SKRSINTL/ZamZam Sounds/Sophia Loizou/Gabor Lazar/Aspect/4625
“Workers have no country. You cannot take from them what they have not got” – Karl Marx
4,500 pairs of shoes, laid in front of the Council of the European Union in Brussels, representing every person killed in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict over the last decade. 500,000 (approx) lives lost in the ongoing Syrian conflict. 10,000 people dead as a result of the war in Yemen. 7,000,000 people on the brink of starvation as a consequence of the war in Yemen. 230 people dead due to homelessness in the UK during the last five years. 120,000 deaths linked to Neoliberal UK austerity policies. 215 fatal stabbings in the UK in the 12-months leading up to March 2017. 30,000,000 pounds of taxpayer’s money spent on security for the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
Capitalist surrealism just won’t stop taking it to the T.O.P. on the D.E.X. tonight. Hypernomalisation as comfort blanket. We barely flinch. Rewind. Seemingly engrossed in the promise of love, amidst the hatred of war, the stench of poverty. Escalating military conflicts, primarily in a huge arc from Yemen to Ukraine, the rise of xenophobic nationalism, increasingly pointing towards preparations for global conflagration. Coalitions of confusion, breeding grounds for ideas that are diametrically opposed to revolutionary perspectives and solution-focussed critical thinking. The right wing, the left wing, merely wings of the same bird. This bird is sinking. This not-so-sweet bird of untruth.
Nationalism, be it the xenophobic freedom-of-hate-speech Islamophobia of the FLA, or the emerging nationalist arguments around small-nation-thinking coming out of Scotland or Catalonia, only serve to weaken working class internationalism. Working class revolution is the only remedy to a world of exploitation and increasing barbarism. Amongst the furore around anti-fascism, the so-called defence of democracy, or the rights of small nations, workers have to remember that the main enemy is still within. The epoch of efficient capitalism has long since passed. Those who look for a progressive element in the conflicts between factions of capital will be left wanting. Internationalists concur that the only way to end this imperialist carnage is not to line up on any side, but for the world working class instead to educate, agitate and organise themselves in their own interests to fight against their exploiters.
Meanwhile, in the darkened dancehalls of the global counterculture of resistance, Seekers International continue to mutate the murderation in the form of ‘Black Mazda Soundclash’ (Liquorish Records). Here, SKRSINTL deliver 28-all-new volleys of rapid-fire mashup gathered from skirmishes across the globe: the spoils of sound clash war. Their most inspired outing yet, ‘Black Mazda Soundclash’ raises an already heightened bar to the rafters in a display of excellence widely considered to be world-beater material. SKRSINTL cement their reputation as one of the most forward thinking crews active on the world stage presently. Available on limited edition cassette or digital:
Formed in 2012 by Ezra Ereckson and Tracy Harrison, ZamZam Sounds‘ approach is resolutely artistic-over-commercial. Up to now, they’ve been releasing only 7-inch vinyl records in limited quantities, with meticulously executed artwork. Soundwise, ZZS procure the wildest dubman grooves: the freshest takes on roots, steppas and echo-tech, from all over the globe. Each record is packaged within hand-made, screen-printed sleeves, rendering each artefact unique beyond the sounds themselves. The label’s name refers to the traditional Muslim story of the Arabian ZamZam wellspring, which saved the lives of Abraham’s Lady Hagar and son Ishmael, and whose waters still run today. ZZS’ companion label Khaliphonic releases longer format vinyl 10-inch and 12-inch records, and the hype is simmering as I type for their much anticipated forthcoming release of Strategy‘s ‘Dub Mind Paradigm':
The long-awaited ‘Irregular Territories’ (Cosmo Rhythmatic) EP from Bristolian rave archaeologist Sophia Loizou has been kicking up a fuss in the tMx bunker this past month. Following on from her ‘Singulacra’ LP from 2016, this ruffneck six-tracker jacks junglist riddims into the swelling chords and arpeggios of rave culture detritus to detonate the ambience with ordinance. Digging up breaks from the past and launching them headwards into the future, Loizou’s approach is both hauntological and innovative. Shattered beats punctuated by gasps and sighs, the fragile facade of neo-classical endeavour splintered with inventive intent.
Gabor Lázár studied electronic music/media art at the University Of Pec’s Faculty Of Music and Visual Arts, before co-founding Last Foundation. His debut release appeared back in 2013, in collaboration with Russell Haswell. His style is hectic and unpredictable, eclectic and undefinable, battered yet composed. ‘Unfold’ (The Death Of Rave) finds him expanding over two sides of clear wax, through eight movements, in a stunning display of next level club sonics with scientific precision. Building on collaborations with the aforementioned Haswell and Mark Fell, Lázár strikes out alone here in his most refined presentation yet. There’s a timelessness to this record that screams ‘future classic’ at you from somewhere behind Dr Who’s settee, deep within the Tardis. ‘Unfold’ is a record that demands your attention, and pummels you into submission. Faultless in every respect, the sound of ground being broken in spades. Mastered and cut by Matt Colton at Alchemy, with artwork designed Daniel Kozma, as we approach the halfway mark in 2018, this is one that will surely be troubling the scorers come close of play.
Aspect – ‘Stand Clear’ (Droogs) – UVB-76 Music‘s affiliate label DROOGS, returns with their 2nd release, this time a primal offering from veteran UK producer Aspect. ‘Stand Clear’ and ‘Untitled’ are both explosive tracks in their own right that have been hammered unconscious by the UVB-76 core members, but ‘Stand Clear’ alone is worth the price of admission: as dark our collective futures, bound to give you nightmares. Ugly times demand ugly music.
