Abul Mogard/Acolytes/Bad Tracking/Kali Malone/Mark Fell/Steven Legget/Tribe Of Colin
‘The harms being caused by the war on drugs can no longer be ignored. It is time to leave behind harmful politics, ideology and prejudice. It is time to prioritise the health and welfare of the affected populations, their families and communities” – Support Don’t Punish
Much like the War On Terror, or any war, for that matter, the War On Drugs is essentially class war. In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a revolutionary act. Shaped by conditioning, wounded by trauma, marginalised by anxiety, defined by deviancy, the need to escape consequentiality hampered by the external stigma that informs internal stigma. The political implications of operation escape-from-self have ramifications that tear families and communities asunder. With drug deaths rising and drug treatment budgets falling, the implicit correlation between capitalist surrealism and the death of self-love has never been more explicit.
“Global society is drowning in addiction to drug use and a thousand other habits. This is because people around the world, rich and poor alike, are being torn from the close ties to family, culture, and traditional spirituality that constituted the normal fabric of life in pre-modern times. This kind of global society subjects people to unrelenting pressures towards individualism and competition, dislocating them from social life” – Bruce K Alexander
In terms of solution-focussed approaches, the twin pillars of Maté (Boaz) and Alexander (Jachin) guide us towards the salvation of shalom. This duality is at the beating heart of the Recoverist dichotomy. Only when we frame our collective demise as the consequence of unenlightened thoughts can we embark on the pathway of education, agitation and organisation necessary to reclaim the self through emancipation. Our antecedents here are hidden in plain sight, amongst the rubble of neoliberal capitalist surrealism: the ghosts of the Chartists, the Suffragettes, the Fabians, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the spirits of emancipatory freedom from the symbolic violence of abstract systems.
The concept of Nietzsche versus nurture can thus be seen as a truly holistic exploration of the nihilistic drivers informing the deviant behaviour perspective of the ruling elite; a philosophical deconstruction of the Kantian right versus the Benthamite left. In the common ground between the ABCDWP-driven Recovery Agenda of government policy and the traditional liberalism of the Harm Reductionist left, lie the fertile pastures of possibility through purpose: an Aristotlian flourishing, Eudaimonia, achieved through re-identity, a process of shared learning shaped to redefine self as a revolutionary act of emancipation.
The process of pain management through self-medication suppresses our dreams, as well as our sense of self. Addictive substances affect our ability to achieve REM sleep. By losing consciousness instead of sleeping soundly, we wilfully aid and abet the forces of oppression by building our own prisons, acting as our own jailor. The crime of allowing our pain to steal our dreams is intrinsically self-harm.
“To be, or not to be? That is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and, by opposing, end them? To die, to sleep – no more – and by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to – ’tis a consummation devoutly to be wished! To die, to sleep. To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause. There’s the respect that makes calamity of so long life” – William Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’ (Act 3, Scene 1)
As Nietzsche himself observed, life without music would be a mistake, and this month’s selection have been instrumental in shaping my personal response to those slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. We begin, then, with ‘Above All Dreams’ (Ecstatic), Abul Mogard’s expansive follow-up to 2015’s ‘Circular Forms’ (Ecstatic). To this day, Mogard’s true identity remains shrouded in mystery. The party line of sexagenarian Serbian sheet metal worker recreating the sounds of the factory through modular synthesis may be prosaic, but according to my Serbian contacts, the name itself is distinctly un-Serbian. Theories abound as to exactly who is moonlighting here, but it doesn’t really matter that much. Whatever the absolute truth, the relative truth is that ‘Above All Dreams’ evolves in front of our ears, seamlessly, from where ‘Circular Forms’ closed, three years earlier.
For those of us who joined the party late with ‘Works’ (Ecstatic), 2016’s collation of Mogard’s VCO output from 2012-2013, ‘Above All Dreams’ may appear somewhat slight when disconnected from ‘Circular Forms’. It is imperative that Mogard’s development be heard as the progression that it undoubtedly is, instead of some kind of gradual osmosis into the ambient wallpaper of magnolia world. Those of you yearning for the harsher elements of ‘Works’ need to overcome those expectations before embracing the hauntological mindfulness of ‘Above All Dreams’. This is a domain of spiritual sanctity, achieved through artful composition, an emotional ephemera of love and light in six movements. Between the drones we discover salvation in oscillation. On ‘Where Not Even’ and ‘The Roof Falls’ in particular, we hear nods to Sarah Davachi‘s ‘Let Night Come On Bells End The Day’ (Recital) and the ghosts of panoramic ’70s progression. Abul Mogard has staked his claim to greatness, and with both ‘Circular Forms’ and ‘Works’ already hailed as classics, it can be confidently assumed that ‘Above All Dreams’ will ascend its forebears to assume hierarchical precedence in the Mogard cannon.
