(Album, Easy Action)
It seems like a long time since I first heard these eleven songs. Since then, I have listened to them via a number of delivery systems. Thrust directly into the ear via tiny headphones, or blasted out of my largest speakers, these songs resonate and somehow become more resonant through repetition. This is an album that functions like an organism; vibrant, pulsing, in tune with something expansive and primal, yet capable of narrowing its focus to emphasize detail. It is counter intuitive – a monotheistic plurality within which diversity is unified.
I’ll explain. ‘Lost Dawn’ opens with ‘Song For Robert’, a melange of swaggering Bolanisms, Deltahead crunch, and glam-racket stomp. It is the fresh air that blew in during February 1971, recreated, subverted and modernised. All time is simultaneous; a man in a sliver suit sings a song for women in satin hot pants to formation dance to on ‘Top Of The Pops’ while a wine bottle floats in a bathtub. It is an encapsulation of what has gone before extended into what is to come.
‘Breaking Bad’ widens the third iris, extending the field of vision from UHF’s parallel horizons to a broad, hi-def, cinematic vista. Shimmering with texture and transgressive energies, it coruscates across echoplexed badlands, becoming dreamlike before shooting into the stratosphere, leaving the listener to track its vapour trails. Propelled by polyrhythms, ‘Wasting My Time’, snaps our notional lens back into inner space for a nervous blues twitch, before cutting loose with amphetamine precision.
A balm for the senses, ‘Talk About It’ diffuses light, over-exposing the retina and enabling eyes-wide-shut psychedelics to drift by. It skitters and clatters, gathering momentum like a dwarf star accelerating around the edge of a black hole before its own gravity pulls it into another dimension where ‘Count On Me’ ends by soloing out across a spiral arm. Sibilant and sultry, the track is a cocksure chronal ejection that delivers musky allure, then subtly acquires impetus before hitting a transcendent vertex. The constellation of Priapus is defined.
Like warm breath on frigid air, ‘Darkest Night’ deliquesces as its vocal rises, throbbing its way toward a gently pulsing incandescence. Then ‘The Fall’, which winds and grooves, developing a stuttering, hypnotic allure, supported by rattlesnake percussion. Rhythm and melody become interchangeable aspects of a whole. It is immense, timeless.
Similarly epic, ‘Manchild’ is suffused with insidious subtleties as the Cheshire Cat grins and the Caterpillar draws upon his shisha. Power is controlled, allowing the group’s gears to interlock, creating a mesh upon which sound recombines into new shapes and wonderful forms. Space opens up as dervishes whirl beneath the rumbling spires. Episodic and imaginative, it opens up the topography of strangeness and charm.
‘Four’ recreates the acceleration of a trip hitting. Rising up, it is revelatory, bewildering and exultant. Native rhythms are strafed by jagged shards of psych, detonating sporadically, before the dislocated funk of ‘Colossus’ brings us to the very edge. Over that cusp lies ‘Kennedy’; laconic and transcendental it develops as an aural travelogue, revealing wonders as its successive layers carry it on its unhurried way to a bleakly beautiful climax.
Take the needle from the record. Turn it back over and begin again. There is still more to be discovered.
Lost Dawn have recorded a unique and special album. It would be remiss of us not to find out more, so we pestered Stan Duke (guitar/vocals), Ben Woods (drums/vocals), and Joel McConkey (bass/didn’t say much) until they made with the speak.
If we could start by doing the whole ‘Secret Origin of Lost Dawn’ thing and you could tell us how it all began and what were the powerful forces that brought you together.
Ben: In brief, the band was the love child of Stan and his childhood compadre Luke. I met the guys in college, we were studying music production. They were and intimidating pair, but they invited me to jam on the grounds that I liked the blues and Tinariwen and Led Zeppelin.
So we were a haphazard three piece for a while, we did a handful of pretty sweet little shows that took us by surprise as much as they did anyone else. But then just as it was feeling good, Luke left and we had to make some hasty rearranging
We became a two piece, decided it worked (despite the constant Black Keys/White Stripes comparisons – we loved those bands but wanted to move away from that sound), recorded a couple of EPs which barely made it over the Tamar Bridge and then we fled to university; Stan to Brighton and me to Manchester. That didn’t last long, Stan moved back after one year and I moved back after two. And then that summer we recorded the album, with an aim to self-release
Then we sort of realised that what we were doing wasn’t working as a two piece, so we went on the hunt for a bass player. Which is when we found guitarist Joel, and forced him to play bass, which revolutionised the band, and brings us to where we are today, the beginning. Six years later
Ultimately though, the extended gestation has resulted in something that seems to have no boundaries. Would y’all see Lost Dawn as having no stylistic limitations?