An essential companion piece to the Aspect platter above, our final selection this month comes from Bristolian junglists, 4625. ‘4625-001′ (UVB-76 Music) is a collective vision, capturing the collaborative output of UVB-76 Music’s core members. 4625 continues and builds upon the foundation laid by the label since 2015, ensuring the evolution of their collective art at both the periphery and the core simultaneously.
The Caretaker/Sarah Davachi/Sons Of Kemet/Head Technician/Steven Julien
“The slow cancellation of the future has been accompanied by a deflation of expectations” – Mark Fisher
Was it better when it was worse? Was I smarter when I knew less? Was I braver when I was naive? Truth is, I’ve never had ambition, the concept is alien to me. Even before I came to understand that being here now is fundamental to a peaceful existence, I always intuitively lived for the moment. In the moment, instinctively. In order to survive, I’ve trained myself to not look forward to things. What’s the point in eroding the experience of the now for the promise of a future that may never come? It’s a risky practice, looking forwards. It takes for granted that we will actually be around to enjoy the future, a lack of humility that for me borders on arrogance.
Despite the crushing weight of capitalist surrealism in these last days of reality, I have taught myself to live without medication; to ignore the news; to take responsibility for my behaviours; to strive to understand my place in this world beyond the confines of fragile ego. Ironically, the worse things get for the macro, the stronger micro-me becomes in overcoming any barriers I may face. I have hope, I have dreams. These days my dreams are so profound they wake me. They shake me. Last night I dreamt that somebody loved me. This morning I woke to the reality that they do.
It’s not the slow cancellation of the future that has deflated my expectations. I’ve never had any expectations, great or otherwise. No future, Yes! future, pistols at dawn. Nothing ever plays out the way you expect it to. The more we imagine a situation, the less that situation resembles our imagining. As Raoul Vaneigem states, “People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have a corpse in their mouth”. I’ll face my future, one day at a time. I’ll continue my struggle, hour by hour. I will chose love over fear. Was it better when it was worse? It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s just different.
Themes of inertia, bereavement, acceptance and nostalgia (for an age yet to come) haunt this month’s column. The passage of time, the frailty of mortality, both have weighed heavily on what passes for my mind these past few weeks. As Guy Debord wrote to Gerard Lebovici in 1973: “critique of the spectacle is also a critique of art. But art, so as to be critiqued and superseded, at first has the need to be free”.
Freedom? This contemporary montage, this capitalist surrealism, is but a patchwork quilt of relative truths, draped around the shoulders of the chimeric antibody of absolute truth. A comfort blanket of uncomfortable candour, a hair-shirt, masquerading as norms and values. A hypernormal world, transcribed into images, that are owned by everybody, and nobody. Totalitarian bureaucracy orchestrating alleged intellectual and artistic expression through the joyful division of communities and families. Pre-existing cultural data, re-used in whole or in part. Nothing new under the sun.
These days, according to a study conducted by Saga, older people are officially more fearful of developing dementia than they are of contracting cancer. When 500-adults aged over-50 from across the UK were asked which condition they feared the most, 68% said dementia, 9.44% said cancer. Meanwhile, just 3.88% said they were frightened of developing a heart condition, whilst only 0.73% were concerned about the risk of diabetes. There are currently around 800,000-people with dementia in the UK. As the population ages, this figure is expected to soar.
Much like the rustling walls in the House Of Leaves, the fourth ‘Everywhere At The End Of Time’ (History Always Favours The Winners) release in a series of six albums from The Caretaker is a shapeshifting, menacing, maze of corridors, documenting, as it does, the ravaging effects of early-onset dementia. Drawing us ever-deeper into a harrowing realm of fragmented narratives, the haunted ballroom’s resident DJ spins hallucinatory psychedelia, 78-rpm style. Over four side-long pieces, Leyland Kirby explores the post-awareness stage of moderate to severe dementia, through the mediums of confusion, frustration, and alarm. Previous visitations reappear like old friends we no longer formally recognise, only the vague sense of tenuous association remains.
Hipped to the essential nature of The Caretaker by Mark Fisher’s ‘Ghosts Of My Life’ (Zero Books), back in 2014, my relationship with Kirby’s art was initially founded on the universally-accepted brilliance of 2011’s ‘An Empty Bliss Beyond This World’ (History Always Favours The Winners). The ethereal sense of connectivity to the sounds that shaped the formative years of my deceased father was the hook that snared me. Listening sessions felt as if I’d somehow occupied his memory, hearing the music of his youth through a membrane, direct from the centre of his latent consciousness. Nostalgia for an era I’d only known through his memories, hardwired to my mainframe, by unconditional love.
The post-awareness stage is the darkest episode yet on this heartbreaking journey to oblivion. We are beginning to experience difficulty concentrating; decreased memory of recent events; difficulties managing finances or traveling alone to new locations; trouble completing complex tasks efficiently or accurately; in denial about symptoms; withdrawing from family or friends; socialisation is becoming increasingly difficult. Kirby captures these characteristics so evocatively. The sense of dread that prevails throughout is the pre-imagining of what stage five could sound like, and, almost incomprehensibly, stage six. With the final two stages due in September 2018 and March 2019 respectively, the promise that both ‘may be without description’ is ominous, to say the least.
As we age, we seek new domains in which to free our art. Consuming music in concert halls, as opposed to venues or clubs, is part of that maturation. The Elgar Concert Hall, at the heart of The Bramall, located within the opulence of Chancellor’s Court, University Of Birmingham, is home to BEAST x Bleep43, a summer festival of classical, gospel, jazz and electronic music. I was in town to witness a Sarah Davachi-curated evening of pre-recorded sound, featuring EMS Spectre-generated images created by Richard Smith. Canadian minimalist Davachi is widely regarded as one of the foremost explorers of sonic texture of her generation, and recent immersion in her simply stunning long playing debut for Sean McCann’s Recital Program, ‘Let Night Come On Bells End The Day’, duly rendered my attendance mandatory.
