Very pleased to announce that two of my favourite organisations Resonance FM and In The Dark Radio are coming together once again to present a special evening at The Social in Little Portland Street this coming Monday.
The Resonance team will be presenting a hand-picked selection of curiosities from it’s vast (and conspicuously well-maintained!!) archive and The Resonance Radio Orchestra will be performing a new work written by the station’s commander-in-chief Ed Baxter. And I’ll be providing a DJ set of Radiophonic pop, BBC Sound Effects and outer space songs in-between. It’s promises to be quite an affair. Tickets available here. Come on down – what else is going to be as good on a Monday night in November, quite frankly?
‘Robin is the creator of one of ITD’s all-time favourite shorts “Train-Tracker” and long-time engineer for Jonny Trunk’s OST Show on Resonance FM and one half of the reel-to-reel tape loop duo Howlround’, advises the event’s web-page. More recently, I also gave a talk on Radiophonics a year or two ago at their marvellous Invisible Picture Palace, a listening centre that was installed temporarily in a greenhouse in the grounds of the old Power Station at Wapping, a marvellous gallery and art-space that has since been forced to join the ranks of similar London cultural spaces in making way for yet more luxury apartments. Oh, London, can you no longer even toss the arts community a greenhouse?
Anyway, I’m very much looking forward to hanging out with my In The Dark and Resonance friends once again. And while I’m not one to rake over past glories (not yet, anyway), I thought I’d dig that piece out one last time. I figured, what the hell, there’s probably intelligent life on a distant planet that I haven’t played it to yet!
The Radiophonic Workshop (yes, THE Radiophonic Workshop) have just posted a link to the new Howlround LP Tales From The Black Tangleon their Facebook page. And there is no way I’m going to allow the incident to pass without at least one small trumpet from the rooftops.
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…
For those of you who couldn’t make it to today’s panel discussion, ‘Is Sound The Forgotten Sense?’ that was part of a series of talks at this year’s 100% Design showcase, please enjoy this sonic portrait of Kensington Olympia that was unveiled as part of my presentation:
Should architects and designers think more about using sound in new and exciting ways, rather than only focusing on acoustics? Our speakers all use sound innovatively from those that ‘play’ a building, to creating soundscapes that react to spaces and engage audiences in new ways. The panel includes Martyn Ware, founder member of iconic bands Heaven 17 and The Human League, who now creates 3D immersive audio landscapes with architects, artists and brands through his company Illustrious, designer Tomas Klassnik, and sound artist Robin the Fog, who will create a bespoke sound design for 100% Design. Chaired by David Michon, editor of Icon.
You might remember I blogged quite excitedly about visiting Olympia back in August and being given free reign of the building to explore and record. At the time the venue was a blank canvas being cleaned, maintained and generally prepared for this major four-day exhibition. The above work, commissioned by 100% Design derives from making a series of recordings of the naturally-occurring sounds of the building at work (band-saws and other tools, scissor-lifts and other maintenance vehicles, cleaning brushes etc.) along with various objects that I came across on my travels round the building, including doors, windows, temporary fencing, coat hangers and so on. The staff were kind enough to then let me take these recordings and play them at high volume through the venue’s PA system, using Olympia’s high arched ceiling as a giant reverberation tank – the biggest space I’d ever had the pleasure of working with and a glorious cacophony that somehow didn’t distract the cleaning staff from their appointed tasks one bit. Who knows, perhaps this sort of thing is a regular occurrence?
…And to think until today I’d never heard a recording of my thumb amplified through the public address system of major exhibition venue!
Thanks to 100% Design for having me, to Martyn, Thomas and David for being such fascinating company and to everyone who expressed an interest in my work. Sadly, due to some sort of annoying technical hitch I was unable to play an extract from Jacob Kirkegaard‘s 4 Rooms, which was a tremendous shame as it was a terrific example of one of the points I was trying to make about working with particular acoustic spaces – is it pure coincidence that these recordings of abandoned public spaces in the Chernobyl sound so desolate, lonely and foreboding, despite being in essence just recordings of amplified silence? Or does our awareness of the tragic history of these rooms and the inherent dangers of returning there have a part to play?
Here it is, anyway, and you’ll find more information on the album here. Still makes me shiver…
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!
Excited to announce I’m off to Indonesia for a week hunting for new sounds to incorporate in some future work, and am looking forward to some adventures in the land of gamelan and birdsong! This means I will be largely out of contact for the next week and unable to respond to the usual deluge of listeners’ letters, fan mail and demands for cash, so please bear with me. I shall certainly be back in good time for Howlround‘s tour with William Basinski & Kepla – I wouldn’t miss it for anything and the London date at Cafe Oto sold out weeks in advance!
