Into The Freakier Zone: Nocturnal Transmissions From The House Of Howl

Howlround back in the lab for one final stab at finishing the new LP. This Vine video uploaded by Chris during the session (he has a smartphone!) caused much excitement on Twitter over the weekend, so I thought you might appreciate a re-appraisal. Look closely and you’ll count four machines in use simultaneously, with tension and restraint being provided in the absence of a mic stand by Buddah (which is oddly appropriate), the handlebars of my bike, a pint glass full of batteries and small change; and of course my ‘Stockhausen Syndrome’ mug, which is probably the single funniest object I own…

Maconie
The redoubtable Mr. Maconie.

A number of surprisingly effusive people have already contacted us enquiring just what kind of composition were we cooking up with such a glorious tangle of tape and when they would be able to hear the results? Well, sooner than you might think as it happens as I shall be doing a turn on Stuart Maconie’s Freakier Zone on BBC Radio 6 Music this coming Saturday evening. We’ll be discussing the relationship between music and foley, which is of course PURE HOWLROUND TERRITORY, so I’ll be playing some selections from our catalogue including an extract from this latest work-in-progress, as well as examples of some of my favourite ‘composed sound effects’ from the great Radiophonicists of the past. There might even be something from the forthcoming Howlround album! Join us there, won’t you?

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Jardins Efémeros – More Clippings From The Gardens

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Viseu’s ‘Praça D. Duarte’ at the height of festivities. The Funerária D. Duarte where we staged our sound installation is second-from-right.

Now that the dust has settled, Howlround would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who attended both our performance and sound installation as part of the Jardins Efémeros Festival and also to everyone who helped in making it come to pass. There are far too many people to name individually, but particular gratitude must go to Sandras Oliverira and Rodrigues, Filipe Oliveira, Lino Ferreira, Jose Cruzio, the staff of both the Nacional Museum Grão Vasco and the Funerária D. Duarte and of course the ever-resourceful sound engineers Cristóvão Cunha and José Marques for putting up with our myriad of strange demands! And of course to Rui Miguel Abreu for kick-starting our participation in the whole affair – we owe all of these people several beers and will do our best to make good on this at some point. It was certainly one of our most memorable performances both for location, attendance, reception and dramatic incident – though thankfully poor Delia now seems to have recovered! Here’s a brief extract again in case you missed it:

Howlround Live Cloister 1

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We’re thinking of incorporating a glitterball into all future Howlround performances!

And what a magnificent festival it’s been, encompassing performances, installations, workshops, sculptures, exhibits and DJs that took over the whole town, attracting both young and old, local and international. Unfortunately, the preparation of our own works required much squirrelling away in the backroom of our temporary studio-cum-abandoned-tie-shop and missing some fine work as a result, but we did our best to catch up where possible. Pye Corner Audio (the only other UK act on the bill) and Not Waving‘s joint set was predictably awesome but there were plenty of new personal discoveries too including supercharged garage punk from Dirty Coal Train plus ethereally brilliant solo sets from Johnathan Saldanha and Hysterical One Man Orchestra, both of HHY & The Macumbas. To our great regret we missed their group’s collective performance due to being locked in the museum (and who hasn’t had that happen to them at some point?), but made up for it with Lybomyr Melnyk‘s lengthy, dexterous and evocative solo piano works in the splendour of Viseu’s 16th Century Cathedral, not to mention Barcelona’s Eli Gras incorporating sound toys and bizarre home-made instruments into a set that had all the infectious enthusiasm of a kid in a sonic sweet shop. Away from the live music, DJ Sonido Tupinamba dropping some Yma Sumac and Martin Denny in the town square was a perfect backdrop to a restorative afternoon beverage and I really should also thank that one bar (the name of which escapes me) that both allowed and encouraged me to spin Oldskool Hip Hop on a borrowed laptop. Fun times, but there’s so much that I’ve left out!

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A Town Transformed
Eli Gras
Eli Gras tears it up. She built all of these instruments herself and they sounded as amazing as they looked.
Anita Ackermann Sculpture
Anita Ackermann’s ‘In The Light Of Movement’ installation. Head-torches a must.