Ben: Our only stylistic limitation is Stan’s poncho.
Yes, I could see that in the video, when it got soggy… The album covers a great deal of stylistic ground, though – But you’ve also given it a cohesive sound – it’s all different but it’s all Lost Dawn – is that something you were aiming for?
Ben: I don’t know if it was an aim, but if it don’t have our identity then it wouldn’t have been right. We were conscious that what we were working on didn’t adhere to one genre.
Did you put the album together in sections or all in one go?
Stan: We had the core structures of the songs written and recorded everything separately; drums first, then everything else. But some things, like little guitar parts outside of the main structures, just came to us as we were going along – using the studio as a writing tool (not that it was a studio, it was all recorded at Ben’s house).
You’ve got a few guests on there too…
Stan: Yeah I think we had a vague idea of what we’d want but the idea to get people in for certain parts was an afterthought.
Do you think that the way that you’re regularly involved in working on other projects with different people has played a part in the extensive nature of Lost Dawn’s sound?
Stan: I think you learn a lot from working with different people so I suppose it has, if only subconsciously.
How about the lyrics, are there any literary influences there?
Stan: I’m really not sure what influenced the lyrics, they just sort of came out. There is a lot of different subject matter, but I do like to keep lyrics a little ambiguous.
It’s been about a year between it all being ready and it hitting the shelves, you must be delighted that it’s finally out there?
Ben: Definitely. We’ve just been practicing playing the whole thing live for Wednesday’s show and the songs were feeling fresh again, but it’s been so long since we wrote the tracks that we’ve stopped gigging some of them
Stan: Having guest musicians playing with us has definitely injected life into some of them.
What are the most interesting reactions you’ve had to the group so far?
Ben: Our third ever show, at the Acorn in Penzance six years ago. People sat with their fingers in their ears. And then the Tregony heavy horse show three years ago – A giant of a man thrust his body around the dance floor for the duration of our set in a tiny working man’s club, and then tipped us £20.
Stan: He was throwing £5 notes at Ben while he was playing – like a stripper.
The Falmouth Sound tour at the back end of last year was a blast from where I was standing – was it as much fun as it seemed?
Ben: It was a total shambles, but we had a gay old time.
How do you feel about the whole local scene thing that the media have seized upon?
Stan: I think it’s definitely great for bands outside of big cities when the media finally pays attention, I wouldn’t want it to be choked to death but it’s good to have appreciation in a small town.
I can think of half a dozen great bands from Falmouth, I couldn’t say that about London.
Stan: I guess London just has so much variation, which is obviously a good thing to a degree, but it does mean there’s a lot of crap. In Falmouth it seems like it’s all been condensed and filtered.
Ben: I think bands get picked up too early on there before they’ve had time to develop – which chokes them.
How’s the build up to the album launch been?
Ben: At times positive, but sometimes it’s just frustrating, trying to push things out there. We still don’t know how it’s going to go down.
You must have a fair few songs that came together after the album – any plans for them yet?
Ben: Yeah! We’re well underway with recording an EP, which should bridge the gap between Album One and Album Two (which we’re writing at the moment).
If you could go back to the dawn of Lost Dawn and give your younger self some advice, what would it be?
Ben: I’d teach us the songs we’re working on now, to be ahead of the game. And introduce us to Joel. Actually, I’d take Tame Impala’s discography to us so we could be on top of the world
Stan: Yeah, Ben’s got the idea! I’d teach younger me the White Denim back catalogue.
Dawn Of Humans – ‘Slurping At The Cosmos Spine’ (LVEUM)
The dawn of Dawn Of Humans‘ debut long player has been a long time coming. It’s now eight years since the band’s demo dropped, back in 2007, and six years since their debut seven on Always Restrictions, in 2009. Early indications are that ‘Slurping At The Cosmos Spine’ is everything we hoped for from these psychopathic delinquents, and more. We will be reviewing the album in full, just as soon as it has sunk in properly, until then, here’s a link to the LVEUM Bandcamp stream, so you can judge for yourselves.
