Posts Tagged ‘The Incidental Crack’

Preston Capes – PCT001 – 1st July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The Front & Follow label may have reverted to mothballed status (at least for the time being), but that doesn’t mean that Justin Watson is doing nothing these days, despite the title of the latest release from three-way collective The Incidental Crack, who we’ve been following – and covering – for some time here at Aural Aggravation. For this outing, they’ve found a new home on newly-established cassette label – and these seem to be springing up all over now – Preston Capes (and I’m guessing no relation to Geoff).

As the notes explain, ‘The Incidental Crack began with Rob [Spencer] recording himself wandering around in the woods and finding a ‘cave’ – Justin put some weird noises to it, and then Simon joined in. The rest is history. The Incidental Crack are joined again by Dolly Dolly / David Yates on this album.’ Indeed, however much The Incidental Crack may evolve, they remain fundamentally unchanged, their albums assemblages of random field recordings and strangeness melted and melded into awkwardly-shaped sonic sculptures that unsettle the mind and by turns ease and tense the body.

The Incidental Crack Does Nothing follows the two albums they released in 2021, the second of which, Detail, was a challenging and expansive work, and this very much continues in the same vein.

With The Incidental Crack, it very much feels as if anything goes, and reflecting on the name of the collective, this seems entirely appropriate. What their works represent is a crack, a fissure, in time, in continuity. Their methodology may not be specifically influenced by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin’s cut-ups, but are, very much, open to, of not specifically channelling and incorporating, the assimilation of random elements, and have a collage aspect to their construction.

‘Shitload of Rocks’ is comparatively airy, and serves as a brief introductory passage before the dank, gloomy ambience of ‘The Worst Party’. It’s a dark, ominous piece that hovers and hums, echoes, clanks, and rumbles on for a quarter of an hour; it’s cold, clammy, and unsettling. But is it the worst party ever? While it does sound like hiding in a cave while an armed search party charged with the task of your erasure stomp around in adjacent tunnels off in the distance, I don’t actually hear any people, laughing drunkenly or loving the sound of their own voices while holding court with tedious anecdotes, so I don’t think so.

‘Hair falling from our bodies clogs up the sewers,’ we learn as a clattering beat clacks in and rattles away on the industrial chop-up churn of ‘Hair’, featuring Dolly Dolly, who’s clearly no sheep. It’s the album’s most percussive cut, the monotone spoken-word narrative somewhat surreal, and looping eighties synths bubble in around the midpoint, although it’s probably too weird for the Stranger Things retro adopters.

‘Couch Advantage’ is the album’s second longer piece, a sinuous, clattering workout almost nine minutes in duration. It’s minimal, yet somehow, there’s enough stuff going on as to render it all a blur: is that jazz drumming, a groove of sorts off in the distance? Or is it simply some clattering chaos, the sound of bacon sizzling? What is going on? And following the brief interlude that is ‘Belting’, the final piece, the ten-minute ‘Photography’ with more lyrical abstraction from Dolly Dolly depicting random fragmentary images against a backdrop of clicking sparks and evolving, supple sweeps of drifting clouds of sound. It’s all incidental, every second of it: fleeting, ephemeral – and in the cracks, is where it happens. As they open wider, you peer in, and observe. There is movement. There is life. Because life is what happens between the events, among the random incidents and accidents.

The Incidental Crack Does Nothing may be confusing, bewildering, difficult to grasp – but it is, without doubt, a slice of life. You can do with that what you will.

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Herhalen – H#023 – 21st May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The press release for this second album by The Incidental Crack – a collaboration between Justin Watson, Rob Spencer and Simon Proffitt – which follows last year’s Before The Magic describes the trio ‘exchanging field recordings, samples and random noise between Manchester, Wigan and North Wales, culminating in studio sessions focused on detailed processing and sound manipulation. They have yet to meet. Maybe one day when this is all over, in a pub in North Wales, free from this madness’.

As such, it’s a classic lockdown project, a virtual collaboration that proves that when it comes to the making of music, distance doesn’t have to be an object. In fact, it’s probably easier to collaborate without the logistics of brining people together in the same place at the same time. Writing on the project, Justin (one half of The Gated Canal Community and formerly of Front & Follow, a label which will be familiar to regular readers of AA), notes that Municipal Music ‘includes tracks recorded during the same period, using our now foolproof approach of sharing stuff, fiddling with it, sharing some more etc.’, adding, ‘It kept me sane at least during the last year!’

That is something that’s certainly relatable: keeping occupied has, for me, been the only way to keep myself together. I’m not saying it’s healthy, it’s just how it is. And increasingly, I’ve found abstract music easier to manage. Structured music, anything overtly ‘song’ orientated and rhythm driven is, all too often, just so much noise and instead of providing a welcome point of focus, feels just like being smacked from all sides at once. So while there may still be a lot going on in this, it’s not psychologically disruptive, and is suitably absorbing and immersive.