Sadly the festival (including our sound installation at the Funerária) ends this weekend, but if you’re in the vicinity there’s still plenty to see before the curtain comes down and the gardens themselves are cleared away on Sunday night. Our thanks go once again to festival curator, organiser, lynchpin and hardest working woman in Portugal, Sandra Oliveira, for putting the whole thing together and not sleeping for days. We’re hoping you get to have a holiday at some point – and that you’ll let us come back next time!

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Sandra Oliveira with requisite head-torch. I think the other chap might be the Mayor.

Live From Jardins Efémeros: “Bizarre Sounds Of Which Even You Might Like!”

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A rather hurried post at the culmination of a manic week preparing for our sound installation and performance for the Jardins Efémeros Festival in Viseu, Portugal. A more considered write-up will doubtless be forthcoming, but for now I thought you might enjoy these images and this extract from last night’s set in the magnificent C15th cloister of the Nacional Museum Grão Vasco – our first ever open-air performance!

Thankfully the intense heat combined with a slight breeze that threatened to blow our tape loops around had calmed by the time of our 23.30 performance, though the evening was not without its dramatic moments, including a significant chunk of our set in which our reel-to-reel machine ‘Delia’ appeared to give up the ghost completely. For added intrigue, it just so happens that our performance occurred on the 14th anniversary of the death of her Radiophonic namesake. I’m not a superstitious man, but I’m pretty certain there’s some symbolism at work in there somewhere. Thankfully she clicked back into life after some tense moments and a lot of silent pleading and is now recuperating in our surprisingly plush hotel:

Delia Recovers

Away from the stage, our sound installation at the Funerária D. Duarte runs throughout the festival and thanks must go to the staff for being so obliging in allowing us free play among the coffins in the back room.

The Funerária D. Duarte

Funeria Installation close

The work itself is some twenty-seven minutes in total and consists of the Funerária staff (all members of the same family) talking about their work mixed in with a soundscape of Viseu using recordings gathered from local abandoned buildings and subjected to the patented Howlround treatment at our temporary studio in the back room of a former tie shop. Our favourite piece of feedback so far has got to be a reported  ‘Mummy, where are all the dinosaurs?’

Tape Mess 4

Jardins Efémeros runs until 12th July and it’s proving to be a remarkable achievement, quite literally transforming the town. Our gratitude must of course go to festival curator and lynchpin Sandra Oliveira, our translator Lino and all our new friends for being so welcoming and supportive. We’ve been so busy preparing for our own contributions since our arrival last week that we haven’t actually had time to check out much of the festival yet, but one thing that particularly captured my own imagination during a brief tea-break was Vanda Rodrigues‘ ‘Cloud Room’, stepping into which felt like entering a Boards Of Canada video!

Cloud Room

Jardins Efémeros Festival, Viseu, Portugal

Howlround will be performing as part of this year’s Jardins Efémeros Festival (or ‘Ephemeral Gardens’) in Viseu, Portugal on July 3rd at the Nacional Museum Grão Vasco. We’ll also be producing a sound installation in a funeral parlour! Click on the image below for more details and the full festival line-sup can be downloaded as a PDF here. Further sounds and images to follow – plus Pye Corner Audio and Holly Herndon are playing too! Hurrah!

Jardins Efemeros Flier

It’s the first event in what is shaping up to be quite a busy summer for Daphne, Delia, Magdalena and Elisabeth, our quartet of sprightly though occasionally wonky reel-to-reel machines. So busy in fact, that I thought it might be an idea to embody it in poster form:

Howlround Live Poster Final Summer 2015

In the meantime, thanks to everyone who came to Speak No Evil‘s ‘Light And Shadow Salon’  last Thursday and to the staff of New River Studios for going above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that our quartet of tape machines got home safely (it’s a long story). Great new venue, hopefully we’ll be invited back soon. I was intending to post an extract here from this first Howlround performance since that Barcelona basement last summer, but unfortunately due to a technical glitch I’m currently unable to do so. However the entire event was being simultaneously broadcast on Sonica.FM, so with a bit of luck we might be able to work something out. Thanks to everyone who came up and told us how much they had enjoyed our set, but for added amusement I shall leave with you with the unsolicited advice offered by an older gentleman in the audience who, after observing us conjuring a mass of howls, shrieks and clanks from our quartet of elderly reel-to-reel machines and a vast tangle of ageing, twisted tape, remarked that our live set needed to be a bit ‘slicker’ and ‘more professional’ if we were going to get anywhere. I thanked him and suggested he check out our alternative website http://www.spectacularlyandheroicallymissinghepointofthewholedamnedenterprise.com

** Venue Change** – The Light And Shadow Salon This Thursday

Howlround are hereby announcing that due to circumstances beyond our control,  Speak No Evil‘s ‘Light And Shadow Salon’ on Thursday June 25th will now be taking place at New River Studios, 199 Eade Road, N4 1DN. Nearest tube is Manor House.

There’s a Facebook Event page with details of the rather super line-up in full, which should have been updated with the necessary by the time you read these words. Apologies for the short notice and any confusion this may cause – but it’s rather out of our hands. Should still be a totally awesome event. though.

A Horse Hospital Howl (Plus Some Clanking)

Howlround’s first live performance of the year (and for almost a year!) occurs at ‘The Light And Shadow Salon’ on June 25th. An evening of varied audio-visual performances, film, improvisation and even magic lanterns, it’s the brainchild of our friends Speak No Evil and takes place at historic London arts venue The Horse Hospital.

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There’s a Facebook Event page with details of the rather super line-up in full, plus you can learn more about this most fascinating building (and how you can play a part in saving it from the relentless march of the sterile corporate behemoth currently ravaging our fair city) here.

Our tape machines are looking set to make up for lost time with a busy summer playing at festivals in both Viseu, Portugal in July and Copenhagen, Denmark in August; further details of which should be arriving on these pages soon, as well as details of a new Howlround LP in late summer/early autumn. To be honest I’ve no real idea yet what shape it might take, but I can reveal we’re sitting on a sizeable reserve of new material; and that after the vinyl reissue of Torridon Gate sold out in a single afternoon, I’m very keen to follow it with something fresh. Rest assured that any subsequent developments will be trumpeted loudly from the rooftops.

Speaking of reissues, you might remember Brood Ma‘s excellent P O P U L O U S (not to mention the follow-up r e P O P U L O U S featuring remixes by Yearning Kru, Ornine and myself), released on his Quantum Natives label last year. Well, it’s now been reissued on vinyl by Untold’s ever-superb Hemlock Recordings and sounds fatter than ever. I was going to write ‘phatter’, but I’m not sure that’s been culturally acceptable since about 1996. Suffice to say it still bangs and squelches in all the right places and I’m happily rinsing it round at Fog Towers all over again.

Equally excitingly, Ghost Box have just put out two of their finest releases on vinyl for the first time – 2007’s Quatermass-channelling Seance At Hob’s Lane by Mount Vernon Arts Lab and The Advisory Circle‘s sublime Other Channels from the following year. Both are highly deserving of the heavyweight vinyl treatment and Julian House’s artwork looks better than ever in twelve inches. And as if this wasn’t enough, The Advisory Circle’s Jon Brooks, never one to rest on his laurels, has just released another excellent new LP, Walberswick on More Than Human Records. Whatever his secret is, I do wish he’d bottle it!

Other Channels

And finally, while it doesn’t really have anything to do with the above business, this wondrous thing finally turned up in the post last week:

Sesame Street Record Box

Isn’t it beautiful?

Sesame Street Record Box 2

I’ve been hunting a Sesame Street record box for a number of years now, even going so far as trying to sneak off with one belonging to fellow Sesame-addict DJ Food while his back was turned. Now, after a decade of impatient online scouring and bungled petty-thievery, this little beauty has pride of my place on my shelf and plays host to my modest collection of slightly battered CTW and other Muppet 45s (including ‘I Love Trash’, as you’d expect), a rather marvellous single by Bert entitled ‘Clink, Clank’ and – though I’m embarrassed to admit it – my copy of the decidedly non-canon: ‘Big Bird & His Blowers’. That’s right at the back of the box, as you might expect and it should probably stay there.