Meanwhile, back in the past, you can access some DoH back catalogue action here:
Demonstrating that it’s not always necessary to have three people in a power trio, Wolf Note coalesced from primal ingredients around the middle of last year. The duo of Danny Wood (guitar/vocals) and Liam Jolly (drums/vocals) have paid their dues and honed their chops in bands such as perennial trakMARX favourites Mister Postman and powerhouse combo The Dead Heat.
After a couple of early shows, Wolf Note accelerated to escape velocity turning October’s Inland Arts Festival into a sweaty, churning celebration of visceral rock’n’roll with a set that clearly signposted their gargantuan potential. Now, with the release of their five-track debut EP, they are making good on that promise – providing a nap hand of muscular cuts that first scorches and then gouges the earth beneath their dusty, booted feet.
Opener ‘Move It On’ accumulates thrusting impetus as drop-hammer rhythms crash against the white hot forge of guitar wires glowing white hot with priapic intensity. The track crackles with physicality and hums with innumerable ergs of latent energy plucked from their black hearts and thrust though speakers. This power is applied with precision and guile; ‘Easy For You’ rides sonic riptides, as valves flicker, revealing blood on the sheets and tectonic detonations vie with vertiginous accelerations to remake the aural landscape into something truly monumental.
Badlands throwdown ‘Duck Dive’ ignites the desert dust, causing superdense particles to combine and collide as space opens up for the vocals amid the maelstrom. Suddenly, this contracts, leaving binary pulses of words and sonics orbiting nitrous-infused pedal-to-the-metal bursts of velocity like burning Sputniks. Crackling between immense Tesla terminals, casting an audible shadow of cooling tower immensity before chronal guitar ejections sear across big-beat drum salvos that gives the song a distinct radioactive half life.
Finally, the epic ‘Hemiplegic’ strafes its way down Montgomery Clift’s right profile, a thermospheric scarring, casting out white hot ingots of sound. A work holler from Vulcan’s Furnace, the track brings the disc home at boiling point, creating an aural pressure cooker that spins and twists into a madrigal of red hot coal walking dervishry.
This is an epic unleashing. Ever mindful of our responsibility to cover catastrophic geological events, trakMARX tracked down beat behemoth, polymath and all around good egg Liam Jolly, loomed up at him unexpectedly and demanded information…
How did Wolf Note get started?
I’ve known Danny for ages; firstly from his Panicstruck days and then with his last project The Dead Heat. TDH played for me at a John Peel show I put on once and I thought they were really cool. A couple of months later I tried to book them again, but couldn’t as the drummer had left. As they were right up my street musically and the sort of band I’d love to play drums for I offered my services to help them out but it came to nothing.
A few months later, I tried to book them again but their situation hadn’t changed, I once again offered to help, but this time rather than excepting the offer Danny talked of perhaps wanting to do a new project instead. He then said the magic words ‘two-piece’ and at that point it was a done deal for me. I have always had a massive thing for two-piece bands and knowing Danny and I were on the same page musically this was an exciting prospect – we arranged to get together for a jam to see what happened.
It worked straight away, in fact the ‘Move it On’ riff was one of the very first things we ever jammed. We both felt there was something worth pursuing so just set about jamming regularly to see where we ended up. We kept it to ourselves for ages as we didn’t really have a clue what we were hoping to achieve (still don’t!) so just thought we’d let things take their own course and develop naturally.
You seemed to emerge kind of fully realised, did you have a very distinct idea of what you both wanted to do musically, right from the start?
Not at all, really. We knew we wanted to make something pretty hefty – that was it in terms of their being any kind of brief. We’re both into so many different types of music that there have been many references discussed along the way, some pretty obvious and some less so (the repetition of minimal techno for one) but we definitely didn’t set out with a vision. We’ve just worked with what we had and then developed the bits that (for us) have worked along the way and let it grow.
The EP seems to represent your muscular aspects – was that planned, or did the songs just sort of select themselves?
We decided that we had got to a point where we should record what we had; at the time this was just six songs. We recorded at Danny’s parents’ house when they were away on holiday (not sure they know this) in a three hour window after work one night. Let’s just say it would have probably been a six song EP if I’d play the other song better!
