Posts Tagged ‘Psychological Strategy Board’

Front and Follow – 2nd August 2019

Ever-evolving and always finding new angles Front and Follow’s latest release is the second in a new series celebrating the present and past of some of their favourite artists. The premise is simple, and in some respects, it’s remarkable it hasn’t been done before: ‘For each volume in the series we ask artists to create a new project of their own choosing and present it alongside a retrospective of their past output.’ Unusually for F&F, this release is available as a CD as well as cassette and download.

What this means is an album of new material, which comes with a bonus album (to download with all physical copies, and available separately to download) which for this release features tracks from Michael’s previous releases plus new remixes by Pye Corner Audio, Polypores, Kemper Norton, Psychological Strategy Board, Basic House and Elite Barbarian.

Longstanding Rothko member Donnelly has quite a career span and output to his credit, with myriad projects simmering simultaneously, and this latest offering promises ‘new worlds of beats and rhythm, sound collage, ambience and noise using random borrowed equipment, broken gear and household appliances’ – which it delivers, with gloopy synths and scratchy, insectoid microbeats paving the way for chunky disco grooves and funk-tinged minimalism.

Across the span of seven instrumental tracks, Donnelly explores a range of sonic territories, from semi-industrial gloom to stealthily-creeping dark ambient, with swathes of static and extraneous noise that shimmers, shudders, grates, grinds and crashes and bucks like tectonic plates in collision, occasionally propelled by hypnotic and unconventional rhythms.

‘Thick Skull’ closes off with a heartbeat drum and quivering, quavering stun drone with serrated edges and overloading frequencies played in 360˚ stereo.

The bonus album, Pardon Error contains eleven tracks, leading with seven remixes. The first four are various interpretations of ‘Mole Man’, which appeared on 2013’s I’ve Come to Love You Forever and also resurfaces later as both a remix and in its original form, but rather than reduce Donnelly’s extensive body of work to essentially one track, it serves to demonstrate the adaptability of his compositions. It’s hard to tell they’re the same track, and the spooky ambience of the ‘Basic House Mix’ couldn’t be further from the wheezing swirl of the Polypores interpretation, let alone the drilling drone assault of the Psychological Strategy Board Exercise of Impalement mix’, while the Elite Barbarian remix of ‘Laburnum’ goes full techno dance. ‘Behind the Laburnum’ sounds like a dub mix of Soft Cell on LSD crossed with ‘Carnage Visors’ by The Cure. It really is al going on here.

The gurgling ‘Root about the Carcass’ and minimal wooze of ‘Urge to Swarm’ again mark further departures as they bring the curtain down on the compilation. And once again, Front and Follow have given us something different – and of exceptional quality. Everything’s ‘curated’ now and 99% of it’s wank and cobbled together or otherwise simply misnamed, but F&F have developed a distinct style and now what works, and as such, they’ve established themselves as being dependable in the quality stakes. Why So Mute, Fond Lover? is no exception, and while Pardon Error may not be the expansive career summary one may have hoped for, it has a twist of innovation that makes for a listen that’s engaging and enlightening, offering a new insight into Donnelly’s work instead of cobbling together an easy best of.

AA

Michael Donnelly - Why So Mute, Fond Lover

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Front & Follow – 6th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

As a child in the late 70s and early 80s, I used to play with three fox stoles that belonged to my mother. I was fascinated by their glass eyes and the clips that made ‘mouths’, and didn’t really consider any of it to be strange at the time. As an adult who’s been vegetarian for over twenty years, the very idea of a real fox stole – not to mention the sheepskin rugs that adorned each of the bedrooms in my parents’ house – horrifies me beyond words. Perhaps it was this sense of horror that pushed these recollections out of my mind for quite literally decades. But in the opening scenes of Penny Slinger, the film directed by Richard Kovitch, we see Penny walking down a stately driveway (Lilford Hall), draped in fur coat, accessorised by a fox stole, its beady artificial eyes looking fixedly over her shoulder toward the camera. This is our introduction to both Slinger and An Exorcism, the work which defined her career before her swift disappearance from the public eye for a very long time.

There’s another personal preface I feel a certain obligation to include here: I first encountered Richard Kovitch in around, maybe, 2008, in the days of MySpace. Although now known as an award-wining director, Kovitch is something of a polyartist, and was writing – both fiction and essays – back then, and I had the privilege of including one of his stories, ‘For Reasons Unknown’ in the first Clinical, Brutal anthology in 2009. The story showcased Kovitch’s keen eye for both narrative and visual, something that’s common to much of his work, and the feature-length documentary Penny Slinger – Out Of The Shadows is no exception.

The film is pitched as ‘the incredible, untold story of the British artist Penny Slinger and the traumatic events that led to the creation of her masterpiece, the 1977 photo-romance, An Exorcism’. Much of the story is told by Slinger herself, who proves to be a remarkably cogent and articulate speaker. The documentary notably features contributions from Peter Whitehead (who collaborated with Slinger on the shooting of An Exorcism at Lilford Hall in 1969, and it’s footage from this which opens the film) and Michael Bracewell, amongst others, and the ‘talking heads’ segments are comfortably paced and helpfully cut with pieces of Penny’s work in a way that satisfies both the well-versed and uninitiated. Ultimately, it’s most notable for its well-structured narrative. And its soundtrack.

The soundtrack in question is the debut album for Psychological Strategy Board. Taking their name from the committee responsible for overseeing strategies of psychological warfare in the US in the 1950s, it’s perhaps appropriate that biographical details about them is scant, beyond the fact Maybury and Paul Snowdon are perhaps better known as johnny mugwump and Time Attendant respectively, and that their only previous release is an EP, also released on Front & Follow, back in 2012. That. And the fact that the creation of this soundtrack, which began in 2011, was a challenging experience, both musically and personally. In context, it isn’t entirely surprising.

As it transpires, their near-invisibility proves to be something of an asset, as well as an indication of their modus operandi: while the soundtrack – released on vinyl and download split into thirteen tracks – is a continuous presence throughout the film’s one hour and thirty-three-minute duration – and very much steers the mood and accentuates the atmosphere, particularly when accompanying the more dramatic shots or narrative moments, it’s subtle in its delivery. Within the context of the film, it works well.

The measure of a soundtrack’s quality is whether or not it succeeds on its own merit, as a musical work, when separated from the film it was designed to accompany. This does, not least of all because it’s a largely ambient work which conjures image and feelings – often of disquiet -that any ambient work of a darker persuasion might. Dank rumblings and slow churns reminiscent of Throbbing Gristle nudge against hovering dissonance and creeping fear chords.

Spurts of electronic dislocation bubble and fizz over thick ripples of amorphous, atonal synth sound, hissing static and whispering winds. Sonorous low-end notes resonate, hanging in the air before they slowly decay, submerged by tense undulations. The atmosphere is dark, ominous, unsettling, but not oppressive. And while the narrative of the documentary and the creative process which yielded the supremely surreal and highly sexual An Exorcism is not – and never could be – conveyed in musical form, the otherness of the work itself very much is.

AA

Psychological Strategy Board – Penny Slinger Out of the Shadows