Big Bird And His Blowers USE
The colour gives it away. Purple records are seldom wholesome.

Anyway, the discovery of this box and the aforementioned glut of reissues by some of my favourite artists have contributed not only to making June a rather exciting month musically, but also to my recent inability to put my hand in my pocket and get a round in. And so, as an act of contrition I thought I’d leave you with this charming performance of ‘Clink, Clank’ I found on youtube. Some might argue that all this is veering dangerously off-topic, but I feel I should point out that Bert’s delight in the strange sounds produced by his apartment’s plumbing not only has vague echoes of my own childhood but also sums up the Howlround modus operandi pretty neatly.

Besides, I love going off-topic. Get to it, gentlemen:

Sleep Scale And Smut: Devon Loch Uncensored

Presenting for your approval, Howlround‘s remix of a track from the new album by Devon Loch. Sleep Scale is out now on the redoubtable Kit Records, and also includes interpretations by Beams, Yaaard, Adam Ono and others:

The title ‘Howlround Follows Them Down’ stems from the fact that our quartet of tape machines were each going through a particularly ropey patch at the time and throwing some decidedly wonky shapes into the mix, a state of affairs that I was mindfully attempting to embrace, rather than submitting to hand-wringing despair. Were I permitted to don my philosophical hat, I might speculate that part of what gives Howlround’s music its distinctive savour is the knowledge that both the elderly reel-to-reel machines and the magnetic tape on which it is produced are all gradually degrading and that each turn of the loop only hastens their demise. I might then add that perhaps such ‘managed decline’, if treated sympathetically can produce music of a distinct and fragile beauty, rather like the way dying leaves change colour in the autumn, before winter comes and they turn into withered husks lying forlornly around the place, completely incapable of anything productive and just waiting for you to stub your toe.

For these reasons, and with all philosophical headgear firmly removed, I was and am determined as far as possible to follow the Revoxes down the slippery spiral to the scrapheap and hopefully create some kind of extended swan-song out of the results. After all, you can never be sure with these machines just how much time you have left, a fact that a more gifted writer would doubtless be able to wring all sorts of metaphorical postulation from. As for me, I’ll just settle for remembering that the pioneering Louis and Bebe Barron produced some of their most far-out sounds for the Forbidden Planet soundtrack by actually recording the death-throes of the primitive electronic circuits as they burnt out. The results still sound amazing six decades later and so you could say that those primitive circuits have out-lived them both. And Leslie Nielson.

All this lofty aspersion and dubious metaphor aside, however, I was a little unsure upon listening back to my interpretation of ‘Rapid’  as to whether I was actually satisfied with it. You can waffle on about the beauty of decay all you like (and I do), but it still has to function as music or at least offer a pleasing listen. My initial concern was that it made everything sound quite knackered, as though the bottom had fallen out of the track. Thankfully, when Devon Loch himself finally got to hear it his response was most positive:

richard's review

Job done. So, moving on, now that the remix is out in the world, a couple of people have asked me to elaborate on the origins of the ‘ghostly and enigmatic’ voices that gradually emerge from under the sea of crackle and hiss in the opening seconds. And what a can of worms they’ve unwittingly opened in doing so, for while I’m normally hesitant in revealing my sources; on this occasion I’ve decided to allow you all a tantalising peek up my sleeve. To that effect, I can confirm that they are taken from THIS festering little object found nestling amongst the usual piles of Johnny Mathis and David Essex in an otherwise unremarkable charity shop:

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A flexi-disc! With a title that unblushingly hints at sordid delights supposedly buried within it’s floppy grooves! I paid my 50p, ignored the cashier’s accusing stare, and headed straight for the nearest turntable.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of, ahem, handling one, these disposable, low-quality discs were often given away free with gentleman’s specialist magazines in the seventies and eighties, providing an aural dose of dirty smut to complement their centrefold images – or so I’ve been informed. At the same time they were also used by Readers Digest to flog their box sets of Andy Williams and James Last, though I’ll leave it to you to decide which was the more sordid use of the medium.