I was a little surprised as I didn’t remember you being that relentless from the couple of times I’ve caught you live.
I know we look back on those early gigs now and have written them off as being not great to be honest. At the time we just had to get out of the rehearsal space and in front of an audience to see how people would respond. We were only talking about Waynestock and the first few gigs the other day actually and discussing how we didn’t really know what we were doing then – that was gig number two. We’ve also decided we’re better indoors. At night. In the dark.
Did the December tour play much of a part in your continuing development?
Yes definitely, getting out in front of total strangers was great way to suss a few things out about the songs and the band. As great as it is having your mates in the audience you’re never going to get 100% honest feedback, I guess. People seemed to like it which gave us more confidence in what we were doing I guess. That and just playing those songs everyday at varying degrees of hungover for a week was a great way to tighten it all up around the edges!
What sort of feedback have you had about the EP?
Not loads so far, we decided to do CD only for this run so haven’t gone to town on sending them to press etc – this was more about getting those early recording on CD for people at gigs really. We have gone international though (!) – we sold via Bandcamp to a guy in Finland who just came across us on the internet, he sent us a real nice message telling us how much he loved it so that was nice. We have heard from folk who have received their copies in the post and have said nice things.
So were you digging into any particular set of influences?
Not really, the thing we talked of mostly at the beginning was our mutual love of desert/stoner rock and trying to create something in that vein…so bands like Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Orange Goblin and QOTSA. I think the vision was of an audience losing it to a heavy, repetitive riff. I’m not sure we’ve got there yet or even how we now feel about that initial vision!
What’s lined up next for Wolf Note?
We’re making a video for ‘Duck Dive’, that’s going to be our next ‘single’ and we’ll do another tour to accompany that. We’re also recording again, we’ve got a whole batch of new songs so we’re doing those at the moment. Apart from that we’ve got a few festivals lined up for the summer, so we’re just looking forward to getting out and playing soon.
Lourdes Oh Lordy, my bottom’s on fire! The temperature is rising, baby, and Encoule’s been out and about. In a packed column tonight, this writer will bring you up to speed on recent activity that has included live performances from Sleaford Mods, Richard Dawson and Stewart Lee, as well as newish records by Aska and Cath and Phil Tyler.
Sleaford Mods: Zephyr Lounge, Leamington Spa (24/03/15)
Leamington Spa often bears witness to has-beens, tribute bands, reformations and no-marks, so the visit of vehement, agitprop ranters Sleaford Mods to this sleepy West Midlands town was without contemporary cultural comparison. The Zephyr Lounge holds around 200-punters, and they came, chubbed-up, in packs. Accompanied by a phalanx of fellow-abstinence-based compadres, I ventured forth into the depths of depravity, to capture for posterity the antics within.
The support bands duly came and went. Neither of them had enough presence to pique my interest, but both had elements strong enough to foster revulsion. No names; no pack drill: no comment. The Mods hit the stage to a wave of mutant enthusiasm. Four-pint punters spilled their plastic glasses, and danced atop the resultant piss like they were on Strictly-on-ice. I made my way forward, burrowing through the ranks like a mole, took prime position front-stage-left, and adopted the sway of the Fearn, dodging the putrid breath of the pissheads, noting Jason Williamson was also on the water.
They opened with a couple of newer songs, doubtless b-sides from the slew of 45s they seemingly release on an almost daily basis these days. I’ve heard Jay say he wants to saturate the market while he’s at the apogee of his zeitgeist, and I wouldn’t argue with that. I’m pretty sure one of them was ‘Bunch Of Cunts’. The sound was strong, and while Andrew nodded, skanked and swigged, Jason jigged and sneered, pushed his manboobs into an imagined cleavage, and made like a two-bob stripper on a five-quid stage. Highlights from ‘Austerity Dogs’ and ‘Divide And Exit’ flowed like Double Diamond, alongside deceased 45s, such as ‘Jobseeker’ and ‘Routine Dean’. The crowd went mad. I nodded. I shook my head. I skanked. I nodded. I shook my head. I resisted the urge to batter pissed-up chubbs as they pushed past, with their red faces, high blood pressure, and basic lack of decent manners.