Hopefully all should tick over quite nicely for a week in my absence. Album number FOUR is currently being manufactured and I hope to have a further update soon. But for now, I thought I’d leave you with this extract from the Howlround archives while I’m away, especially as today, Friday 4th September, marks two years since the official launch of our second LP Secret Songs Of Savamalain Belgrade, Serbia:
The album launch party, as you may recall, took place within the ruins of The Spanish House, the former customs building with the highly evocative flooded basement that had inspired its creation . The above film, created by combining the first side of the LP with the beautiful photography of Milica Nikolic Micikitis, was screened that evening to an crowd packed with collaborators, colleagues and friends, sounds and images reverberating off the roofless walls and into the night. It was a very special feeling to be able to return the sounds back to their source, though for some reason I’ve never shared it online until now.
My grateful thanks go once again to Milica, vocalists Mirjana Utvić and Anita Knežić, Leila Peacock, Axel Humpert and the staff of Camenzind Belgrade, NO-FM and the Goethe Institute. Good friends all and I miss them. Hopefully we’ll all work together again before very long. Belgrade certainly isn’t short on items of sonic fascination!
For further details on that album’s gestation, you can also check out this archive interview with Tiny Mix Tapes from a few months later where I talk about …Savamala and also its predecessor, The Ghosts Of Bush. Thanks once again to Daniel Emmerson for this one!
Right, that’s quite enough nostalgia to be getting on with, better dash to the airport. Hopefully see you at Cafe Oto on 15th!
It’s been a busy old week at Fog Towers since my return from Copenhagen, culminating in a morning spent wandering around the famous Kensington Olympia with some contact microphones looking for some hidden sounds to record. Currently in-between exhibitions and deserted save for a small army of cleaning and maintenance staff, I was lucky enough to be given full access to this enormous exhibition centre, including its surprisingly loud PA system. The reason for all this will be unveiled next month when I’m planning to return to the building to present the results of my audio adventures. For the moment I’ll just let it be known that playing the sounds of doors creaking, glass being rubbed and the ascension of a scissor-lift back into the cavernous main hall at high volume while staff continue their work undaunted was about the most fun it’s possible to have before lunchtime. Like being given the keys to an enormous empty toyshop…
In other news, here’s what the next Howlround album sounds like:
Following a flying visit to Veneration Music‘s studio in deepest, darkest Kent, I’m very excited to be able to reveal this first glimpse of our next LP – quite literally. It has a title, cover artwork and, thanks to the nurturing hands of genius mastering engineer James Edward Barker, is now primped, polished and ready to go. As with our previous album, the services of this most talented musician/producer/polymath was largely paid for in Butterscotch flavour Angel Delight – a very reasonable price for a chap who’s just been working with Bruce Willis. We’re very excited about it all, but for the moment this enigmatic glimpse of the audio files is all you’re getting! Hoping for a November release, but you know how these things have a tendency to get held up…
On the same subject, you might remember me harping on about Howlround’s first ever music video few weeks back. Why not watch it again? It’s very good but I need to get the play-count up:
I mention it here again because the charity compilation album XPYLON from which this track (a collaboration with Ray Carmen’s abandoned playground) was taken is finally out and available in all it’s 16-exclusive-track glory. As well as benefiting a good cause, it’s also a tribute to Jonny Mugwump’s erstwhile Exotic Pylon record label and radio show, and the stellar line-up below is the perfect testament to his legacy. All original and exclusive material and it’s a ‘name your price‘ release, which means you simply pay what you think it’s worth – but as 100% of all proceeds are being donated to mental health charity ‘MIND‘, a generous donation is always appreciated.
But don’t just take my word as to its quality, a rather flattering review courtesy of Jim Haynes has surfaced in this month’s Wire magazine:
Now that the album has been released, I’m suddenly reminded that I actually feature on the album twice, firstly in my capacity representing Howlround and secondly as one third of new super-group The Trunchbulls, alongside Band Of Holy Joy lynchpin Johny Brown (who wrote the tremendously eerie accompanying text) and Exotic Pylon legend Dolly Dolly (who spoke it and did the eerily tremendous job one might expect after listening to his 2013 album Antimacassar). Anyway, put it down to a busy work-load, to concentrating over-hard on finishing off the aforementioned Howlround long-player or just encroaching senility, but somehow the memory of working alongside these two excellent fellows and the resulting ‘polyglot of Derbyshire-esque Radiophonics’ (thanks Jim!) slipped to the bottom of my mental pile. I’d better post it up here before it slips my mind again:
One thing I haven’t forgotten is Jez Butler‘s superb A Lighter Side Of Concrete from a year or so ago. Heavily influenced by the work of twang-a-ruler-and-make-a-bassline-out-of-it Radiophonic Workshop legend John Baker, it’s an album of decidedly chirpy concrete-pop that I still feel has been rather unfairly slept on. Well, his latest release as part of the Twelve Hour Foundation with partner Polly Hulse is out now on a limited edition three-track 7″ and it’s really quite marvellous. Continuing the legacy of his solo album, it’s a ridiculously catchy affair that sounds like the theme tune to an early 1980s BBC Schools programme about robots or the periodic table – like something Paddy Kingsland might have cooked up for the greatest-ever episode of Zig-Zag, on a spring morning while enjoying a bourbon. Look, I’m running out of analogies, OK? Just give it a listen already!