Anyway, for added value and because I have nothing better to do with my afternoon, I’ve taken the trouble of transcribing some of the contents of this unsavoury little disc below. Our story begins (or rather it lurches falteringly into motion) with the appearance of one Mr. Brewer, a man who sounds not unlike the Grandfather in the Werthers Original advert fallen on hard times; and who has arrived to hold up his end (ahem) of an appointment with a lady. Or has he? OR HAS HE?! Sit back and let the gripping narrative sweep you into a whirlwind of drama, intrigue and simmering eroticism:

Woman: At last, I was beginning to have my doubts about him. [calling] Who is it?

Mr. Brewer [outside]: It’s me. I mean. Mr. Brewer. Tom Brewer. I rang a little while ago and, and I made an appointment.

Woman: I’m sorry, Sir. We’re terribly busy. There must have been some mistake. Are you sure you’ve come to the right place?

Mr. Brewer  [outside]: Yes, yes, I’m absolutely sure. I know I’ve come to the right address. I took it down from your advert. Please let me in. You do remember me. Please. It’s beastly cold out here. I might catch something frightful like pneumonia. Please let me in.

Woman: What did you say your name was?

Mr. Brewer  [outside]: Er, Tom Brewer.

Woman: Brewer… Brewer, no I can’t say I recall that name, [and yet in clear contrast to what I’ve just said] it does sound faintly familiar. Did you say you phoned?

Mr. Brewer  [outside]: I-I did. Please believe me. It was only half an hour ago.

Woman: Ah, yes, of course. I remember now. Do come in…

[This is where a more accurate dramatic portrayal might have inserted a door-opening sound effect]

Woman: Oh, you poor thing, you look so miserably cold, let’s warm you up with a nice cup of tea and take your coat off for you.

Mr. Brewer : Thank you. I didn’t expect to be treated like this. You know…

Woman: Now, don’t be like that, Mr. Brewer, if that is your name. There are some very peculiar men come knocking on the door. Disgusting men. I hate to think what sort of a place they imagine this to be. They’re dangerous too. Especially a night like tonight when I’m all alone. A lady has to be so careful.

Mr. Brewer : Of course, well, how stupid of me, I should have realised. How can I apologise enough for sounding so rude?

Woman: I should think so!

They continue on in this manner for some time. Just in case you’ve forgotten, gentle reader, that last harrumphing retort from our female protagonist has brought us almost halfway through a so-called ‘Uncensored Sex Party’. Do feel free to stop me if you were offended by any of the above, but I can’t help finding that title inaccurate on at least two counts – a third if you feel that it takes at least three people, some finger-food and the presence of a children’s entertainer to make a party.

For example, while this recording may indeed contain the full, unedited account of what transpired that cold evening; can something really be marketed as ‘uncensored’ if nothing that actually might require censure transpires? Surely this would mean programmes such as ‘Songs Of Praise’ or ‘Gardener’s Question Time’ could also market themselves as uncensored, suggestively-shaped vegetables notwithstanding? It’s all rather misleading, quite frankly, though from a commercial angle I am forced to concede that ‘Uncensored Sex Party’ does have more of a ring to it than other, more appropriate titles such as ‘Dreary Discussion Through Doorway’ or ‘Write It Down Next Time, You Dozy Tart!’

I still have no idea what a ‘Butt-Fast Joy Girl’ is…

Not that my opinion counts for much amongst all this seediness, of course. As an outsider granted the merest occasional peep, I’ve always  found the world of audio-only erotica slightly confusing. Remember my ‘Mucky Mixxxtape’ of a couple years back? The odds are that you do, it was by far one of the most successful endeavours I’ve ever placed a gentle-yet-firm hand upon. And after that there was my attempt to produce a short work for radio by systematically editing all of the smut out of a 1972 LP entitled ‘Midnight Cowpoke’. To my astonishment the resulting two minutes (from a forty-minute long-player) completely failed to make the final cut of a Radio 4 programme with the theme of ‘Misadventure’ – and I had been so confident they would bite my hand off. The point I’m trying to make here is that on both occasions you might recall my wondering aloud just what sort of audience might actually find these records appealing? Who were they aimed at? Why would anyone want to listen to the sound of two jobbing actors faking it?