Following up the magnificent, entirely acoustic, ‘All My Circles Run’ (Students Of Decay), could have been a challenge for lesser artists, but Davachi triumphs ephemerally. ‘Let Night Come On Bells End The Day’, her fifth full-length in six years, is sublimely constructed purely from Mellotron and electronic organ, over five improvisational, meditative drones, as sensuous as they are beguiling. Baroque melodies weave in and out of the expansive space between tones, decorating the ether with delicate leitmotifs of iridescent sheen. The disassociated spirits of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Led Zeppelin and La Monte Young flicker in and out of the record’s grooves, bridging links to post-rock, classic rock and pioneering minimalism.
When it comes to plagiarism, the British Empire plundered the seven seas to claim their seven wonders for its own work. Great Britain, a nation built on the profits of slavery, shaped by the diversity of multiculturalism, infected by the stench of institutionalised racism. Nurses, doctors, builders, tradesmen, skilled workers, all have made huge contributions to the cultural worth and wealth of post-war Britain, suddenly they find themselves in a hostile environment. ‘Your Queen Is A Reptile’ (Impulse), the third album from Sons Of Kemet, could be considered in some ways prophetic.
Led by saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, featuring Theon Cross on tuba, alongside the twin-drum attack of Tom Skinner and Eddie Hick, Sons Of Kemet emerge headlong into the glare of the Windrush scandal with their heads held high and their papers in perfect order. The LP’s title alludes to David Icke‘s royal family lizard theory, and it’s worth remembering that Icke himself was filling stadiums at a hundred-pound-a-pop only five-years-or-so ago. Conspiracists are not the niche market some would prefer you to believe! The coronation of nine black women over the course of ‘Your Queen Is A Reptile’ represents the symbolic usurping of Albion’s reptilian monarch, replacing her with Ada Eastman, Mammie Phipps Clarke, Harriet Tubman, Anna Julia Cooper, Angela Davis, Nanny Of The Maroons, Yaa Asantewaa, Albertina Sisulu or Doreen Lawrence: a necessary social reordering, directly challenging the institutional racism that eats away at the collective conscience of this septic isle.
Musically, the album resembles a float moving through Notting Hill Carnival, absorbing and reframing the multiple cultures of a thousand sound systems in a frenetic sweep through Ladbroke Grove. The tuba’s role in dropping baselines present as electronic, at times, whilst the frantic Afrofuturistic rhythms of the twin drummers drive Hutchings’ horn in complex spirals of contortion. In places, weirdly, I’m reminded of The Clash, circa ‘Sandinista’ . . . on the cusp of ‘Combat Rock’, maybe . . . in particular, ‘Death Is A Star’ . . . are you positively absolutely? The vocal contributions of Congo Natty stylistically reminiscent of Paul Simenon’s luddite patois. Elsewhere, prevailing jazz sensibilities are infused with the reverberation of the Special AKA. I can imagine Jerry Dammers loving this record!
In the wake of Amber Rudd’s resignation, ‘Your Queen Is A Reptile’ could have claimed its first victim. In short, this record is a manifesto: it’s time to start again. The norms and values of neoliberal Britain, corruption and collusion, protect the few at the expense of the many. As Ben Okri states, “A people are as healthy and confident as the stories they tell themselves. Sick storytellers can make nations sick. Without stories we would go mad. Life would lose its moorings or orientation. Stories can conquer fear, you know? They can make the heart larger”. ‘Your Queen Is A Reptile’ convincingly states the case for reparation. It’s time to change the record.
This writer’s love of Brutalist architecture has doubtless come to your attention over the course of the last few years. My enduring love of bleep and roll has been less well documented. Both elements duly combined here on Head Technician‘s flawless ‘Profane Architecture’ (Ecstatic) is thus cause for much celebration. Pye Corner Audio head honcho, Martin Jenkins, dons his technical cap for this second outing for Ecstatic. Built using Roland TR-606, MC-202 and TB-303 boxes, plus the Roland System 100 modular synth, Jenkins raises audio edifices in sonic concrete that gurgle with acidic import when poured into your foundations. Detroit haunts the mix, Plastikman and Aphex Twin. This new brutalism is stark, hypnotic, towering in stature, monolithic.
Dedicated to the memory of Ikutaro Kakehashi, the much-loved Roland founder and creator of the TR-808, London based artist Steven Julien‘s ‘Bloodline’ (Apron) follows in the considerable footprints of his critically acclaimed 2016 debut, ‘Fallen’ (Apron). ‘Bloodline’ expands in seven cuts, documenting the unconditional love and influence of family, and the cultural heritage that has shaped his art. Relatively basic in sonic palate, but dextrous in delivery, Julien’s signature sound pays homage to the founding fathers of Detroit techno. His rhythms are steeped in the wisdom of the ancestors. The jittery funk of ‘Roll Of The Dice’, the electro swoon of ‘Queen of Ungilsan’, swimming in the same gene pool as Equiknoxx Music, this is dance music with one foot in the dancehall and one foot up on the coffee table.