And speaking of John Baker, I’m ridiculously over-excited at the imminent release of The Vendetta Tapes on Alan Gubby’sBuried Treasure imprint. Alan worked extensively on the Trunk compilation The Baker Tapes several years ago and I believe these tracks represent a further trove of ultra-rare obscurities from one of the Workshop’s true pioneers: incidental music, theme tunes, jingles and special effects culminating in a delicate balance of sleazy jazz, musique concrete and subtle electronics. I was excited then and I’m excited now, especially as I had confidently assumed that after the Trunk release the trail would have gone cold. After all, the BBC does have a deservedly awful reputation when it comes to preserving it’s own archive – though the recent BFI box set of Out Of The Unknown was most welcome, it served as much to highlight the fact that more than half of the episodes of that series have been lost forever, including stories by Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asmiov and Nigel Kneale – a travesty, quite frankly. Thank heavens for enthusiasts like Alan who manage to get past the bureaucracy and red tape and finally give these treasures an airing! Limited edition and selling fast, don’t sleep on this one:
Well, that’s probably enough to be getting on with. Next week I’m off to York to record the sound of vintage Grandfather Clocks. Busy old summer…
Well, what an adventure I had this week! Huge thanks to the Strøm Festival and to everyone who came down to the sold-out show at Cisternerne on Monday night to witness performances by myself and Logos. It was an honour to play in such an unique space with an incredible natural acoustic, so I made sure I stepped up to the occasion with a set of brand new material and the longest loops I’ve ever made, running for several meters across the space and balanced precariously above the permanently wet and grimy floor. They certainly appeared to impress the crowd:
I realise it is customary at this point for me to include an audio extract from the performance via my Soundcloud Page, but on this occasion I regret to say that I’m unable to do so – the performance was deliberately tailored to play to the Cisternerne’s seventeen second reverb and so a simple ‘output recording’ would be missing half of the experience. I believe that there was some filming and recording taking place, so perhaps that will surface at some point, but for the moment those of you who couldn’t get a ticket will just have to take my word that it was an amazing experience. Plus I’m hoping that I will be allowed to give this historic structure the full ‘album treatment’ some time next year, a proposition that Strøm top-brass appear to be intrigued by, so all is not lost. Until such times, please enjoy these photos by Rasmus Kongsgaard together with some snappy sound-bites derived from running the article they came from through some slightly ropey online translation software:
Although cisterns are worth a visit in itself, it is electronic music of the most radical and uncompromising kind that is in the centre at tonight Power-event.
There is no anywhere other than exactly here that these works may be noticed in this way. There’s nowhere else you can stand underground and fall in spell over a flickering candle while vaulting around you is echoing with issue noise from another world.
Distorted locomotive whistle, deep roar that could evoke an imam fair and elongated, umelodiøse soundscapes instantly puts the listener in a state of alluring scary. For although it is extremely difficult to get hold of the sonic bursts that puts both eardrums and stalactites in swings, and most of all sounds like the soundtrack to a dystopian sci-fi nightmare, it’s impossible not to be drawn into .
The following afternoon I was performing my secondary role at the festival of leading a workshop on field recording and composition using some of the basic principles of musique concréte, as part of Strøm’s summer school programme open to students across Europe and beyond. This took place on a converted dredging ship by the docks, which made for a terrifically fertile environment for our class of 36 enthusiastic students to explore. Before long groups of people were scattered all around this waterside complex, looking for things to rub, hit and scrape. It was incredibly gratifying to observe these discoveries and to have such an attentive class, many of whom seemed to have a natural ear for spotting sounds ripe for manipulation – the small group I was leading found a very tasty drainpipe and nearly gave themselves permanent hearing damage in the process!
The plan had been for each small group to submit their best material to be dubbed onto quarter-inch tape and then for all the recordings to be appraised together as a class and worked into some sort of composition; while outlining some of the techniques that magnetic tape puts at one’s disposal. Unfortunately my quartet of reel-to-reels were feeling rather uncooperative that afternoon – perhaps still sore at spending the preceding evening in what was to all intents and purposes a dungeon – and so refused to put anything at anyone’s disposal what-so-ever. Thankfully I was still able to demonstrate some basic tape loop construction, though the bulk of the composition was demonstrated on my trusty-though-less-interesting laptop – did the job, just wasn’t as much of an immersive experience.