Thanks, Bungle!

Well, as far as I’m concerned the discovery of this flexi-disc has only deepened the mystery. The only form of intercourse engaged in during this ‘Sex Party’ is mumbling through some meaningless, utterly perfunctory dialogue that seems almost scientifically programmed not to be listened to. When you further reflect that anyone as concerned about catching ‘something frightful like pneumonia’ as Mr. Brewer would surely not be keen to partake of any activity that involved wearing less clothes, or that our unnamed female appears to be in the dichotomous sate of both expecting and being utterly flummoxed by his arrival; it becomes yet another entry into my canon of things that shouldn’t exist, but somehow do. It’s growing to be quite an impressive list, with recent additions including John Leslie’s Scavengers (Wheel Of Fortune presenter in deep space!), the ‘Loving Remembrance Musical Egg’ and THIS*.

Well, we’ve probably allowed ourselves to get a little side-tracked from our main thrust of business here. This is partly because today is a slow day and partly because I was so utterly depressed by the results of the recent election that I guess I’m looking for any excuse to lose myself in ephemera and try to forget that we’re now essentially living in a giant copy of the Daily Mail. The main thing you should take away from all this is that the Devon Loch LP Sleep Scale is out now on Kit Records and a beautiful thing it is too. Limited vinyl with a handful of tasty remixes and beautiful artwork by Sarah Tanat-Jones. Buy it here while you still can and let’s put an end to all this filth!

devon-loch-cover-shot

* If you clicked here and managed to last right the way through the musical number, I’ll happily stand you a pint. You’ll be needing it.

The Hidden Horror: Delving Into My Record Bag’s Neglected Corners

Jolly hard work, DJ-ing, let me tell you. Back-breaking too, especially when you’re still lugging vinyl about long after your peers have embraced the joys of laptops, USB sticks, or just getting someone else to mix it for them. You need to keep your strength up if you’re going to sustain a full eight hours of being continually asked if you’ve got any Rhianna or whether you’d mind playing a song off someone’s iPod because it’s their birthday and they’re the only one dancing.

BadApple1
Photos by Victoria Forbes

So what could be better than to take a nice juicy apple from the fruit bowl when you’re heading out the door? Perhaps cramming it into an empty pocket of your well-stuffed and spine-creakingly heavy record bag to serve as a mid-session pick-me-up? A nice Braeburn, perhaps? Delicious and full of vitamins!

Bad Apple 2

Of course there’s always a risk that you might just forget about that apple, owing to the demands placed on your attention by the ageing hipster demanding to know if you have any ‘good’ music or the drunk woman who keeps asking for something ‘happier’ when you’re rocking the Prince Buster. There’s always a chance that your apple will merely end up residing uneaten and neglected in that very same pocket of your record bag. That pocket that you don’t really use for anything else and therefore see no reason to check all that often – perhaps only once every couple of years…

Bad Apple 3

While we’re on the subject, I’d just like to point out that I’m still available for bookings and can be contacted through the usual channels. But for my next booking I think I’ll insist on taking carrots. As well as providing the improved night-vision so useful in darkened clubs, they’re also said to aid the memory. Though I can’t remember where I heard that…

Bad Apple 4

Oh, and thanks to Victoria Forbes for the horrifically beautiful photos!

Howlround Closes The Gate – Vinyl Reissue Sells Out – That’s All Folks!