Lucy Railton/154/Sarah Hennies/Mary Jane Leach/Eliane Radigue
“Fiction is one of the few experiences where loneliness can be both confronted and relieved. Drugs, movies where stuff blows up, loud parties – all these chase away loneliness by making me forget my name’s Dave and I live in a one-by-one box of bone no other party can penetrate or know. Fiction, poetry, music, really deep serious sex, and, in various ways, religion – these are the places (for me) where loneliness is countenanced, stared down, transfigured, treated” – David Foster Wallace
The philosopher Alain De Botton has suggested that we live in an era of loneliness, an age where disconnection has a direct correlation to contemporary literary aspiration. De Botton argues that we all feel we may have a novel, an autobiography, a biography, a travelogue, a blog, buried within us somewhere, just waiting to be exhumed: the fifteen fame filled minutes of the fanzine writer!
De Botton surmises that we write ostensibly because we have no one close that will listen to us. We record our thoughts, messages in cyber-bottles, and cast them into the virtual oceans of the world wide web, because we are lonely. Stranded, on the desert island of the cult of the individual. We write because no one is listening, they are all too busy with their own individual pursuits to take the time to embrace our obsessions.
In terms of my own writing, I find resonance in De Botton’s theory. I founded trakMARX in my mid-thirties, estranged from the vibrant cultural scenes of my formative years, already entrenched in love and marriage, like a horse and carriage. In retrospect, the musical connectivity that had been so important in sustaining my relationship with my then-partner had already begun to wane. Our tastes, once so collective, had begun to wend their own inevitable ways. My refusal to mellow felt like a statement of intent: I would not be going gentle into that good night. I felt the time fly, I felt the time crawl, like an insect, up the walls. The speed of the sound of loneliness.
Lucy Railton – ‘Paradise 94′ (Modern Love):
“We could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace” – Bill Hicks
This came at me out of nowhere. I’d heard the name, I knew of the association to Beatrice Dillon, but I had no preconceptions. No expectations. The sleeve shone from the pages of Boomkat, as records invariably do, on a daily basis. To be fair, they all look beatific, framed on the page, shining like distant galaxies, seemingly within reach, but a financial transaction and a postal journey away, exquisite works of art, demanding to be owned. As I listened to the snippets of sound available, I became immediately enraptured. Lifted up. Before long, I was on YouTube, considering ‘Pinnevik’, intently:
Within the space of this clip, the purchase had been made. I spent the ensuing evening on tenterhooks, awaiting the midnight hour, when I could redeem the download portion of my order, and begin my relationship with ‘Paradise 94′. The clock finally struck the appointed hour, the bytes began their flow down the wire. A river unafraid of becoming the sea. My first listen was thus shrouded by the weight of the previous day, as I forged a pathway into the new dawn. Despite the fatigue, I knew instinctively that I had found something idiosyncratic.
Lucy Railton, cellist, composer, performer, experimentalist, collaborator, electroacoustic artist, alongside the aforementioned Beatrice Dillon, has enhanced the work of Russell Haswell, Ensemble Plus Minus, and the London Sinfionetta. ‘Paradise 94′ is her debut solo album. A graduate of London’s Royal Academy Of Music, Railton has been keeping her solo powder dry since 2008. During this time she has amassed a wealth of archival work, location-specific material and studio recordings that have been sewn together here with care to create the tapestry of sound that is ‘Paradise 94′. Capturing abrasive aspects of industrialisation amidst passages of seduction and allure, Railton has assembled a spectrum of sound that fascinates as it beguiles. The immediacy of these recordings transcend their collaged presentation. The album’s 34-minutes slip by in a heartbeat. There’s a synchronicity with the space being explored elsewhere in this column by Sarah Hennies. The album reaches its emotional payload with ‘For JR’, an oasis of melody within a desert of dissonance, before gliding out on the looped glissandi of closer ‘Fortified Up’. I’ve reached a plateau in the elevation of my appreciation of the potential of sound with ‘Paradise 94′. Nestling amongst a palate of artists that include Beatrice Dillon, Sarah Davachi, Kara-Lis Coverdale, Sarah Hennies and Mary Jane Leach, Lucy Railton acts as a portal of possibility in a universe of conformity. Space: the final frontier.
154 – ‘Wherever You Go I Will Follow’ (Boomkat Editions):
14-years after his influential debut as 154, 2004’s exemplary ‘Strike’ (Delsin/NWAQ), Jochem Peteri returns with a post-everything symphony of stunning emotional import. Recorded in response to the birth of his second child, this a record that exudes a love of creation, celebrating the gift of life through passionate simplicity. Underpinned by two sporadic bass notes, the osmosis of digital and analogue elements eddy around the mix in a somnambulistic ritual that evokes the tidal movement of waves lapping on sun drenched beaches. Intensely sensual, spiritually liberating, meditative, ‘Wherever You Go’ condenses 8-minutes into relative seconds, only for ‘I Will Follow’ to expand the theme across a further 10-minutes plus. A sense of emerging into the light pervades, an aural depiction of something we’ve all experienced: our entrance into this world. ‘Wherever You Go I Will Follow’ is therefore a genuine born again moment:
Sarah Hennies – ‘Embedded Environments’ (Blume Editions):
Recorded in the bowels of Silo City, Buffalo, NY (above), ‘Embedded Environments’ marks Hennies’ debut for electronic/electroacoustic label, Blume Editions. Exploring similar natural reverberations to that of Áine O’Dwyer‘s investigations in Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s tunnel with ‘Gallarais’ (Mie), Hennies experiments over two sides here with a brace of compositions: ‘Foragers’ and ‘Embedded Environments’.
