and most certainly NOT up for auction. More details on all of this as we get them and I might even be able to shoe-horn in some new tape music by Howlround that’s currently in production. Unless Jonny pulls that face again. You know the one:

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DRINK TO ALL OF THESE – Saluting Talented Friends

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:

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 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.

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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.

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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:

Howlround Opens The Gate: New Album Out Now

Howlround are hereby deeply proud and very excited to be officially announcing the release of our third album Torridon Gate on cult blog and record label A Year In The Country! Today’s post is in entirely black and white in tribute to their stark and arresting sense of aesthetics – and arrives only a full week after the album actually came out, but I think you’re about ready by now.

So, Torridon Gate, then. I’ve been told it sounds like the title of a lost novel by Philip K. Dick. But as it happens the thinking behind that title is actually rather prosaic – all of the music on this new album was created from a single recording of a suburban garden gate on Torridon Road, Hither Green, London. And that’s it. We attached a contact microphone to the metalwork of the gate and recorded as it opened and shut and moved in the wind. These sounds were then processed, looped and edited on three reel-to-reel tape machines with all electronic effects or artificial reverb strictly forbidden. Despite such restrictions and the limited sound palette in comparison to our previous work, we like to think the results are as haunting and beguiling as anything from our other albums, shifting from ethereal tone-patterns to demonic scrunches and back again. It’s certainly a long journey from the pleasant suburban street where it all began. Who would have thought a single ‘common or garden’ gate (pun intended) could offer such hidden wealth? Well, perhaps these two had an inkling:

Gate Owners Tony & Kath with the Torridon Sessions master tape. We actually recorded almost an hour of new material – including around the house – but it’s only fair they should have SOME exclusive work for themselves!

The project started life as a prize on Resonance FM‘s most recent annual fundraiser, but quickly spiralled upwards and outwards. Perhaps you remember our ‘Howlround’s Home Haunting‘ auction item back in February, where we offered to provide a unique sonic portrait of the dwelling place of the highest bidder? Well, our thanks and gratitude must go to gate-owners Tony Alpe and Kathryn Everett, not only for a very generous winning bid (every penny of which went towards keeping Resonance on air, of course), but also for allowing us to share the results! ‘The gate was one of the things that attracted us to the house in the first place!’ says Tony, and hopefully after listening to this album you’ll join me in fully concurring with this statement!

Actually, there’s been a fair amount of concurrage (as it were) already, and I’ve included below a couple of extracts from my favourites so far (click on the link to read the whole review), In fact, feel free to send in some feedback of your own – if it’s particularly obsequious I’ll share it!! 😉

“The result – a modern piece of musique concrete – is extraordinary, like the soundtrack of an old horror movie of the 50s, a fog of sounds in sepia tones that seem to emanate from another time” (trans.) – Rui Migel Abreu, 33-45.org

“Is it a portal to other worlds, a site of ghostly hauntings which follow on from the car crashes which resulted from not paying attention to all the road safety films… or perhaps the passageway between the galaxies that Quatermass must pass through in streaks of video feedback and ominous lighting effects in order to save London from a fate worse than Edward Heath?” – Richard Fontenoy, Freq

“I think the world inside a mirror would be very interested in you”BBC Cantonese

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EXCITING TORRIDON GATE QUIZ:

Now for the fun part. Written below are three statements, each as inherently plausible and theoretically sound as the other. And yet only ONE of them is factually accurate. Can YOU, dear reader, separate the wheat of truth from the chaff of falsehood? Read on:

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  1. The widely-reported appearance of a giant dirigible emblazoned with Howlround’s distinctive logo above London’s fashionable Hither Green district was the first indication that an album of earth-shattering significance was, as they say, ‘about to drop’. And the hiss of escaping air caused by a leaky valve some twenty minutes later was the first indication that life was about to imitate art. Profuse apologies if that was your greenhouse.
  2. Secret solid gold copies of ‘Torridon Gate were hidden in Ironmongeries in five major cities across the world (including Barrow-in-Furness). Each copy contained two or three different numbers scratched directly onto the disc, and it is rumoured that when combined in the correct order, the full set of these numbers would allow the finder to make nuisance calls to Howlround member Chris Weaver. Luckily for him, only two have surfaced to date, one of which recently sold online for well over $1,000.
  3. The album was mastered by the brilliant James Edward Barker of Veneration Music, recording engineer, genius musician and the composer of the soundtrack to the notoriously unwatchable and completely-banned-forever video nasty Human Centipede 2.  He was paid for his superb mastering efforts by having a large consignment of Butterscotch Flavour Angel Delight delivered to his house.
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James enjoys his JUST DESSERTS (artist impression)

I admit, it’s tricky – they all just sound so entirely likely, don’t they?

Don’t they, James?

Answers on a postcard, please….

So, after months of labouring away in secret, here it is. Available now in a series of four beautiful limited editions from A Year In The Country, the label and blog that has developed a cult following through its continuous ‘searching for an expression of an underlying unsettledness to the English bucolic countryside dream’. Each edition – Night, Day, Dawn and Dusk – comes with a selection of unique hand-finished artwork and packaging, while the Night edition also includes a selection of badges, sections of the original tape loops used to make the album and more. All are available now from AYITC’s ‘Artefacts Shop’ with a download also available for those who no longer meddle with discs. We’re really proud of this one and hope you’ll like it too!

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…

Counting Off The Beat – Remixing and Kickstarting

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!

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!