Posts Tagged ‘Namke Communications’

Christopher Nosnibor

And here it is: live music, as it was. Not seated, no tables, so no table service. Too soon? No. Certainly not. So many have been affected in so many ways by the closure of venues and the suspension of live music, and while we all get the why, questions remain over why so many other ‘crowded’ places were allowed to reopen before pubs and gig venues. But those aren’t questions for now: we’re here, and The Fulford Arms is a venue I’ve long considered a home from home, and not just because it’s a fifteen-minute walk from home house.

During lockdown, proprietor Christopher Sherrington has poured all of his energy into campaigning for grass roots venues, and not just for the benefit of his own holding, but nationally, as well as working to support other venues in York and Leeds, creating the sense of a network of venues, instead of their being in competition with one another. This has been quite a revelation in a sense, although the sense of community among gig-goers has long been strong.

The last ‘proper’ live show I attended, on 14 March 2020 felt plain fucking weird, like the end of the world. On that landmark night, where hand sanitiser in the door was a new and strange thing, and bar staff worse surgical gloves to pull pints, Soma Crew were on the bill, so making them my first ‘normal’ gig back felt somehow significant on a personal level.

Some things are different – the box office being outside, the signs encouraging mask-wearing, the now-standard sanitisation gel, the bar behind Perspex, the removal of all furniture to create more space for the audience, which is at 70% capacity max to allow maximum space, the opening of doors to ventilate between acts – but overall, it feels the closest to normal I’ve seen anything since I can’t quite remember when.

Playing minimal music in low lighting, John Tuffen’s Namke Communications set has a subtle start – so subtle a lot of people don’t even realise he has started, but they’re gradually drawn in as he builds the set, a single, continuous piece of gentle krautrock tinged electro improv work that sits comfortably alongside Kraftwerk, worriedaboutsatan, and Pie Corner Audio.

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Namke Communications

Tremulous Monk – the current musical vehicle for Christopher J Wilkinson, who’s previously worked as Dead Bird and was a member of psychedelic shoegaze droners Falling Spikes – offers another shade of electronic music. His is altogether song-based, serving up some mellow retro minimal electropop. The last song has a sort of Inspiral Carpets vibe, with a dash of psychedelia in the blend.

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Tremulous Monk

It would appear that that last time I caught Black Lagoons was back in the summer of 2017, when I remarked that the band – at the bottom of the bill – were headline standard. Seems they’ve just continued to get better in the time since, too, although if they’ve matured they’ve certainly not mellowed. The gritty blues-based sound has evolved into a kind of grainy Country/grunge crossover with snaking, twangy reverb-heavy guitar driven by a stonking bass and crashing drums. Bringing on the sax, the frenetic attack is more Gallon Drunk than Psychedelic Furs, and it sure as hell ain’t jazz. The set just builds and builds to a blistering, sweaty climax and a slow blues post-climax that winds down to the finish. And a hat makes for a great silhouette against a smoky backdrop, making for memorable visuals to accompany a memorable sound.

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Black Lagoons

And so it is for Soma Crew to do their thing. And thing about Soma Crew is that whoever’s in the lineup, whether they speed things up or slow things down, they always sounds like Soma Crew. This is a good thing: they’re like The Fall or The Melvins of psychedelic drone. Christopher J Wilkinson, is filling in on drums tonight, for part two of Soma Crew’s album launch for Out Of Darkness / Into Light (which makes sense since the new album is really two albums). He provides a suitable no-frills motoric style of drumming that suits the band perfectly.

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Soma Crew

It starts with a blast of off-kilter guitar noise in a soupy sonic haze, and the set is vintage Soma Crew – at times a bit loose, a bit off-key, a shade ramshackle, but perfectly in keeping with the slacker / stoner vibe of their slow-twisting psychedelic drone. Besides, it’s a dependable fact that once they find a groove, they absolutely nail it, and merrily plug away at it for four or five or six minutes, three chords, no drum fills, no wanking around, just 12-bar blues and a massive fuck-off rack of effects. And it works every time. Elsewhere, they build layers incrementally while plugging away at a single chord… Which also works a treat with their execution. We got what we came for.

A whole bunch of people – mostly women, and Black Lagoons – properly got down at the front during the encore, and the looks of enjoyment were a joy to witness. We’ve missed live music, and it’s so, so good to be back.

Christopher Nosnibor

The Wonkystuff nights to date may have been a shade sporadic, but that’s what happens when the organisers have day-jobs and families, and more importantly, what they’ve lacked in regularity, they’ve more than compensated in quality, and that’s a major reason why there’s such a respectable turnout to a gig midweek, mid-January, in York. There’s also the warm, welcoming vibe: these nights may be musical showcases, but they’re also a coming together of an oddball community, where we’re all misfits together and it feels good and feels like home. Tonight’s lineup – as usual – demonstrates John Tuffen’s skill for bringing together acts who provide a satisfying balance of contrasting and complimentary.

It’s the Wonkystuff House Band – a collective rather than a fixed entity, tonight comprising Tuffen alongside Ash Sagar and Simon Higginbotham – who warm things up with a set consisting of permutational repetitions delivered by multiple vocals, delivered in a drab monotone over repetitive beats. Comparisons to Can, Cabaret Voltaire circa ‘Nag Nag Nag’, The Fall, Flying Lizards, Girls vs Boys, Young Marble Giants, and the more contemporary Moderate Rebels all make their way into my notes as I watch them crank out vintage synth and drum machine sounds. Cyclical bass motifs and whizzing diodes fill the air as they sit and twiddle knobs and read lyrics from clipboards and the historical leaps into the present for a while.