‘Foragers’ rumbles from the speakers, a rolling thunder revue that’s barely there, yet strangely ominous, nonetheless. Auspicious without recourse to either shamanic suggestion or hippy-dippy implication, the congruence betwixt created and atmospheric happenstance beats at the heart of this inherent duality. Silence fills the gaps: silence as instrument, silence as voice. ‘Embedded Environments’ is raucous by comparison, a heady clatter of rhythmic insistence, chasing shapes as they shift across graffitied concrete, colliding in space and time. In terms of psychogeographic and socio-political sonics, Hennies is challenging the norms and values of avant approaches with this astonishing, breathtaking record. Wrapped in gold dressing, enhanced by the trademark Blume obi, pressed to gold wax, the only thing that spoils this phenomenal package is the shocking proof-reading that reduces Bradford Bailey‘s (The Hum) sleeve notes to frankly amateur status.
Mary Jane Leach – ‘Pipe Dreams’ (Blume Editions):
Our second featured Blume Editions release has been biding its time in the pending pile since the death of last year. Resplendent in its deep purple jacket, obi and purple wax, ‘Pipe Dreams’ represents somewhat of a second coming for American composer, Mary Jane Leach. Recorded at St. Peter’s in Köln, Germany, during 1989, ‘Pipe Dreams’ is coupled with ‘4BC’, from 1984. A compositional pioneer of NYC’s Downtown avant-garde since the ’70s, Leach has released but two previous outings in all this time, and, astoundingly, ‘Pipe Dreams’ is her first ever solo vinyl release. A contemporary of luminaries such as Julius Eastman, Arthur Russell, Arnold Dreyblatt, Ellen Fullman, Philip Corner, Daniel Goode, and Peter Zummo, Leach is herself enjoying an artistic rebirth with ‘Pipe Dreams’.
‘Pipe Dreams’ itself could be seen as a precursor to Áine O’Dwyer‘s ‘Music For Church Cleaners Vol. I & II’ (Mie). Leach effectively forms a close personal relationship with the space in which she’s creating, the notes from St. Peter’s pipe organ cavort across the airwaves in a state of perpetual flux. ‘Pipe Dreams’ brings serenity to the party, invoking reverie, massaging aspiration, sewing seeds of hope where the weeds of despair have run rampant. Ultimately, the 23-minutes of ‘Pipe Dreams’ are a profoundly cathartic experience, exorcising negativity through being here now. Meditative sonic immersion, psychoacoustic healing at its finest. ‘4BC’, meanwhile, is a piece composed for four bass clarinets, a drone masterclass that snaps at the heels of Tony Conrad, John Cale, La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela.
Elaine Radique – ‘Feedback Works – 1969-1970’/’Vice Versa, Etc. 1970′ (Alga Marghen)
Originally released as a double package, both of these albums are available once again in new editions from Alga Marghen as separate entities. As a neophyte to the art of Elaine Radique, my introduction to her body of work has been revelatory. A student of Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry at RTF’s Studio d’Essai in the 1950s, the birthplace of musique concrète, Radigue’s oeuvre has largely only come to the attention of a contemporary audience over the last ten years. With the aid of an ARP 2500 synthesizer, the tones created on this brace of astonishing records involved the manipulation of feedback loops, pitch-shifted to forge microtonal harmonies and ultrasonic frequencies radically different from those emitted under normal circumstances. A young mother at the time of recording, Radique worked at night while her children were asleep, bringing a profoundly nocturnal ambience to the recordings. When you consider that the approaches developed here almost 50-years ago are still emerging contemporarily in works such as Kevin Drumm‘s recent ‘Inexplicable Hours’ (Sonoris), Elaine Radique’s burgeoning reputation as a pioneering legend of experimental sound creation is entirely justified and ancient.
“He writes so obscurely you can’t tell what he’s saying, that’s the obscurantism part, and then when you criticize him, he can always say, ‘You didn’t understand me; you’re an idiot.’ That’s the terrorism part” – Michel Foucault on Jacques Derrida
Philosophy helps us to make the future seem different from the past, by providing new means of description for social or political events. In surreality, nothing really changes. Philosophers redescribe situations, objects, events and trends in partially neologistic jargon, in the hope of inciting people to adopt and extend said jargon. Redescription, rather than argument, is seemingly the only appropriate method of criticizing an existing vocabulary.
Philosophers are not the only ones at it, post-Vladislav Yuryevich Surkov, the hypernormalisation of redescription is endemic across the culture of capitalist surrealism. The Foucault quote above could easily refer to the divisive ramblings of any given Conservative representative. None of it makes any ideological sense, most of it makes no literal sense, and a great deal of it makes little grammatical sense either. The nonchalance with which this disinformation is delivered only serves to add insult to injury. They are sneering at us, we know it, yet still we do nothing.
Over the course of the past month, the right wing UK mainstream press have rabidly upped the ante in their relentless bid to culturally assassinate Jeremy Corbyn. Terms such as Kafkaesque, Orwellian and dystopian begin to take on new connotations with every bulletin. Hidden in plain sight. No one seems to blink an eyelid at these narratives full of holes. We just stare right through them, and order another latte. It’s getting harder by the day to discern reality from surreality, news from fake news, human beings from automatons. When they kick at your front door, how you going to come?
Rebellious Jukebox, yeah!
Musicality remains the only bone fide route of escape from all this madness. The pressure sounds of dropping the volume of consistency in these pages challenges all concepts of continuity. A fresh formation, a dubwise intervention, contemplation for the nation. Rewind. Start all over again.
Killer roots 12″, repressed with a repro sleeve/label of the original issue. Heavyweight vocals, roots rhythms, early eighties magnificence with added extra dub not on the original 12″:
Reconfigured for your rewind renewal, 6-tracks culled from Rolando & Jerry‘s three Wackie’s albums, neatly corralled into one all-killer-no-filler EP. Housed in a hand silkscreened disco jacket: wicked rhythms, strident horns, essential instrumental dubwise selection.
