Posts Tagged ‘Drone’

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s no such thing as a night off. I may habitually tweet that I’m taking the night off for beer and live music, but that’s simply my way of telling the world I won’t be posting any reviews, I won’t be active on social media and probably won’t be responding to emails either. Watching bands and drinking beer has been a hobby of mine for a long time now, and I still enjoy it, but even when not guest-listed for reviewing, I tend to take notes and photos out of habit and for posterity. I’m naturally assuming my memory won’t be able to store all of the live shows I’ve attended when I get older, give that I struggle now, so the reviews are rather like postcards to my future self.

The WonkyStuff nights aren’t so much niche as ultra-niche – and that’s a good thing. The mainstream is oversaturated, and to cater to those tastes is a huge gamble. Focusing on a niche and knowing it well means that while there’s a very definite ceiling on audience potential, those being catered for are far more likely to actually bother. And so it is that on a hot Wednesday, around thirty people take seats in front of the stage to witness a smorgasbord of the most far-out experimental music you’ll find anywhere.

My future self, if presented with a photo of New Victorian Architecture’s performance would likely be ‘Christ, you have seen some weird shit’. Which corresponds with the multiple texts I received bearing the letters ‘wtf’ in response to sending pictures of said performance to friends. Certainly, the visual aspect – luminous yellow fishing kit, hood up, dust mask and heavy-duty latex gloves in blue – is striking, and if anything trumps the music or its delivery. There’s a lot of silence: some just awkward pauses, others more protracted periods of hush. At one point, he checks his phone, is momentarily animated as she scrabbles around the pile of pedals before him, then stops, stands (most of the set is spent kneeling) and addresses an inaudible question to the audience. Met with silence, he shrugs and resumes. The whole spectacle is odd – which is, of course, the idea.

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New Victorian Architecture

How Buildings Fail – the musical vehicle of Simon Hickinbotham – brings a different kind of odd, and one that’s much more song-orientated. The array of DIY and customised kit packed onto a small table includes an inverted Pot Noodle carton (chicken and mushroom) which appears to contain a set of controls. The material’s centred around the grainy and the granular, analoguey synthy sounds are modulated into gloopy oscillations and swerving sine waves which collide with overdriven, clattering drum tracks. Hickinbotham rattles off rants about philosophy and reading comics. It’s a weird, nerdy clash that lands somewhere in the field next to The Fall, Meat Beat Manifesto and Revolting Cocks. ‘Creative supply is outstripping demand!’ he calls by way of a refrain in the final song of the set. He’s right, but those gathered tonight are appreciate of their demands being catered for.

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How Buildings Fail

They may look like they’re playing chess, but Ash Sagar and John Tuffen are in fact pondering a rack of effects units on the table before them. The pair sit, almost motionless, mannequin-like, expressionless, and decked entirely in black. Tuffen, another self-solder gear enthusiast, appear to be playing open circuit boards, while Sagar tweaks at a more conventional-looking mixer unit. It’s difficult to determine the actual sources of the sounds which they sculpt expansive, glitchy drones that crackle and hum. Not a lot happens over the course of the set: instead, the emphasis on slow-evolving sonic shifts, and the focus is on detail rather than drama. Distortion ruptures smooth sonic arcs and beats like bursting bubblewrap forge subtle dynamics which balance grind and levity to immersive effect. It’s a meticulous performance, and for a few moments, time stands still.

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Orlando Ferguson

Stocker / Eyes – that’s Canadian-born percussionist Beau Stocker and multi-instrumentalist Ben Eyes – are celebrating the release of their new album, Earth Asylum. However, they showcase quite a different sound live in comparison to the album, which is extremely mellow and almost of a post-rock persuasion. Their set, driven by jarring, stop-start drumming and soaring, layered guitar and sweeping synths, and occasionally punctuated by jolting, halting guitar bursts, is certainly a strong contrast with the other acts on the bill. But for all of this, their set feels, perversely, the most conventional, working as it does established experimental / avant-jazz tropes. Although overtly improvised and fluid, and perhaps a shade overlong, there’s a clear sense that they have a tight rein on their performance, and it’s hard to find fault technically.