I’ve seen the Mods a number of times now, and this was without doubt their best performance yet. The endless months on the road are paying off, and the relatively static presentations of 2014 have evolved into an altogether more ‘rock’n’roll’ experience, which is only natural, given the conformities of the industry. Forty minutes down, rage swamping the stage in the form of Jay’s discarded spittle, and it’s all over. Our dynamic duo leave the stage to rapturous applause and animalesque baying, only to return for an encore! Jay quantifies the rarity of such an action, citing the fidelity of the sound as the driver. Sleaford Mods have pissed on The Parade, and Leamington is all the richer for it.
In other Mods related news, my copy of Jay’s collected lyrics arrived by post a week or so after the show, a random gift from my love-you-long-time musical mentor, David Jones. Reprinted beyond it’s limited initial run by Bracket Press, ‘Grammar Wanker’ collates Mods verbiage from 2007 to 2014, in an essential tome for all Sleaford obsessives, and neophytes alike:
One of my favorite things about being a clinically obsessed with music, is the way the discovery and subsequent patronage of one artist can open doors that lead to a corridor of further doors, and, in turn, a journey of eternal discovery, rather like the endless passages in ‘House of Leaves’ by Mark Z. Danielewski. It was Sleaford Mods that led me to Richard Dawson, through their posting of his ‘Vile Stuff’ video across their social media platforms, and ever since, I have been exploring and falling: ever-deeper in peace and love; ever-deeper in debt and vinyl; ever-deeper in total admiration for the man and his music.
Richard Dawson: Flatpack Festival, Birmingham (28/03/15)
The venue, The Bond Company, is one normally associated with business events and corporate training days, nestled canal-side in Fazeley Street, in the heart of the city’s sprawling post-industrial refurbishment area. My compadre for the night had spent many an hour absorbing and delivering training in the room we were to occupy for the night, so finding our feet/orientation wasn’t an issue. Situated across the street from an old rehearsal complex in which I once ‘shepherded’ a promising young band from Leeds called sexmachina! a decade or so ago, the night began as both a literal and figurative stroll down memory lane.
The doors opened at 7pm, to reveal seating for around a hundred punters, and a stage with a backdrop for film projection; an amp; a single guitar; and a microphone. On entry, I asked what time the performance would commence, and was told ‘promptly, at 7:30′. As we took our seats, a modest collection of moving images generated by Richard Dawson, the film maker, flashed before out eyes, as Richard Dawson, the musician and raconteur, sat a couple of seats in front of us, chatting idly with a member of the audience.
At 7:30, promptly, Richard Dawson moved to the stage, and began the performance by asking the audience how one begins a performance. Several instructions were forthcoming from the collected throng, before Dawson elected to open proceedings a capella. What followed was a selection from three aspects of Dawson’s beguiling catalogue: namely a set culled from ‘The Magic Bridge’, ‘The Glass Trunk’ and ‘Nothing Important’. The comedian Stewart Lee once described ‘The Glass Trunk’ in glowing terms:
“The Glass Trunk is a mesmerising and pungent selection of seven eerily keened faux folk songs forced into form from scrapbook scraps and forgotten family papers. Penetrating the heart of the archive’s hidden stories, Dawson draws out hidden truths in strong bold strokes”.
Alternating between guitar accompaniment, a capella into the mic, and a capella holding the mic tightly into his stomach, Dawson delivered a passionate and utterly compelling set, including personal favorites such as ‘Wooden Bag’, ‘Black Dog In The Sky’, ‘We Picked Berries In A Churchyard’, ‘Poor Old Horse’, ‘The Brisk Lad’ and ‘The Vile Stuff’. I was mesmerized throughout, transfixed by the magnetism of the performance, stomping along with both feet on the boards below me during an apocalyptic ‘The Vile Stuff’, amazed that one man can make such complexed arrangement work so powerfully with just a guitar, a microphone and two clod-hopping feet. No recourse to digital jiggery-pokery, or effects-board-manipulation. Both Dawson’s guitar and vocal technique are totally unique, his interest in shamanic practice is evidenced in the transcendental properties of his music. Throughout the evening, Dawson kept checking his watch, the subject of a jokey ramble, and, sure enough, as if bound by some preordained timetable, events drew to a close on the stroke of 9pm.