Absolutely dominant plate, recorded at Bullwackies studio just weeks apart from Horace Andy’s ‘Dance Hall Style’ (see below), two of the greatest vocal reggae LPs of all time:
Throughout an illustrious thirty-year recording career, Horace Andy‘s unmistakable falsetto has lit up just three albums of indisputable greatness: ‘Skylarking’ (Studio One); ‘In The Light’ (Hungry Town), and ‘Dance Hall Style’ (Wackies) – by some considerable distance, this writer’s personal favourite of the triumvirate.
Tom van Zeytveld AKA Phuture-T is well known to followers of hard-edged dubwise jungle, from his stellar releases on labels including Alphacut, 45Seven, and Eastern Promise Audio. In a landscape of similar-sounding steppers, Zeytveld reveals his Emperor T alias on his first outing for ZamZam Sounds, bringing a welcome experimental sensibility to the worldwide steppers arena, while keeping sound system priorities and dancefloor imperatives firmly on the agenda.
An absolute winner from the SKRS INTL camp for Ancient Monarchy, the ‘Paradise Magic Traxx Mobile Sound & Lighting’ EP arrives in the wake of their ‘RunComeTest’ EP (BokehVersions), with a wicked, red-eyed smudge of digi-dub dancehall on a Lovers Rock and R&B slant. Seekers International, in all the formats, one of the finest posses operating in a dubwise style on the planet right now. Indispensable.
‘Flower Of Sulphur’ (Thrill Jockey) is the singular creation of three improvisational luminaries: multi-instrumentalist YoshimiO (Boredoms, OOIOO, SAICOBAB); avant-garde percussionist Susie Ibarra, and audio artist Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe (Lichens). The trio convened on a stage for the first time in New York City, in December 2016, for a celebration of exquisite sound through exceptional performance, in a magnificent display of their collectively remarkable talents. Recorded at Roulette in Brooklyn in front of a live audience, ‘Flower of Sulphur’ is a transcendent suite of continuous improvisation, exploring the relationships between each artist and their individual instrument, and, in turn, their relationships with each other. The album captures the trio each playing their principal instruments, with no specific goal, other than the pure exploration of the space in that moment. The hour-long instillation builds to a captivating crescendo, elegantly fusing immersive layers, rewarding the listener with a gloriously emotive experience. The trio hope to conduct additional live performances throughout 2018.
CV and JAB/Zin Taylor’s ‘Thoughts Of A Dot As It Travels A Surface’ (Shelter Press) is an astounding work of ambient genius. A totally immersive experience. Every aspect of this stunning release beckons the listener inwards, embracing the ear and the imagination with its omnipresent sense of sanctity. Meditative in its somnambulant wanderings, profound in the imagery it conjures, CV and JAB lead us on a journey into sound. Oscillating wildly through a dubbed-out topography of field recordings, found sounds, dislocated voices and abstract string swells, our journey is interrupted from time to time by hefty analogue bottom-end, regulalrly punctuated with expressively sumptuous piano interludes. Where are they taking us? Nobody knows. It’s not about the destination, just enjoy this trip. And it is a trip.
A culmination of collaborations and combined studio sessions, Young Echo drop the long player of a very young year with their self-titled second double platter, loads with 24-cuts of prime collectivity.The Young Echo collective currently stands at 11-members: Jabu, Vessel, Kahn, Neek, Ishan Sound, Ossia, Manonmars, Bogues, Rider Shafique, Chester Giles and Jasmine. Collaboratively they have fashioned the strongest statement to emerge from Bristol Sound since the heady days of yore. Detuned soundsystem stylings; love songs swaying in hacked up ambience; skeletal dancehall; microphone technique; dread electronics; outsider pop: all this, and more.
Vladimir Ivkovic’s always reliable Offen Music presents this quality, long-lost album by Mitar Suboti, a.k.a Suba, the legendary Serbian producer who moved to Brazil in the ‘90s after making amazing, cinematic records as Rex Ilusivii, and who sadly died in 1999 when on the cusp of becoming one of Brazil’s most prominent producers. It may have taken over 20 years, but ‘Wayang’ now finally finds its audience.
Fire!/Christoph De Babalon/Carlos Maria Trindade and Nuno Canavarro/Ameel Brecht/Kuniyuki Takahashi/Kinlaw/Leslie Winer and Jay Glass Dubs/Golpea Tu Cerebro
“Neoliberalism represents a highly efficient, indeed an intelligent, system for exploiting freedom. Everything that belongs to practices and expressive forms of liberty – emotion, play and communication – comes to be exploited. It is inefficient to exploit people against their will. Allo-exploitation yields scant returns. Only when freedom is exploited are returns maximized.” – Byung-Chul Han – ‘Psychopolitics: Neoliberalism and New Technologies of Power’ (Verso Books)
“The greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation”, so spoke Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), the inventor of the Panopticon, a building intrinsically designed to maximise surveillance potential for the monitoring of those striving within. If he were alive today, I’d wager that Bentham would be genuinely appalled that a government with such a poor record on animal rights has so successfully subverted his model, forgoing the interests of ‘the many’ for the high interest accounts of ‘the few’, to develop a system in which inmate has become their own monitor: ultimately, their own jailor. Bentham’s utilitarian ethics doubtless rattle in their grave, stoked by later observations from Michel Foucault et al. that place the locus of right-wing policy solely on the outcomes (consequences) of choosing one action/policy over other actions/policies. Freedom is now measured by its relationship to unfreedom.