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Stocker/Eyes

In fact, it’s hard to find fault with the night overall: WonkyStuff pitch a varied but perfectly complimentary set of acts, the likes of whom will never achieve anything beyond cult status (if even that), and provide an essential platform for the oddballs and fringe performers. And essential is the word: in an age where capital and homogenisation is killing pretty much everything but the lowest common denominators, culturally, we need nights like this.

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Ritual Productions – 4th May 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Silence. Hit play and get silence. This is a Bong album, and they’re in no hurry to get going. Why should they be? They have all the time in the world. And beyond.

For a band whose name suggests herbal inertia, and whose brand of stoner doom conveys the same elongation of time, they’ve hardly been slack in creating a substantial body of work since their formation in 2005. Over that time, they’ve evolved, developing from heads-down sludge toward more expansive territories. Thought and Existence is nothing if not expansive and exists in a territory somewhere between the infinite expanses of inner and outer space.

At first, the drone is quiet, distant. A voice rings out, monotone, ominous, ceremonial. The ceremony is about to begin. The guitars don’t so much kick in as glide, rising in thickness and volume, like a mudslide. It’s over three minutes in, but barely two bars have elapsed before the murky, muffled drumming arrives. A single chord hangs, sustaining forever. Slow is not the word: the pace is beyond glacial, as light years elapse between each beat, each cymbal crash ringing out like a supernova in a distant galaxy. Movement so slow as to be barely perceptible, yet strangely beautiful and utterly compelling.

The eternal drone condenses the weight of all matter. And the voice… The voice booms sonorously, elongated vowels protract each syllable to wordlessness.

Thought and Existence consists of just two side-long compositions, the second of which, ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’ (the title of which is taken from a work of speculative fiction by Jorge Luis Borges which is heavy on concept for its brevity) rolls in slow, deliberate waves, a simple riff repeating on, and on, and on. The effect is absorbing, hypnotic, immersive. It’s also curiously uplifting and transportative, a form of sonic meditation.

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Oh yes…. Known first and foremost as the lynchpin of instrumental band Earth, Dylan Carlson has become one of alternative music’s most ambitious pathfinders. It seems beyond appropriate, then, that Carlson’s new solo endeavour is titled Conquistador. The five-track record channels the indulgent drone of Earth while traversing uncharted sonic terrain. Listen to the album’s first single, ‘Scorpions In Their Mouths’.

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Dylan Carlson by Holly Carlson

This is it Forever – 28th February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Capac are an electronic duo, currently based Athens and Bristol. But geography is a state of mind, and while details about the context and circumstance surrounding Through The Dread Waste are limited, the music stands for itself. Yes, it’s supposed to contain ‘ten interpretations of the coldest traditional winter music in the form of dark drone and atmospheric ambience’, but without a priori knowledge of the original versions, all that is left is drone and ambience.

The ‘dread’ ascribed to the ‘waste’ is entirely redundant: waste is surplus, unnecessary, for disposal. Why dread it? The sense of portent, of impending doom… Yes, in a world where there is no time to waste, no money to waste, we may rightly dread it. And yet. The waste: anything waste is unnecessary, and should be confronted, not dreaded or feared. And without value or purpose, anything is waste.

On the subject of disposal, the order page for the physical edition of the album is most telling, containing as it does the following: ‘The physical form and true embodiment of the concept behind Through The Dread Waste… You receive a fire log with a metal plate hidden deep inside. After burning the log, among the ashes you will find your metal plate revealing instructions to access the original constructions of the traditional pieces of music, prior to their deconstruction. Destruction, after all, is a form of creation.’ This echoes a classic and fundamental tenet of the avant-garde, namely the premise that one must destroy in order to create anew.

