Black Lodge/Eiko Ishibashi & Darin Gray/Khalab/Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch/Nozomu Matsumoto/Francis Plange & Crys Cole/Pontiac Streator & Ulla Straus/Resina/Ekuka Morris Sirikiti/Topdown Dialectic
“For humans, time has an ambiguous and perhaps paradoxical quality to it. In some ways, it is something that we seem to push to the back of our thoughts in the same way a timepiece sits unthreateningly on the walls; it is ‘simply what the mechanical clock and Gregorian calendar display, a neutral and enumerated dimension in which life unfolds’ (Hom, A. R. – 2013 – ‘Reckoning Ruin: International Relations Theorising and the Problem of Time’). Yet, it is also a mysterious concept that has always slipped into the human mind’s ideas about change, impermanence, and mortality” – A. McKay
Temporality, the politics of time: a perpetual state of tragi-comedic duality. It’s all about the timing. This flowing river, hyperaware of becoming the sea. Neither heads nor tails, merely a coin spinning in the air, perpetually. Stuck somewhere on the dial between zero and one. An undefined figure, neither a plus nor a minus. Emitting dots and dashes: dot-dot-dot; dash-dash-dash; dot-dot-dot; S.O.S. All hands on deck, this bird is sinking.
As Tommy comes marching home again, hurrahs fill the cyber streets. The FLA throw Nazi salutes, along with traffic cones, bottles, coins, fake memes, photoshopped j-pegs and anything else that comes to hand. They’re coming by bus or underground, armed with clubs and fists and spurious facts, dressed in brown. Your face, lit blue by the light of the screen, as you watch the You Tube clips of this animal scream. The NEU-SA Party army, marching in over your head. You may live to regret hiding that radio under the stairs. Regret the fact that you got caught out unawares. The NEU-SA Party army, marching up your stairs. You failed to recognise that it’s happening again. You took your eye off the football lads alliance. Your frantically polished BMW may have pride of place on your drive. The sun may be shining. Your kids may well be outside in the garden, shouting loud. Except the sun is shining through a crack in the cloud, and only shadows will be falling when Tommy comes marching home.
Change, impermanence, mortality, all generational signifiers for a boy from 1962. In the month since my last missive, everything has changed for me. The temporal reality of time itself, stretched to incredulity. There’s a battle outside and it’s raging. It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls. For the times they are a-changing:
HELEN: “Is that the time?”
MIKE: “No, time is an abstract concept. This is a wristwatch.”
Sadly, we are no longer the young ones, time has caught up with us. It’s pissing on our parade. Bury me in my motorcycle jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots. Bury my heart at wounded knee. Everything is temporary. My assumed identity: recoverist, single-parent, communist, literally, speech-bubbled on a sea of floaters, blood pressure rising. Creating freedom in a hypernormalised construct requires a new context; a new language; a new identity. How do we stop this propagandist osmosis when the mind has no firewall?
Dystopian nightmares demand dystopian soundtracks, and thus we commence this month’s trawl through the record box that time forgot with an esoteric phalanx of detritus expunged from the annals of Mancunian legend: Black Lodge – ‘Bitter Blood (A Collection of Archival Recordings)’ (Disciples), released in tandem with a hitherto unreleased set of jams originally recorded for Mo’ Wax, out now on Arcola, sees former Badly Drawn Boy remixer Dan Dwayre‘s Black Lodge moniker exhume twelve corpses from the graveyard and the ballroom. Surprisingly fresh, uncannily contemporary, this enigmatic collection will appeal to both lovers of Demdike Stare and aficionados of library music in general. Intrinsically psychedelic, in both colour and hue, ‘Bitter Blood’ exists on a spectrum of improved accessibility that is enhanced greatly through repeated exposure. A quirky nonchalance, a resolutely lo-fi sensibility, denote this release as far superior to the Arcola sides, clearly identifying ‘Bitter Blood’ as a watershed moment, unlikely to be repeated. It is this very sense of uniqueness that recommends itself for inclusion in your record collection.