However, feeling that this itch hadn’t quite been scratched, I pulled out their recordings again when I arrived back at my studio last night and knocked the above short piece together. Hopefully it will retrospectively offer the students a clearer idea of the things we were discussing and provide some much-needed closure for me!
Before I forget, extra special thanks must go to Jim Slade (and family!), Pernille Krogmog and Allan Hansen for making it all happen, to co-performer and fellow-junglist Logos and of course to Laura Yawira Scheffer for being a shining beacon – quite literally as it was very hard to de-rig in the pitch darkness of the Cisternerne and her smartphone had a torch. Now I really must have a serious word with those naughty machines Daphne and Delia. I’m certainly not taking them on tour with William Basinski if they’re going to misbehave like this!
Oh, did I mention Howlround were going on tour with William Basinski? I did? Well, expect me to continue harping on about it for a while yet…
Tremendously excited to announce further details of my performance as part of theStrøm Festival in Copenhagen next week. I shall be playing a solo tape-loop set of almost entirely exclusive material, quite possibly including tracks from the forthcoming Howlround LP (which now has a title, a full track-listing and is awaiting the gentle touch of our mastering engineer – but I’m not giving anything else away just yet)! And just LOOK at the venue we’ve been given to play with! This is Copenhagen’sCisternerne, an underground former reservoir with a seventeen second natural reverb. Seventeen seconds, ladies and gentleman!
I shall also be running a sound recording and composition workshop the following day on a converted dredging boat, so it just goes to show you how skilled the Danes are at turning recycling interesting locations into amazing arts venues! Both have now sold out, but you can learn more about the former here and discover what my biography reads like in Danish here. The mighty Logos is playing on the same evening, so it’s shaping up to be quite an event. Hopefully see you there, if you managed to get a ticket!
First off, thanks very much to Stuart Maconie and producer Rebecca Gaskell for allowing me to play records and talk foley on BBC 6Music’s Freakier Zone this week. If you missed it and fancy hearing 100% exclusive extracts from Howlround‘s very-nearly-finished fourth album (including one track so new it had to be hurriedly assembled prior to broadcast) plus personal sound FX selections including the immortal ‘Grotbag’s Cauldon’, you can listen again here. There’s treats aplenty, even if I do say so myself!
Speaking of exclusive treats, I’d like to hereby present for your approval Howlround‘s first ever promo video and the unveiling of another brand new track ‘OH’, produced in collaboration with abandoned playground aka US musician and fellow tape enthusiast Ray Carmen:
The track is created entirely from microcassette recordings made by Ray in the 1990s – of his infant daughter, chimes in the park and distant train sirens. As soon as we heard them it quickly became apparent that they were crying out for some deep spool action and Ray has very kindly obliged. Some have called the results our finest work yet, or at least our most accessible. I’m happy to go along with either, quite frankly.
Howlround are also very pleased to reveal that an edited version of the above features on a brand new 16-track charity compilation XPYLON, released on August 5th and featuring Kemper Norton, Cindy Talk, Time Attendant, Dolly Dolly, Ekoplekz alter-ego Gloria Gloucestershire and side-projects by members of Hacker Farm and Band Of Holy Joy – all artists released by or associated with the now sadly-defunct record label and radio show Exotic Pylon. 100% of proceeds from the sale of this compilation will be donated to mental health charity Mind, so it’s a worthy cause as well as a thoroughly stimulating listen. Pre-order your copy here.
Incidentally, the compilation also features an exclusive track by The British Space Programme, the latest project by ace music producer and Quiet World label-boss Ian Holloway. The debut BSP album Eyes Turned Skyward is out now and is really rather super. Unfortunately Ian recently had a rather nasty altercation with a flight of stairs, resulting in a horrific-sounding knee-injury, swiftly followed by hospitalisation and surgery, so it looks as if future projects might be somewhat delayed. Thankfully he appears to be on the road to recovery, though justifiably a little miffed with being house-bound. Why not help speed that recovery along by browsing the extensive Quiet World catalogue and perhaps making a purchase or two? Just a thought…
Finally, you might have noticed the ‘OH’ promo video is dedicated to broadcaster, inventor, and polymath Bob Symes, who sadly passed away earlier this year. The reason for this dedication will be immediately apparent to anyone aware of the great man and his work, but I would urge everyone else to take five minutes out of their lives and watch this clip of him in action on BBC TV in the 1970s. Whatever your opinion regarding modified coffee tables, if the sheer, unbridled enthusiasm he shows towards the subject (as for seemingly everything he turned his hand to) doesn’t warm your heart, nothing will. An ‘eye-smiler’ as my flatmate observed when I forced her to sit through it. Or as Bob himself might say, ‘Really remarkable’. Bravo, sir, and RIP.