Posts Tagged ‘Front & Follow’

Front & Follow – 22nd February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Front & Follow continue their ever-fascinating The Blow series of split / collaborative releases with an album by Dunning and Underwood, aka Graham Dunning and Sam Underwood, who’ve used this release to showcase their Mammoth Beat Organ project.

I’m mature enough to refrain from making any puerile quips about mammoth organs and instead get down to the business of reviewing an album which showcases the sound of a machine they describe as ‘a modular, mechanical music contraption, designed as a two-player, semi-autonomous musical instrument’ which ‘plays unusual, sometimes erratic compositions drawing on drone music, minimalist repetition and fairground organ techniques’.

None of this prepares me for the reality – which is, arguably, one of the strongest, and also the most far-out – releases of the series yet. I’ll focus here on the music rather than the machine – which has some kind of quirky steampunk look to its construction – because while in a live context, it’s no doubt quite a spectacle, in the medium of recorded sound, the sound is all you have to engage with. And the sound is rich in strange, unsettling atmospherics, a work that nether light nor dark but hovers uncertainly in the shadows of its own casting.

The first piece, ‘Song or Chimney Sweeps’ transitions from elongated, atonal drone to trilling fairground organ, although the notes waver and wheeze, and assonance and order are rapidly replaced by dissonance and disorder and the different notes play in different times, and what begins as something playful and lighthearted pretty soon becomes a horrible headfuck. This, of course, is a good thing. The headfuckier the better as far as I’m concerned. Clearly, this is an album that calls for more vodka. Lots more.

The peeping, parping, tooting, quavering atonality of ‘Blown Coda’ is constructed around droning not-quite chords which droop like deflating bagpipes. There’s an almost child-like naivete to the mismatched conflicts of key. The way young children have no concept of key and will simply play notes to hear a sound and will play randomly – and for protracted, torturous periods – comes to mind here. Only, these are long, slow nots that trickle and weep over erratic arrhythmia. Contrastingly, ‘Acorn Factory’ is largely percussive – or at least sounds that way. Tinny, irregular beats – the sound of something hitting the bottom of a metal bucket or something – peculiar, difficult to place in a musical context.

‘Demon’, one of the pieces that’s more overtly ‘structured’ or ‘composed’ sounds like some kind of primitive drum ‘n’ bass, with clattering, ramshackle rhythms proving the backdrop to honking horn and woozy drone, all muffled by a blanket or raw, barely-there-production.

Then there’s what anyone – even the most passionate avant-garde aficionado – would likely describe as ‘weird shit’, starting with the woozy atonal discordant mess of ‘Odd Duty’ placing the emphasis on ‘odd’ and ‘Padlocks on a Bridge’ bringing together wheezing bellows notes with off-kilter percussion.

All the vodka isn’t quite enough to make sense of this sonic derangement. It isn’t abstract, it’s just warped and wilfully perverse. And it’s little short of genius.

AA

Blow 5

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Front & Follow – 26th October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

In the last property I rented, I suffered an infestation of moths. It may sound amusing, but it wasn’t. the larvae of said moths devoured chunks of carpet under the bed and in various other places in the bedroom and other spots on the first floor. So, moths, it transpires, consume wool-based material and require Rentokil to halt them. Miraculously, I did get my full deposit back, but was reminded that one sold never trust a creature made of dust. Yes, I fear moths. A body that powders on contact with a heavy blow presents a curious intangibility, a lack of substance, a sense of not really existing in the corporeal world.

This presumably isn’t the kind of scene the title of Sone Institute’s latest offering is attempting to convey, and the connotations of rust are more of slow decay and dilapidation, in keeping with the dark, damp crevices moths are more conventionally associated with inhabiting.

Sone Institute describes Where Moth and Rust Consume, his first new material in six years, as his ‘pop album’, but don’t expect to hear it on R1 any time soon, or ever. 6Music’s Gideon Coe has championed previous work, describing it as ‘delightfully strange,’ which seems a fair summation. Sone Institute inhabits the world of the unheimlich, the uncanny, and this is no more true than of the landscape conjured by these compositions.

Sparse, stuttering beats and even sparser synths provide the backdrop to robotic, monotone vocals on the first track, ‘Only I Exist’. ‘Your wretched anus / discoloured teeth / Tree-trunk legs / A dog on a leash…’ The obtuse, fragmented lyrics follow the trajectory that charts a line from Dada and Surrealism to Burroughs’ cut-up technique. The images layer up, juxtaposed and disconnected, and the album gradually unfurls, pushing a clinical 80s Eurodisco sound that’s centred around crisp, mechanoid beats. It’s the beats that are perhaps the most overtly ‘pop’ aspect of the album, bringing a consistency of structure and solidity to the compositions rarely found in Sone Institute’s work.