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Wonkystuff House Band

The start of TSR2’s set crackles and pops fireworks. The trio hunch over customised kit with wires all over to create warped undulations and machine gun fire beats that batter the speaker cones. The set builds into a dense, murky trudge. The second track, ‘What will be’ is more co-ordinated than the opener, and is solidly rhythmic, mechanoid and spacious, and metamorphosises into some kind of glam reimagining of Kraftwerk via DAF. Heavy echoes and tribal beats dominate the third track, and they very much find their groove at this point, at least for a spell, before the construction grows shaky despite solid foundations. Perhaps it’s the sheer ambition of layering up so much at once that’s difficult to keep together. Despite this, the discord and dissonance are part and parcel of an intriguing set.

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TSR2

Rovellasca takes the stage, quietly and understated and stands behind a bank of kit. So far, so standard. The set begins with deep, dark, rumblings, and very soon builds into something shatteringly immense. It’s dense. It’s loud, and fills the room like a thick, suffocating smog. The sound is thick, immersive. Time passes. Unexpectedly, elongated mid-range notes sound out and the underlying dense noise builds. I’m no longer listening: my entire body is enveloped. This is the effect of sonic force. Noise wall without the harsh. Burrs of static, pink and brown noise lurk in the immense billowing noise. The shifts are subtle, and gradual, but present over the course of the single, continuous half-hour piece. People start to become visibly uncomfortable after a time others vaguely bored. I’m loving it, and could listen all night. A slow fade to finish. The hush is deafening.

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Rovellasca

It’s a hard act to follow, but See Monstd – the new musical vehicle of radiofreemidwich’s Rob Hayler is an inspired choice, in that it represents something completely different that thus prevents any risk of comparison. There’s a lot going on here: the set starts with a sample, then breaks into what my notes describe as ‘wtf noise’. It subsequently settles into heavy harsh ambience, with dense, grating drones providing the body of sound, with swerves off trajectory for spells of audience participation, with a phone being passed around for members of the crowd to repeat lines from the sheets circulated prior to the set. This is one of those performances where you never know quite where it’s going to go, and is all the better for the element of unpredictability.

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See Monstd

And this, in a nutshell, is everything that’s great about the Wonkystuff nights.

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What do Neuschlafen do? The York / Leeds collective which features member of myriad other bands and projects seem to exist more in the ether and in theory than as a tangible entity, despite the existence of a handful of recordings, most of which capture live improvisations in collaboration with other artists.

It’s been some time since the trio, comprising John Tuffen (guitar, synthesiser, vocals), Ash Sagar (bass, percussion, synthesiser, vocals) and Jason Wilson (drums, percussion, synthesiser) combined forces to release anything ‘proper’, although What We Do – a rehearsal room recording committee to (virtual) tape on a Tascam DR07-mkII (with no overdubs) at House Of Mook, Leeds on March 24th, 2019 adheres to their improvised, zero-budget, DIY ethos to the letter. Some of the sound is a little muffled and muddy, and the balance isn’t quite what studio ix would aim for, but it does capture the band’s essence and approach a vast expanse, before

With the exception of the twenty-five second ‘Breath #1’ the eight pieces here are all long-form explorations that sit toward the ten-minute mark. The first, ‘The Set-Up’ could be a literal rendition of its title and is more f a soundcheck than a song, with a wild crash and slash of cymbal mayhem and frenetic jazz percussion over a gloopy, strolling bass.

‘A Slow Hand’, with its wandering, repetitive motifs, has echoes of latter-day Earth and conjures a spaced-out-desert rock / folk hybrid played under sedation. It meanders along, before the playing becomes quieter, and it finally sort of peters out. And yet it doesn’t feel remotely disappointing, because it sounds somehow intentional.

The tracks tend to follow a similar flow in fundamental terms: the drums plod along with frequent and explosive, unpredictable fills punctuating the rhythmic line while the bass wanders around casually while returning to its root motif by way of an anchor just when things start to look like the structure is losing shape and the guitar lays down layers of abstraction and textured atmospherics rather than affecting any semblance of melody or tune.

The title track is a definite standout: landing at around the albums mid-point, it steps up the tempo and goes straight into a chunky jazz-tinged krautrock groove. It’s the rhythm section that dominates, while synths waft and ripple and heavily echoed guitar rings out crisp and clean but at a distance. And whereas the other pieces tend to drift, ‘What We Do’ drives and maintain a linear, forward-facing trajectory as it builds through successive slow-burning crescendos.

It’s the percussion that comes to the fore on the closing tryptic, with the 15-minute ‘Divisions’ constructed around a relentless rhythm around which pulsating synths grind and drone in way that calls to mind Suicide’s debut. Somewhere, maybe about halfway through, when the drums have hit an optimal thump and the cymbals are crashing all over, the bass boosts into an approximation of Joy Division’s ‘Isolation’, while monotone vocals, the words inaudible, drone away in the background as the instrumentation stretches out into a vast expanse, before the final cut, ‘to the end’ breaks loose with a thunderous clatter of freeform percussion and sprightly bass that bounds around freely and fluidly to conclude a set that’s simultaneously tense and mellow, an amalgamation of so many disparate elements that renders it difficult to place. And that’s all the more reason to rate this effort, that broadly sits in the brackets of avant-garde, experimental, jazz, and even post-rock and math-rock, albeit at their most minimal and most deconstructed. And that is what they do.

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Neuschlafen – What we do

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