A text as essential to the average critical thinker as Mark Fisher‘s ‘Capitalist Realism’ (Zero Books), ‘Pyshopolitics’ delineates our current cultural surreality: a system that empowers us as individuals to exploit ourselves beyond the wildest dreams of traditional capitalist expectation. Big Data crunches the locus of control into the shape of a giant games console: shrinking the volume of virtual autonomy; unstitching the seams of connectivity; tearing the fabric of society to shreds. This contemporary crisis of freedom is the technological triumph of unfreedom, an age of dislocation celebrated endlessly in the newsfeeds of the disaffected, as they compete for the ever-decreasing attention-span of a rapidly-deminishing consensus. Amongst these ruins, we are compelled to search for rays of hope, radiant, shimmering, descending through the decimated roof of a shelter suddenly unfit for human habitation. A new generation will inevitably crawl from the wreckage, hopefully one who have educated themselves above and beyond the limited syllabus parameters of the Russell Group. It’s time to dumb-up. Time to educate, to agitate, to organise.
An incendiary soundtrack to a pivotal year, then, begins with one of the essential elements: Fire! The cleansing properties of the rapid oxidisation of any given material through the exothermic chemical process of combustion releases heat and light, Nordic trio Fire! bring the noise. Formed in 2009, Mats Gustafsson (sax), Johan Berthling (bass) and Andreas Werlin (drums) begin 2018 with their sixth full-length, ‘The Hands’ (Rune Grammofon). Billed by Rune Grammofon themselves as the band’s finest work to date, initial observations on the part of this listener concur that this is indeed no idle boast. ‘The Hands’ is expansive, yet remains conversely Fire!’s most concise effort to date. Clocking in at 37-minutes, it’s 8-minutes-or-so short of your average Fire! LP. That’s important. The brevity employed this time out has increased both clarity and diction, giving the record an improved traction that was at times absent from predecessor, ‘She Sleeps, She Sleeps’. ‘The Hands’, therefore, is a return to the potential exhibited by 2013’s ‘(Without Noticing)’, in short a stunning return to form. The titular opener establishes an intensity that deliberately wanes across both sides, towards the relative delicacy of the record’s closing title, ‘I Guard Her To Rest. Declaring Silence’. Having swayed my allegiance from trio to Fire! Orchestra these past couple of years, it’s a refreshingly optimistic start to 2018 that sees my loyalties swing back in favour of the trio, once again. The introduction of a handful of sampled spoken word interludes and the ominous presence of electronic device lurking amongst the shadows bring a new industrial menace to ‘The Hand’, and its a subtle inflection that scores large on the atmosphere front, priming me suitably for their Cafe Oto show in February. ‘The Hands’ is the first trakMARX mandatory release of this virgin year.
I was initially introduced to the music of Christoph De Babalon by John Peel, back in the late 90s. Peel was a fervent advocate of the Teutonic techno that birthed ‘If You’re Into It, I’m Out Of It’ (CFET), reissued this month on double clear wax, as a brand-spanking-new remaster. Deconstructing the 20-odd years since its initial release with its rebirth presence, this is a record that could have been recorded yesterday. Welding the progressive elements of jungle to the somnambulist tendencies of ambience is no mean feat, but it’s one that ‘If You’re Into It, I’m Out Of It’ pulls off with the kind of arrogance only found at pivotal moments in the arc of an artist’s career path. Although Da Babalon has continued to make valid artistic statements throughout the ensuing two decades, none have eclipsed this release, in terms of genre classicism. Recorded as the utopian fervour of rave culture had begun to eat itself, Da Babalon was committed to shining an altogether darker light onto the manufactured happiness that altered states of consciousness beget. The Berlin scene that informed this record was far more radical than the UK scene that inspired it, in every sense, with a parallel political sensibility that was never present in the UK. This is a record that demands its place in the here and now; a record that soundtracks the desolation of collapsing buildings, both old and new. Da Babalon re-emerges from the miasma as visionary sound-poet, get down and pay homage to the arrogance of his youth.
A more recent discovery has been Barcelona-based Urpa I Musell, a label born out of Discos Paradiso, a Barca record shop of note. The label’s mission is to make the music they love available to everyone, regardless of genre or era, and if that music happens to be local, then said love increases exponentially. Urpa I Musell’s second release is a collaboration originally released back in 1991, by Carlos Maria Trindade and Nuno Canavarro. ‘Mr. Wollogallu’ has enjoyed cult status in Portugal since its reevaluation in the noughties, and is considered a seminal record in the evolution of Portuguese electronic music, by luminaries such as Jim O’Rourke. Both artists were notable on the 1980s Portuguese pop-rock scene, Trindade with Corpo Diplomático and Heróis do Mar, and Canavarro with Street Kids and Delfins. ‘Mr. Wollogallu’ was recorded in the first six months of 1990, with each artist being credited for one side each, although both artists worked collaboratively on the recording as a whole. In terms of style and content, ‘Mr. Wollogallu’ sits comfortably alongside the work of Roberto Aglieri, Paolo Modugno, Pep Llopis and Alessandro Alessandro, recordings that has swelled my library from labels of similar intent these past 12-months: Archeo Recordings, Freedom To Spend and Transversales Disques. Blending electronica with traditional instruments, interspersed with evocative spoken word samples, ‘Mr. Wollogallu’ paints a vivid canvas of alchemical mystery, pushing envelopes and challenging boundaries, considering the era it was created in. In many ways, ‘Mr. Wollogallu’ can be heard as a sonic travelogue, a series of thirteen postcards that could have been mailed from anywhere around the Mediterranean. Its a joy to listen to, from beginning to end, one that grows in stature with every listen. A record to treasure from a label to love.