To celebrate my heroic non-inclusion in this year’s Record Store Day, due in no small part to failing to get my affairs in order, I was planning to use this week to spring something exciting onto a grateful world: namely a surprise vinyl reissue of Howlround’s third album Torridon Gate, in an edition of 100 only, complete with gorgeous screen-print of the sleeve by Hannah Brown of Modern Day Magpie and a natty translucent inner. However, thanks to the noble efforts of the good folk on my mailing list, I’m unable to do so…

Torridon Gate LP Cover Square-lo

The fact is, I sent my subscribers an email last week giving them first dibs on the new record and they literally bit my hand off – the entire edition sold out in less than twelve hours!

Torridon Gate Both Sides-lo

Sorry to disappoint those of you who missed out, but that really is your lot! The ‘name your price’ digital download is still available, but the number of regretful, peevish or outright inconsolable missives I’ve received in the last few days tells me it’s proving little consolation. However, the fact is that in my original email I promised it would be first-come, first-served, with no second edition and no re-reissue. And I intend to keep that promise until such future times as when it will prove especially financially lucrative to go back on my word and let everyone down – a major career retrospective, perhaps, a deluxe vinyl box set in mahogany, a nomination for the Mercury prize, that sort of thing. Frankly, such worries are quite a way off yet – not much point having a major career retrospective without having a major career first. But I digress…

Torridon Vinyl Close-up

I do plan to spring other surprises in this manner in the future as it’s quite an enjoyable (if not particularly lucrative) way of running my affairs and keeping my followers on their toes. If you’re not yet on my mailing list and gaining such preferential treatment yourself, why not send an email with the subject line ‘Yes! I wish to be kept on my toes re. this kind of thing in the future’ to robinthefog at gmail dot com? I will take care of the necessary and first dibs on my next vinyl surprise will be yours for the taking!

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To Radiophrenia news now, and congratulations to Mark Vernon and his team for the culmination of a successful week of broadcasting to Glasgow and the surrounding areas on 87.9FM (while streaming worldwide online), with a wide and varied programme of original radiophonic works, lectures and performances, including a couple of new works by myself (along with the writer Leila Peacock, of course).

I’m extremely proud to report that one of them, ‘Mount Shock – Music For Microphone Cradle’ was chosen as the work to mark the final broadcast, signing-off and closure of the station at roughly ten minutes to midnight on Sunday 19th. Quite an accolade with over seven hundred pieces to choose from!

Photo by Andy Popperwell
Photo by Andy Popperwell

Penultimately, the Howlround tape-loop quartet finally came out of dry-dock last week when I performed a solo set (Chris still being on his arts residency in Dubai) for the music technology students of Havering College in Essex. It was good to be back behind the spools and the students responded well to my demonstration of what it’s possible to achieve without resorting to plug-ins, fx pedals and other bits of digital technology. In fact it went so well that for a moment I almost felt ‘cool’ and ‘relevant’, but thankfully those feelings passed before I attempted to get too far ‘down with the kids’. Could have been seriously embarrassing for a chap of my vintage.

And lastly, I’ve moved house too. 80+ boxes of vinyl, tape spools CDs, books and other assorted ephemera (not to mention my army of tape machines) have been successfully transferred to my new abode in Penge, thanks to the efforts of some very strong friends (both literally and metaphorically). This photo was taken at about the halfway point, when there was still some floor-space in which to stand swinging a camera. No such luxuries now. I haven’t seen the carpet since:

FogBoxes

There are those who claim that moving house, performing a Essex-based solo tape-loop set and releasing a new record in the space of less than forty-eight hours is sheer, unadulterated lunacy. And you know what? I wouldn’t dream of arguing with such people. The upshot of all of this is that I’m currently sans-internet at the newly-appointed Fog Towers, which is why I’m writing this while day-drinking in Crystal Palace, next to two men engaged in a fascinating discussion about why it’s never a good idea to take cocaine at a funeral. If you’re thinking that sounds rather like stating the bleedin’ obvious, I should inform you that some poor misguided chump once offered me viagra at the send-off of a much-loved elderly relative, so perhaps such activities are more common than you or I might imagine. But all that’s for another time…

Anyway, for these reasons, and all of the above, it’s an exciting time. More soon, my friends, and don’t forget to subscribe if the mood takes you!

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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