Front & Follow and the Gated Canal Community – 25th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Independent cassette label Front & Follow disbanded a bit back, some time before the pandemic hit. Said pandemic changed a lot of things for a lot of people, and certainly not just those immediately affected by the virus itself, through either contracting it themselves or friends or family. This is, after all the first time in history where governments have quarantined the healthy, and even during the world wars, while artistic activity was curtailed, society did not completely grind to a halt for any sustained period of time.

Having un-mothballed the label in order to release a series of compilations under the title Isolation & Rejection, which gathered tracks submitted and rejected for compilations on other labels, showcasing not only a wealth of amazing material over the course of five releases, but also creating a sense of community a month the rejected during the isolation of lockdown (a simple but effective premise that was a different kind of novel from the one everyone was talking about on the news).

Then, the label fell dormant again – for a few months, before this, pitched as ‘One final final FINAL project from F&F’. It may be a statement akin to Kiss announcing another farewell tour, but I know I’m by no means the only one who’s happy about the arrival of another release on the label, whose exceptional knack for curation has been a distinguishing feature of a thoroughly outstanding catalogue, and this, their sixty-firth release is no exception.

As label founder writes, ‘Another not planned but a nice thing happened so we went for it’. You Can Never Leave offers ‘alternative soundtracks to a luxury apartments advert’ taking its cue from an ad for Deansgate Square, Manchester, ‘comprising elegant spacious apartments across four carefully designed towers’ which ‘delivers a new level of city centre living’. With its slick visuals and sterile technoambient soundtrack, it’s a contemporary image of hell, JG Ballard’s High Rise for the 2020s. I’ve suggested previously that postmodernism is dead, and theorised that the post-postmodern age is marked by the end of irony. The fact this video exists, unironically, is surely proof of my hypothesis.

For their sign-off, F&F have assembled an immense thirty-one artists, many of who have featured on previous releases, including Field Lines Cartographer, Kieper Widow, and Polypores.

So, all of the tracks are around the 2:15-2:20 mark, and are intended to be played simultaneously with the video, and it’s perhaps unsurprising that each presents a different perspective on dystopian horror, from the sterile dark ambience of Bone Music’s ‘Reality Will No Longer Burden You’ with it’s clipped, android voiceover, via the tense trance-inducing electronica of Field Lines Cartographer’s ‘Consume and Prosper’, which is an outstanding piece of marketing sloganeering that we can imagine being a part of the UK government’s post-lockdown reinvigoration promo push (it’s snappier than ‘Eat out to help out’, and is a succinct summary of the late capitalist agenda they’ve espoused over the last decade), and the eerie waves of aural otherness that drift through courtesy of Von Heuser who give us ‘Pass Through The Tear’.

F-Lithium’s take is a cold Kraftwekian analogue rumble that ripples and churns around the solar plexus, while Guerrilla Biscuits’ ‘Manchester, So Much to Answer For’ dismantles the city’s musical and architectural heritage in one fell swoop with its space-age bleepery. WELTALTER bring some pulverising black metal to the party, and its bleak, dingy gloom that pounds insistently paves the way for more gnarly darkness in the form of the industrial ambience of ‘The Assimilation’ by The Metamorphe. Acid Wilhelm’s ‘The Changing’ is particularly unsettling, as rolling piano gradually evolves into a dense rumble of thunder, with ghostly voices muttering, while the cut-up / found-sound collage of Her Majesty’s Coroner for Wirral’ also pursues a haunting vibe, with ‘Contemporary City Living’ sounding like ‘Carmina Burana’ performed by a spectral clamour wailing to break through from the other side. With ‘Find Your Epic’, Friends, Business Colleagues or Family present the most torturous two and a bit minutes going, a howling shriek of purgatorial pain during which every demon rises from the flames to wreak havoc for all eternity on the living.

As is typical for a F&F compilation, You Can Never Leave is eclectic and yet for all its stylistic divergencies, fits together very nicely indeed, and collectively create a document which presents a multifaceted aural interpretation of the next level of gentrified hell, spanning epic prog and industrial. Oftentimes, it’s spooky, unsettling, and the album presents a powerful and ultimately terrifying vision. But is it any more terrifying than the original promo clip? Probably not, no.

Here’s the video that inspired all of this….

Deansgate

As an aside, for the record, the project is not affiliated with Deansgate Square in any way – the video was our inspiration for this project, and for each artist’s soundtrack.

All sales from this release will go to Coffee4Craig, which provides vital support for Manchester’s homeless and people in crisis. Find out more here – coffee4craig.com.

AA

F&F065 - YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE - cover

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s