Every once in a while, a guitar player comes along who redefines your personal relationship with the instrument, and its eternal, exquisite potential. Last year, for me, it was Raphael Roginski, this year has dug it’s claws in early with Ameel Brecht‘s ‘Polygraph Heartbeat’ (Kraak). A member of the extraordinary Belgian avant-drone troupe, Razen, Brecht strikes out here alone, with his solo debut long player. Compared to the haunting sonic sorcery of Razen’s incredible 2017 release, ‘The Xvoto Reels’ (three: four records), ‘Polygraph Heartbeat’ is a relatively simple affair: just Brecht, a steel resonator, a resonator mandolin, and nine variations on a thematic air of awkward consummate beauty. Meditative, studious, ornate in clarity of tone, Brecht’s compositions reek of purity of essence. Silence expertly separates resonating timbres, creating gaps that allow phrases to exhale, breathlessly, as they wend their way deep into your heart. Executed with a deftness that enchants as it defines, ‘Polygraph Heartbeat’ sent me into a dervish whirl of emotional commitment at the drop of a busker’s hat.
Following last year’s exposure to Hiroshi Yoshimura‘s ‘Music For Nine Post Cards’ (Empire Of Signs), my interest in Japanese electronic music has been growing. Imagine my joy, then, when I stumbled across Kuniyuki Takahashi‘s ‘Early Tape Works – 1986-1993 Vol.1’ (Music From Memory), a new compilation that corners the developmental period of what Takahashi himself refers to as his ‘new oriental sound’. Exposure to the brave new sounds of Japanese clubland circa 1986 inspired Takahashi’s initial experimental explorations into minimal ambient house, shaped by a cosmic jazz sensibility, informed by a searching agenda of progression. An ever-growing arsenal of contemporary Roland, Casio, Korg, Boss, Foster and Yamaha analogue equipment provided a rich palate for Takahashi’s mannerist sonic canvases. These recordings were all captured in the artist’s home studio in Saporro over a period of seven years, allowing us to witness the evolution of a sound that continues to mutate to this day. 2017’s ‘Newwave Project’ (Mule Musiq) stands as contemporary testament to Takahashi’s longevity as an artist, and this stunning collection allows us to gaze longingly back in time, to where it all began.
Bristol, a city with a rich musical heritage, built on the solid core economy of sound system culture. From Ye Olde Punk Rock days of Revolver Records to the post-punk chicanery of The Pop Group and Pigbag; from The Wild Bunch and Smith And Mighty to Massive Attack, Tricky and Portishead, Bristol’s evolution as a musical centre of excellence has been linear, much like the park at the heart of Temple Meads Quay. Owing much to the inspiration of such precedents are NoCorner and Bokeh Versions. NoCorner’s bid for world domination continues apace with Kinlaw‘s 6-track cassette, ‘Corfe’, a genre-surfing examination of the intersectionality at the heart of the underground hardcore continuum. Grime, jungle, dubstep, breakbeat and irregular waveforms are mangled up into dissonant vistas of unconventional topography.
Meanwhile, Bokeh Versions maintain the pressure with Leslie Winer And Jay Glass Dubs monstrously monotone ‘Your Mom’s Favourite Eazy-E Song’, a 6-track 12″ that pretty much defies classification. Former beauty queen Winer crossed over into avant electronica way back in 1990, with the legendary ‘Witch’. The cognoscenti responded, dubbing her the ‘Grandmother Of Trip-Hop’. Over the course of 32-minutes here, Winer drawls her husky poetic licence across Dubs roughshod riddims in an avalanche of word association. Constructed electronically by virtual exchange, oscillating down the wires between France and Athens, Greece: “I don’t care what you call it, as long as the program works”.
And finally, we end this month’s soundtrack with a compilation: ‘Golpea Tu Cerebro’ (Insane Muzak), the first ever vinyl compilation dedicated to the unknown-yet-fascinating Spanish underground cassette scene of the 1980s. Translating as ‘Shake Your Brain’, the complication’s title works as both cue and clue to the experience of listening to its contents at volume through headphones. Back in the day, with few resources but unlimited imaginations, Spanish youngsters began recording their interpretations of industrial, experimental and electronic music, at home in their bedrooms, on cassettes. Influenced by DIY, Futurism, Dada, and the early Industrial landscape of Throbbing Gristle, Whitehouse, Nurse With Wound, S.P.K. and Cabaret Voltaire, eyes were opened and minds blown by an underground network of groundbreaking radio shows, fanzines (Cloruro Sónico, Necronomicon, Particular Motors, Syntorama, El Papel de la Merienda) and mail order outlets, distributing the industrial revolution in vinyl and cassette forms. Capturing the individualism, sense of alienation, and active opposition to mainstream culture of these one-man operations, small collectives and scenes, underground tape labels began springing up all over the country: ä.d.n, El Consumo Del Miedo, Auxilio de Cientos, S.T.I., Obreros del Sonido, Toracic Tapes, 3EM. Cassettes were produced in obscenely limited numbers, exchanged by post amongst contemporaries, compiled and distributed through international tape exchange networks, escaping into the wider European continental ether and beyond by a form of cultural osmosis. ‘Golpea Tu Cerebro’ gathers the myths and legends created by the likes of LA OTRA CARA DE UN JARDÍN, COMANDO BRUNO, LÍNEA TÁCTICA. FRANCISCO LÓPEZ, UVEGRAF, ÉTICA MAKINAL, L’AKSTREMAUNÇIÓ, NEO ZELANDA, SEPTIEMBRE NEGRO, TÉCNICA MATERIAL, FÍSODO 13.4, EL ENTERRADOR ENTERRADO, 1985, ZUMBI-2, BRIGADA NADIE and more, to assemble this exemplary boxset of primitive harsh noise, dark electronics, wild tape manipulation, electroacoustic noise, and general homemade weirdness.