Previously collaborators largely confined to the virtual shadows of collective works, Eiko Ishibashi and Darin Gray emerge from the shade with ‘Ichida’ (Black Truffle) to capture our hearts with their progressive future-free-jazz, eloquently expressed on this pair of long-form exercises. Originally recorded live at Tokyo’s Super Deluxe, back in March of 2013, these recordings have been buffed and polished by Jim O’Rourke, furnishing a 40-minute set that strides purposefully through a mannerist canvas rich with Ishibashi’s flute, underpinned by Gray’s strident yet inventive bass. Augmented by doom electronics and delicate piano flourishes, ‘Ichida’ flows through time and space effortlessly, effusing a combination of emotional maturity, venturesome audacity and cinematic intelligibility.
Created with unprecedented access to field recordings from the archives of the Royal Museum for Central Africa of Bruxelles, ‘Black Noise 2084′ (On The Corner) sees Italian DJ Khalab harness these ethnographic/historical insights into the cultures of the region over the last 500-years to fashion arguably the logical successor to Barney Wilen‘s 1970 classic, ‘Moshi’ (Souffle Continu). Assembling an impressive cohort of collaborators, including Shabaka Hutchings, Moses Boyd, Tamar ‘The Collocutor’ Osborn, The Master Gabin Dabir, Tenesha The Wordsmith, Tommaso Cappellato and Prince Buju, Khalab diligently summons the spirit of Wilen’s intervention in a seance of creativity to carve out a contemporary niche alongside the output of Kampala, Uganda’s Nyege Nyege Tapes (see below). Over ten songs, in the space of just 35-minutes, Khalab orchestrates a sonic revolution to establish a new order of Afro-futurist expressionism. This is a journey, a journey into sound. One that Geoffrey Sumner himself would doubtless have approved of.
An object of seraphic beauty, on every conceivable level, Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch‘s ‘Époques’ (130701) sees the London-based French pianist and composer return with her second long player for Fat Cat‘s post-classical imprint. Hot on the heels of 2017’s much-heralded Dmitry Evgrafov release, ‘Comprehension Of Light’, ‘Epoques’ confirms somewhat of a purple patch for the label. Alongside Resina‘s ‘Traces’ (see below) and the forthcoming masterpiece from Maarja Nuut and Ruum, this fascinating collection of compositions for piano, viola, cello and electronics veers between fragile passages of shimmering delicacy and more coruscating sections of analogue discourse. Intimate yet agitated, ‘Époques’ manages both to entrance and to threaten. Ominous clouds descend to envelope the implied lightness in a sonic miasma, adding the gravitas seemingly required to tether the record to the ground, to stop it floating away. Draped in reverb, Levienaise-Farrouch’s beatific keys radiate from these recordings with sonorous grace, none more so than on the record’s titular centrepiece. Warmth, honesty and despair combine to construct a linear narrative that allows the album’s purpose and potential to expand exponentially into the future.
Continuing a lineage firmly established with Sam Kidel‘s ‘Disruptive Muzak’, Nozomu Matsumoto‘s incredible ‘Climatotherapy’ (The Death of Rave) presents an imaginary soundtrack to a fantasy movie in the form of a personal health assessment narrated by Amazon’s Text-to-Speech interface, Polly. Part hauntological concerto composed of Universal Studio-esque strings, intermittent R&B-tinged female vocals and operatic deviances hovering above low-end disturbances, part exploration on the morality of Artificial Intelligence, ‘Climatotherapy’ is a staggeringly original work of art in every sense of the phrase: edition of 300, one-sided whitelabel with holographic sticker, plus a 12×12” insert, transcript designed by Mark Fell.