There are three extended-length tracks in all, which exploit the full dynamic range, with a strong focus on texture. The first, ‘The Second Cup of Tea of the Day’ is strong – certainly more English Breakfast or Nambarrie than Earl Grey or anything herbal – and probably inspired by the sound of a boiling kettle that’s been manipulated and fucked around with. However, it sounds at first more like a freight train, an extended continuous roar occupying the first three minutes before it gradually abates in volume and intensity, and gentler, softly-woven ambient drones fade in. there are still rumblings and incidental clatterings, forging a soundscape that never fully reconciles the tensions between the elements of soft and harsh, the light and dark. Bubbling Krautrock with bulbous beats collides with metallic shards of grating noise.

‘Just Passing Through’ is appropriately positioned in the middle, and is altogether gentler, softer, warmer, and pursues a more conventional ambient line. But there are peaks and troughs and ebbs and flows as the sound swells and at times shifts toward more unsettling territory, with some woozy oscillations that tug uncomfortably at the pit of the stomach before receding and allowing calmer vibes to return once more.

The third and final cut, the fourteen-minute ‘Ice Cream at the Pavilion’ starts with what sounds like the crashing of waves against a rocky beach in a storm, which strangely reminds me of a number of occasions we’ve had ice cream at the coast on family outings, because it’s always ice-cream weather for children. Voices chatter and babble and whoop excitedly, while a dolorous church organ begins to while away majestically in the background. Eventually, it’s superseded by a barrelling drone and a throbbing, slow-pulsing sound that swells and surges.

There’s a certain wistfulness and nostalgia to be found in the spaces in and around Municipal Music, although perhaps some of that’s my own reception aesthetic, a response as much to the circumstances of its creation and the allusions of the title, both of which remind me I’ve not left my own municipality in months, haven’t met any of my collaborators or friends in so very long, and yearn for both proximity to (some) people and also the countryside and country pubs. All of these thoughts wash around in my mind as the sounds surround me, and it occurs to me, finally, that Municipal Music is good music to think to.

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023 The Incidental Crack - cover

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The Incidental Crack - artist photo

Soundtracking The Void – 18th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Before the Magic is the debut from The Incidental Crack, a new collaborative work from Front & Follow and Gated Canal Community’s Justin Watson and Rob Spencer, alongside Simon Proffitt, who also performs as Cahn Ingold Prelog and The Master Musicians Of Dyffryn Moor.

Under the seemingly eternal lockdown and difficulties arising from distancing, which continue to loom large over all things creative and musical where collectivism and collaboration are concerned (live performances are another essay altogether, and their absence will continue to leave an immeasurable void for so many and on so many levels), The Incidental Crack is a project that could only exist thanks to the Internet, which saw, ‘a six month period of remotely sharing atmospheric field recordings, samples and random noise, culminating in studio sessions focused on detailed processing and sound manipulation.’

The album’s four tracks are significantly differing in length, ranging from a ‘mere’ six-minute snippet to an eighteen-minute exploration of the deepest, darkest tunnels

Why are children’s voices always so unsettling? Especially samples of chirpy, innocent calls and singing, when juxtaposed with murky, dark ambient drones? I suppose it’s not least on account of that unheimlich sensation instilled by those quite specific contrasts of carefree naivete and gut-clenching fear. Individually, these sensations can be processed and compartmentalised, but together, they sit uneasily, tapping into a biological parental instinct that tells us that children should be kept safe from harm, and a doomy sonic fog, with connotations of imminent danger, creeping around the ankles is something of a hard-wired trigger. ‘If I Can Do It’, then, is a thoroughly unsettling collage. The voices fade out, but deep rumbles of thunder persist, a different kind of threat as a storm breaks and it reminds us that there is nothing harsher, more devastating, than nature.

‘Skin’ provides some much-needed levity, overlapping myriad snippets of adverts for skin products by way of an intro before drifting off into soft bubble of drifting mellowness. There’s a spoken-word piece, from what initially appears to be lecture on skin but wanders more into the territory of a reflection on skin more generally.

With murky, clunking percussion and inaudible sampled dialogue running throughout its twelve-minute running time, the dark and impenetrable ‘Set free all the birds from your wife’s aviary’ is another level of unsettling, and it’s difficult to settle or adjust to despite the relentless booming plod that hangs in the background.

The sparse, clanging pulsing noises of the final track are hollow, empty, and even when joined by a slow-swelling tide if amorphous, extraneous noise, feels quite bleak and desolate, and the title, ‘We All Feel Happy Now’ feels grimy ironic. Gasping breaths, the sounds of panic, along with slivers of spoken-word narrative (which in passing includes the album’s title is dense and dolorous, and there is no joy to be found here.

And yet the album as a whole feels positive, if only in terms of its fulfilment of purpose as an experimental album with unsettling connotations, and sometimes, you just need a dark, desolate atmosphere to match the mood.

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The Incidental Crack - Before The Magic