As Dawson stood beside the stage, still shaking and sweating with the pure exuberance of his performance, I seized my chance to congratulate him, shake his hand, and embrace his drenched body in a meaningful man-hug that I hoped would convey my respect, admiration and appreciation. He was sweet, and kind, and asked me my name. I told him I’d seen Sleaford Mods a few nights before, and he was full of positive affirmation for them, too. I left him to greet others, mindful of taking up too much of his time. He later ‘liked’ photos of the show on my personal Facebook page, and left the comment: “Peace and love”. My life is considerably richer as a result of this encounter, and my faith in the transformative power of art through musical expression has been reinvigorated once again. A truly life-affirming moment: one I will treasure.
Stewart Lee: Oxford Playhouse (29/03/15)
As one door closes, another one opens! Synchronicity rings in the air like a bell, and we head for Oxford the very next night, to catch comedian Stewart Lee and his Room With A Stew show. Despite being a massive Stewart Lee fan, this is the first time I’ve seen him live, and the occasion itself transpired to be more memorable for that fact alone, than it did for the show itself.
Unfortunately, much of tonight’s material I’d heard before. The first third of the show, almost in its entirety; much of the second third of the show, as a variation in kind; only the final third could be conceived as totally fresh to these ears. As a result, although I laughed until the tears rolled down my cheeks, I was mildly affronted by the bare-faced cheek of Lee’s material selection processing, and did consider shouting ‘repetition’, ‘repetition’, ‘repetition’, once or twice, as if I was a guest on one of those drab mainstream cultural edifices Lee decries so caustically with the majority of his acerbic wit. In the end, I didn’t fancy being derided in front of a couple of thousand people, as the unfortunate guy who felt sick ten minutes into the performance was, or the other guy, who got up to go to the toilet at an inappropriate juncture.
I understood clearly before attending that this ‘road show’ is primarily about ‘honing’ material for Stew’s seemingly highly-coveted fourth BBC series, and in the end I likened the experience to the time in early 1979 when I saw The Clash play an early version of ‘Somewhere Calling’, in its entirety. Moments that stood out for me that night included: ‘The Guns Of Hoojamaflip’, ‘Thingummy Jazz’, ‘Costa Rican Bombs’ and ‘Whasshiname Can’t Fail’. I left the building imagining that Stewart Lee was immeasurably richer as a result of the experience.
After fifteen-odd years of scribing and editing this fanzine, it has recently dawned on me that, in terms of cultural assessment, I am basically equipped with the critical faculties of a cross between the teenager from the ‘Fast Show’, and Father Jack from ‘Father Ted’. Seemingly everything I ever write about is either ‘briiillliiiaaaant’ or ‘ARSE’. That’s worth bearing in mind before mailing stuff, or emailing me links, or sticking me on your publicist’s promo-mailing-list. These days I only write about stuff I want to write about. With that in mind, relatively new things that I have fallen for as they’ve ambled across my record deck recently include:
Aska – ‘Gratonar’ (Ronja Records)
Hailing from Iceland, the frozen tundras of beatific cold wave issued forth by Aska across the sides of ‘Gratonar’ should come as no surprise to marine biologists, geologists or travel writers. Dressed in the uniform of a standard black metal album, with matching skull and typeface, this eight-song excursion shares a certain sonic kinship with CCCandy‘s ‘Lonsesome Berlin’, issued on Avant Records, back in 2010. Synths and minimalist drum patterns vie with tortured vocals, eerily reminiscent of a down-tuned Ian Curtis, lost in a particularly long tunnel, on the way home from the recording sessions that spawned Joy Division‘s ‘Closer’.
The impenetrable nuances of the Icelandic language only raise the atmospheric bar further, and the result is total captivation, leading to directly to besotted, within two spins. I have treasured the aforementioned ‘Lonesome Berlin’ these past five years, returning to it with regularity, amazed that CCCandy have never garnered wider recognition. ‘Gratonar’ sits beside that album as I type, lifting Aska to a pedestal in my estimation they doubtless never imagined in their dullest dreams, requiring the forging of a new genre section within my collection, hitherto unnamed (I’ll leave that to some one remotely qualified).