Worth the entry price for the cover art alone, by Australian painter Anne Wallace, Crys Cole & Francis Plagne‘s ‘Two Words’ (Black Truffle) has been gaining relentless hype from most every quarter these past few weeks. Canadian sound artist Crys Cole (partner of Oren Ambarchi) and Australian songwriter Francis Plagne combine to blend their wilfully differing approaches to music making. The record begins on a tide of abrasive texture, as colliding surfaces bring to mind a sea of sand waves crashing onto a shore of paper. Plagne’s electric organ floats in downcast chords on a pool of Soft Machine, whilst Cole punctuates the mix with eccentricity. The second half of the record features Plagne singing monotone two-word texts by Berlin-based poet Marty Haitt, as the organ padding grows ever more functional. There’s something strangely disconcerting about this release, from the cover art to the final note. A fascinating attraction that begins as greater than the sum of its parts, ending in unison with a sense of enormous satisfaction. The vocal melody reminds me of something I just can’t put my finger on, and that probably contributes to the sense of unease.
Recorded in a bedroom in Chicago on a post-clubbing comedown, Pontiac Streator & Ulla Straus‘ ‘Chat’ (West Mineral Ltd) presents a meditative quartet of similar tribal tropes inspired by absorbing too much late night communication and insipid right wing propaganda. Vaguely reminiscent of Dominic Fernow‘s Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement, the vibe is strictly humid tropicana. As with a number of this month’s releases, there is a vague sense of unease in the undertow, just below the surface. Following on from uon‘s recent killer 12″ for the label, West Mineral Ltd are also on a roll right now. Edition of 200-copies on clear wax.
The second indispensable artefact this month from Fat Cat‘s post-classical imprint comes in the form of Resina‘s ‘Traces’ (130701). Polish cellist Karolina Rec returns with her second long player in as many years, and it’s a truly breathtaking body of work. Cello, electronics, percussion (courtesy of Maciej Cieslak) and Rec’s own wordless vocals shape this 47-minute epic, weaving from spectral elegance to pounding rhythmic insistence amidst the omnipresent dark energy of resistance. The album’s title alludes to the power of memory in shaping our lives, reflecting the unstable times we are currently experiencing. Recorded in 2017 at drummer Cieslak’s studio in the Wola district of Warsaw, the record bears the aforementioned spirit of defiance associated with Jewish resistance and the Warsaw Uprising that centred around Wola in 1943.
Recorded direct to tape from Ugandan radio, circa 1978-2003, ‘Ekuka’ (Nyege Nyege Tapes) collates the recordings of Lukeme maestro Ekuka Morris Sirikiti. Only the label’s third vinyl offering, the collection features twelve tracks pressed onto a double gold wax set. Hailing from the Langi tribe of Lira, Northern Uganda, griot Ekuka Morris Sirikiti was a regular on the local festival and market scene, busking his intricate music with just the use of vocals, a kick drum and a Mbira. The twelve songs here move backwards and forwards in time, between 1978 and 2003, but in the end it doesn’t really matter. The inconsistencies in fidelity and the constant hiss of ferric particles only serve to render these recordings as fresh as the day they were first broadcast. Subject matter varies between authority-sponsored messages of the dangers of tax evasion, alcohol consumption and unprotected casual sex, to everyman observations on the importance of being a gentleman, a good husband, father and citizen. Sirikiti was loved by his people, as both an artist and a role model, and now he can be loved again by us, as a temporal traveller.
Finally this month, we round off our selections with the debut self-titled long player from Topdown Dialectic (Peak Oil). The eight tracks here began life as a set of software strategies, manipulated and stretched to create the finished articles we hear here. In reality, the results are far more compelling than such a creation process would suggest. Encapsulating elements of the classic Basic Channel sound, alongside elements of Shinichi Atobe, ex-Aught stablemates Topdown Dialectic join De Leon, Xth Réflexion and Agnes in their transition from tape-based artists to vinyl avatars. This set has been looping away on repeat for the best part of the last month, and despite the alphabetical realities, we really have saved the best till last. Absolutely stunning!