Postmodernism’s defeatism and acceptance of the death of originality is either the last gasp of the avant-garde, or the point at which is necessarily destroys itself to re-emerge, the creative equivalent of stubble-burning at the end of the cycle of growth and croppage. It would be easy to deride the ‘fire log with a metal plate’ but this is art, and there’s precious little the production and release of music by and large, especially in the mainstream. And this is art which is more than merely willing to be ephemeral, and actually invites its own destruction.

The album’s ten compositions are by no means indicative of a conventional, square set-up, as longer tracks are separated and segued by fragmental pieces. And over its duration, there is a lot of piano, and a lot of space. A lot of space. Through The Dread Waste is a sparse, ominously atmospheric set. This is music to stare into space to. At times, its presence is so sparse as to be beneath detection. The lilting piano, the endless resonant air between them, is captivating, yet so understated as s drift into the ether.

The overlaid and unintelligible snippets of voice on ‘Winter Morning’ call to mind the scratchy, pre-fade in discord of ‘Disintegration’ by The Cure. But here, there is no swampy tune riding in on oppressive drums to hammer it all home. Instead, it drifts into another space, and we consider valiant spaces and parallels. Elsewhere, monasterial voices hover in fogy darkness and drones crackle, from eternity.

As such as it’s a spiritual, transportative, and eventually an immediately accessible release (and not in the same sense of ‘accessible’ which is at the centre of the divisive and heated debate which is raging in the poetry sphere right now). Through The Dread Waste has infinite inroads, and is not abrasive or overtly difficult. Yet equally, it’s not dull or unchallenging. It has melody, and drifts in a way you can get lost in.

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Capac – Through The Dread Waste

Miasmah Recordings – MIALP037 – 25th November 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Svarte Greiner is in fact Erik K Skodvin. But identity is mutable, and on Moss Garden, Skodvin explores the mutable identity of sound in space. And by space, I mean both in terms of the spatial creations of soundscapes, and outer space: through the former, Moss Garden evokes the latter.

The album contains two side-long tracks. ‘The Marble’ creates a slow-moving sonic expanse of drifting ambience. Crackles of static create minor interference in the smooth surface which extends over light years of distance. It’s a journey of infinitesimally gradual transition and glacial, galactic expansion. Everything moves in suspension, slowly, moving in its own dense molecular soup.

‘Garden’ begins with a crescendo and works backwards, tapering off into near-silence before beginning to grow at vegetable pace. There’s no specific purpose to this elliptical reference to Andrew Marvell, but listening to musical explorations so overtly background affords the mind space to wander, and it’s always a source of amazement what thoughts and recollections venture to the fore when given the room to surface at will. Sitting back in a dimly-lit room with a large measure of something strong, this is the perfect sonic immersive to lift the listener out of the humdrum and into another dimension.

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Svarte Greiner – Moss Garden

13th October 2017

James Wells

This the first CD released by drøne, a collaborative project featuring the pioneering Mark Van Hoen and Mike Harding (not the 80s comedian also known as The Rochdale Cowboy). The accompanying text informs us that ‘Mappa Mundi traces and describes audio surrounding and occupying the planet earth’. In fact, the album comes with one hell of a write-up, which quoting at length is instructive:

Workers toil in smithies, call signs and chants-at-prayer reveal attempts to order the chaos, which always remains one step ahead. Post-lapsarian for sure, but smoke signals and drums have morphed into the ‘bing bong’ of the attention-grabbing, mind-polluting PA system. The coded simplicity of the whistle (“Start!”) has evolved into a more deliberate attempt to control rather than inform by explicit, structured language. Announcements have become commands; signs bark orders. Thus ‘no’ becomes a powerful rejection, rather than merely a preference; and no-ers are more easily to spot… “You’re going the wrong way”! (To which the only sensitive and mature response is: “Good!”)