Cath And Phil Tyler – ‘The Song Crowned King’ (Ferric Mordant Records)
Having only recently discovered the work of Cath And Phil Tyler, I was overjoyed to receive this recently issued six-track EP in the post the other day. Although available on CD only, at this juncture, the packaging is rather wonderful, replicating, as it does, a sewing kit, of sorts. Contained within are six-cuts of raw folk: stitched together by rumbustious and resonant acoustic guitars that bite at your ear lobes and snap at your hearing aid; twanging banjos that pluck at the arterial stringage; violins that have you reaching for the bodhrán; spectral chords of electrified guitar that haunt the backdrops (‘Old Lady’), all draped in the sumptuous vocals of Cath Tyler, raspingly harmonized by compadre Phil. The duo largely reinterpret traditional material (with the exception of ‘Boys The Buzzards Are Flying’, in this collection), in a way that could possibly have been captured at any stage over the last century or so of recording technique/fidelity spectrum, with much the same results as those presented here. This is music as old as the hills, that sounds as fresh as the daisies making their way up, as I type, through the rapidly warming soil of spring. If the tender beauty of ‘Fathers Now Our Meeting Is Over’ doesn’t melt your resistance to the genre, you are destined to listen to inferior art for the rest of your days, and nothing has been learned here this eventide.
I’ve written elsewhere about the ‘House-Of-Leaves-Effect’, that Danielewskiesque notion of musical doors of perception, eternal passageways, or, as Gavin Prior refers to the phenomenon below: “threads in the labyrinths”. I discovered Deserted Village through a portal opened by my growing fascination with Richard Dawson and Rhodri Davies, that, in turn, led me to a whole host of micro-labels buried below the water table in Ireland, such as Deserted Village and Fort Evil Fruit. Deserted Village, then, duly opened up a veritable trove of as-yet-undiscovered treasure, including the marvelous Woven Skull, so we asked the label’s Gavin Prior to pen a few words on Deserted Village, and the story behind its existence. This is what he had to say:
“I was friends with Shane Cullinane since we were in college together in Limerick, and we shared a house in Dublin at the cusp of the noughties. After a free improv workshop with Eddie Prevost, we ended up forming the group Murmansk, with Scott McLaughlin and David Colohan, who soon welcomed us all into United Bible Studies.
Shane, Dave and I set up the label, and our first release was the s/t debut by Murmansk, which I think still holds up well. Since then, about half the label’s output has been our own various projects, and the rest releases by people from Ireland and all around the world with whom we felt a kindred spirit. We started right when CDRs were becoming cheaper and more reliable to replicate, and did a lot of trading, which had been going on since the tape days. We’re just into our second decade, and I’ve found myself trading download codes. We’ve worked with every format, and have seen so many changes: vinyl renaissance, tape renaissance, downloads, and now streaming, which we haven’t gotten into charging for.
CDs and CDRS seem increasingly pointless because of downloads, but on tour is the best time and place to sell them. Early on, our packaging was often cheap and cheerful, but these days we work on novel (while still relatively cheap) packaging ideas. CDs, especially, need to justify their existence. I still have an attachment to physical formats, but I feel they’re an increasingly irrational use of resources and energy. I remember a debate years ago on an “email discussion group” about the world being flooded with half-baked releases because of cheap, convenient CDRs. Well, so many of those CDRS are lost to time, and that was just a trickle, compared to now. The world is even more flooded with music these days, and so much of it is good! I think the curatorial function of labels is becoming more important than ever in this bewildering world of ours, where labels can act as signposts or threads in the labyrinths.
We had a shaky start to live music promotion, in an upstairs room of a pub in Dublin in 2004: Black Forest/Black Sea – United Bible Studies – Bullets. We made many friendships throughout the years from putting on shows, mostly with people we felt an affinity with which often lead to recording collaborations like our Lost Roman Legions project with Stefan Neville. Both the label and gig promotion have quietened down, as I’ve gone back to university to train as a primary school teacher, but I’m managing to finish some projects which I’m excited to be releasing in the future”.
- trakMARX: ROCK AND ROLL, GARAGE PUNK, PSYCHE, HEAVY METAL, PROTO PUNK, KRAUTROCK, JAP ROCK, PUNK ROCK, POST PUNK, INDUSTRIAL, BLACK METAL, DOOM/DRONE, POST ROCK, NOISE, AVANT ET L'ART DE L'ETRANGER