‘The Devil Works in ASDA’ judders and thumps along, building a conspicuously linear groove while exploring the dynamics of dance music, and if ‘What’s Bred in the Bone’ pulls back the intensity and volume a couple of notches, the spacious bump and bleep, built around a framework of drum machine evokes the spirit of retro-futurism. Analogue synths modulate rhythmic pulses, but stark angularity and minimal production values give the atmosphere a cold, detached edge.

‘Winter is Dead’ marks something of a departure, venturing into more ambient and also rather weirder territory with its woozy vocals and warping sonic backdrop. And there are times when it all goes Kraftwerk / Tangerine Dream, and if truth be told, that’s pretty cool. There’s creeping tension in the undulating drones and whispered vocal slivers of ‘Oblique Messages’, and the dark heart of Where Moth and Rust Consume beats on through to the final fragments of the crackle-scratched sketch of a closer that is ‘God Bless You’.

We need more of this: and with this release, we get more, lots more. Front & Follow don’t only deliver leftfield albums of quality, but are now, it seems, on a mission to go above and beyond in providing value for money with a bonus album: this release also marks the first volume of a new series on Front & Follow – Ex Post Facto – which, the label explains, ‘seeks to celebrate experimental electronic music in all its forms, showcasing new work and old, exploring the relationship between the current and the past, how they influence and shape each other and our experiences of them.’ And so, a collection of tracks from the Sone Institute archive, including remixes and previously unreleased music offers eighteen tracks lifted from the far reaches of Sone Institute’s career. Not only is it extremely interesting in its own right, but it resents a wide-ranging representation of the sample-riven, string-soaked and analogue-based wibble-tastic work of Sone Institute through the years. It’s not all comfortable, easy -listening, exploring equally areas of introspective elegy, discord, and smooth, rippling mellowness: the chanking ‘4 (Version 3)’ is a discordant guitar blitz over a creepy Theremin / organ shiver, while the stammering robotix vocal loop on ‘Dark Forest – Silver Sea’ hardy says ‘easy to get on with’: and the context is all.

Still reeling from Where Moth and Rust Consume, Past and Spared is the very definition of headfuck not because it’s especially intense, but simply because it is. And that’s cool. Just be prepared.

AA

Sone Institute – Where Moth and Rust Consume

Front & Follow – F&F044 – 8th July 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

With this release, Front & Follow inaugurate a new series of split cassette and download releases. The premise is that the artists are given a side apiece, and while the idea is that they’re encouraged to collaborate, it’s essentially down to the acts involved. This first ‘Blow’ release features a total of nineteen tracks, with ten from Hoofus, seven from IX Tab and a brace of joint efforts.

The ten Hoofus track are first, and if the titles, in their evocations of ancient lore, mysticism and history, seem at odds with the bubbling synth cycles which form their fabric, then it’s a reflection of the infinite contradictions which define Hoofus’ enigmatic sound. Shimmering, throbbing and needling, the scratchy, fuzzy tones cover the full sonic spectrum in infinite, iridescent hues. Occasionally sliding into unusual time signatures and oddly dissonant passages – the wonky keys of ‘Twentythree Seven’ shouldn’t work, but instead it’s rather magical – their ten tracks are beautifully weird, and weirdly beautiful. The notes roll and bend, wobble and warp, layering up to form a rich latticework. The effect is to create music that transcends music, enveloping the listener in a thick, pulsating aural blanket. It’s an immersive, multisensory experience, akin to how I would imagine simultaneously being under water and watching the Arora Borealis.

IX Tab’s eight tracks are quite different in tone: more overtly electronic, bleeping, swooshing and rippling notes scurry across one another in vintage sci-fi style. The dizzyingly hectic compositions are contrasted by sedate ambient segments. Samples – snippets of dialogue and lopped phrases – feature heavily, and there’s an overtly experimental air to the tracks. Trilling pipes and rattling chimes flit alongside woozy, opiate drones and church song. The nine-minute ‘The Herepath Comes Away’ is a magnificently expansive, atmospheric work, and something of a standout as it leads the listener on a curious journey of the mind.

The two collaborative tracks, credited to Hoofus & IX Tab, work precisely because they sound like a hybrid of the two acts. ‘The Ministry of Ontological Insecurity’ features sampled voices repeating the statement ‘I don’t believe in me’ (occasionally interspersed with variants ‘I don’t believe in you / him/ her / them’) over a drifting dark ambient backdrop fractured with incidental sonic incursions. ‘The Ploughs & Machines’, which closes the album also incorporates samples and woozy electro oddness with shifting time signatures to mesmerising and disorienting effect.

Individually and collectively, Hoofus and IX Tab have conjured an album that reaches for the outer limits and transports the listener to them and then beyond.

 

Hoofus   IX Tab