Call signs, IDs, audio sigils and signatures all combine to describe a polluted, confusing atmosphere which threatens to leave us powerless and bewildered. "Decipher the sounds and you win the game! First prize is, guess what? You get to take the audio poison! Congratulations! You’ve lost!”.

As for the actuality, there’s perhaps something of a disparity. Because ultimately, not a lot happens on Mappa Mundi. It crackles and fizzes, clicks and pops, humming and droning along the way. But it’s largely quiet, unobtrusive,

The album’s five movements, with a total running time of thirty-five minutes, are mastered as a single continuous track, at least on the advance digital. On the one hand, it’s frustrating, but Mappa Mundi is an album which is best experienced in a single sitting, uninterrupted. And it is an experience, albeit an uncomfortable one.

Drøne - Mappa Mundi

Christopher Nosnibor

I know very little about this release, at least in terms of specifics. I do know that it’s the work of the prodigious John Tuffen, who also performs as part of Neuschlaufen and Wharf Street Galaxy Band amongst others. I know its physical edition is in a hand-numbered run of 50 CD-R, housed in a paper foldover sleeve in a PVC wallet, with an appropriately blank image by way of cover art. There’s a bleak, quasi-modernist feel to the night-shot photograph of a structure constructed as some kind of shelter. But a shelter without people and a car-park without car is simply dead space. One Year, Two Days is a night-time work. Recorded at night (we’ll return to that shortly), it’s the soundtrack to empty spaces and time without people. And abstract as the sound sequence are on One Year; Two Days, it’s reasonable to summarise the project as a work about time and space and a certain absence.

I do know that John likes his kit, and to fiddle with it, and that a lot of his works are ‘project’ based, centred around either a piece of equipment (e.g. 808 // Whammy (2016) and Field Memory Recorder (2017) recorded exclusively with a novation circuit) or specific times / locations. I also know that John has been working under the Namke Communications moniker for some seventeen years now, and has built quite a body of experimental work in this guise.

The track titles are simply dates and times, and show that the four pieces were recorded over two days in 2016 – as the EP’s title suggests. In some ways, it marks a continuation of the 365/2015 project, which saw Tuffen record – and release – a track a day for the entirety of 2015.

This project and its predecessor provide a considerable insight into Tuffen’s creative modus operandi, which could equally be described as a work ethic. It’s one I can personally relate to, as I strive to produce and publish at least one review a day. This does, of course, raise the inevitable question about quality control, but there are two very different positions on creativity: the first suggests creativity is something which cannot be controlled, is spontaneous. It says you have to wait or the moment, the idea, the impulse. To wait and to go with the flow. The second says that creativity is like a muscle: the more you do, the more you’re able. In time, quantity begets quality as a committed, systematic approach to making art.

‘2016-08-08-2202’ sets the tone, a distorting oscillation provides the backdrop to creeping notes which gradually rise majestically before bleeding into ‘2016-08-08-2318’. It may be growing later, but the mood grows marginally lighter. The sequencing of the tracks is a major factor in the listening experience here, as there is an overall arc from beginning to end. The mid-section, as represented by ‘2016-08-10-1909’ transitions into hushed ambience, before fragmenting into darker territory with fractured distortion and dislocation taking hold. Eventually, it spins into hovering metallic drones, the frequencies touching on the teeth-jangling.

The final track, ‘2016-08-08-2256’ forges a cloud of amorphous sonic drift, a sonic cloud without tangible form. It’s immersive, but at the same time entirely engaging, as the oscillations and quavering notes which fade in and out of the rumbling thunder slowly dissipate in a drifting mist.

While locked in time and space in terms of their creation, in terms of reception, the four tracks on One Year; Two Days transport the listener beyond both time and space. And herein lies the power of this release, in that it both freezes time, and stretches it out over a frame which has no fixed limits.

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Namke Communications – One Year Two Days