Described elsewhere as the ‘best record Alter have ever put out’, Acolytes consciousness-altering ‘Rupture’ (Alter) is computer music with a lo-fi aesthetic. Moody, visceral and relentless in its approach, ‘Rupture’ pixilates the angst of symbolic violence in byte-sized chunks. Dysfunctional rhythms contradict the topography of their sound-beds in a jarring juxtaposition that struggles to impose much sense of form on first listen. Repeated exposure gradually pulls shape from the miasma to reveal the man called D. Shan’s modus operandi. Slimmed down from the group-based set-up that delivered Acolytes s/t debut back in 2015, ‘Rupture’ is an altogether more enduring work. Echoes of Gábor Lázár‘s acidic tekno shade the palette. Dub sensibilities elongate the space between tones. Tribal beats and samples litter the terrain. ‘MXE666′ squelches from the speakers, dancing above the melee like a sprite atop the flames of a ritual campfire. This autocannibalistic approach to sound-craft is utterly mesmeric. The esoteric vibe of ‘Rupture’ is something we will be returning to below with Tribe Of Colin. ‘Night Air’ draws proceedings to a close in enigmatic fashion: a swirl of backwards scratches herald what sounds like a bastardised melodica refrain, introducing a vaguely ‘East Of Of The River Nile’ vibe that somehow retro-informs all that has come before it to leave us with a real sense of culmination. ‘Rupture’ is a masterful accomplishment, a dark art from a dark heart in a dark world. Is this the best record Alter have ever put out? Find out for yourself here:
Following their 2017 vinyl debut on Bristol’s Mechanical Reproductions, West Country pioneers Bad Tracking (Max Pearce/Gordon Apps) return with this 4-track monster on FuckPunk. In a hail of recrimination and hissing arpeggiation, the duo roll the overdosed spectre of industrial electronics into the recovery position and pump in the Naloxone. With the ambulance on its way, the patient is not overtly pleased to have regained conciseness. This escape from self-imposed oblivion results in the weaponised, beat-driven, animalistic squalls that we hear as ‘Mayday’ and ‘Clanger’, and their accompanying dubs. This is the raw sound of the city’s revenge. City, baby, attacked by rats. This edition of 88-copies comes complete with an additional pink rubber-banded C35 bonus-tape, containing unheard material and Bad Tracking live jams.
The ability of harmony to affect psychological change is a concept explored by Kali Malone on her follow-up to 2017’s ‘Velocity Of Sleep’ (XKatedral/Bleak Environment) ‘Cast of Mind’ (Hallow Ground) explores this concept through the exclusive use of the Buchla 200 synthesiser, in combination with acoustic woodwind and brass instruments. Born in Colorado in 1994, Malone has been living and working in Sweden since 2012. As well as her solo work, she is also an active member of Sorrowing Christ, Swap Babies and Upper Glossa. Working in a similar genre pool to the aforementioned Sarah Davachi, alongside other notable contemporary composers such as Kara-Lis Coverdale, Teresa Winter and Christina Vantzou, Malone utilises unique tuning systems in minimalist form for analog and digital synthesis. ‘Cast Of Mind’ delivers over four-pieces, moving from the woodwind hunting calls of the titular opener, eerily reminiscent of an ambient black metal vignette, through three variations, ending with the drone-dominated roulade of finale, ‘Empty The Belief’. The sum of these parts is a rich aural tapestry, sonically sewn in intricate detail. At 37-minutes, ‘Cast Of Mind’ never outstays its welcome. This is an incredible record I find myself returning to time after time, every listen subtly altering the way I feel about it as a work of art. In that sense, the overarching concept is proven.
June must be the month of rhythmelodic cadence. This time last year, I was obsessed with Robert Aiki Aubery Lowe‘s ‘Levitation Praxis Pt. 4′ (DDS), a pair of incredible recordings made with Harry Bertoia’s sound sculptures. This year, it’s the turn of Mark Fell‘s ‘Intra’ (Boomkat Editions), a suite of soundscapes performed with Drumming Grupo De Percussão on the Sixxen metallophone system: a set of six microtonally tuned instruments, originally conceived by Iannis Xenakis, back in 1976. ‘Intra’ comprises eight complex polyrhythms, delivering a 37-minute meditative Carnatic therapy session, connecting us to the future primitivism of John Zerzan. ‘Intra’ is a work of art that resolutely rejects the thesis that time and technology are neutral scientific realities, positing instead that they are carefully constructed means of enslaving people. ‘Intra’ connects to the justified and ancient inside of us all. This is so much more than a slight return.
Originally recorded in the Turkish Baths of Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s City Pool, and subsequently augmented with field recordings gathered on the islands of Paxos and Loutro, South Crete, Steven Legget‘s serene ‘Bathhouse’ (Firecracker Recordings) is one of the most stunning electroacoustic amalgamations I have discovered thus far, an innovative blend of environmental drone and illustrated neo-classical. Aquatic sounds, ambient samples, electronic interfaces and immensely expressive cello combine to create spectral beauty of unfathomable import. Ten widescreen compositions lead us on an hour-long journey through water, submerged in the warmth of a rarified atmosphere heavy with condensation. All profits from the record are being donated to clean water charity, Waves for Water.
“It’s a signal, and it’s a signal that’s saying wake up. It’s a signal that’s saying take a look. Take a look at yourself. So, two things basically drive change in human beings. One of them is suffering, and the other is, you meet somebody, and in the presence of that person you realise, here is a human that’s found something, and is listening to something, has become connected to something, and I want to know what that is for myself, so, it’s inspirational, and its conveyed by quality of conciseness in someone else that makes you say: ‘I want to take a journey’, and usually what that person says is: ‘you’re a really beautiful human being and you’re struggling with the kind of things you’re meant to be struggling with, and lets take a look at how you can struggle in a constructive way’ ”
So begins Tribe Of Colin‘s ‘Lions Print Complete In Ten Thousand Practices Thus Come One’ (Chant). The synchronicity of these words within the narrative of this month’s column cannot be understated. That’s the second time this week something vaguely prophetic has occurred out of the blue. This record arrived in this morning’s post, but after only two spins it’s safe to say it’s already up there with my treasured copy of ‘Wide Berth’ (Label Unknown) and the recent Docile 12″ on Trilogy Tapes with John T. Gast. Gnostic, esoteric, ritualistic and compelling, Tribe Of Collin throw skanking tekno shapes into a vat of acid in a vivid display of end-of-times provocation. My favourite record of the year so far, six months down, this one’s a keeper!