Black Vase: October 2012 Edition
Apologies for the break in communication, but I promise you won't be disappointed with what I've accrued in my short absence. Well. You might. But hey ho.
One of the most exciting pieces to come to my attention was the ICA's soundworks exhibition. The online repository is home to some of the most interesting and engaging sound art around and works in tandem with a live installation at the gallery that ran from mid June to mid September.
Luckily for us who couldn't make it to London in that time, their repository contains every work produced, using the stimulus of Bruce Nauman's 'Days' installation, which ran alongside the event. The unbelievable amount of work that has been put online is a great example of the web democratizing art – there is an inclusive element to it that simply cannot be present when geographical, financial or social factors are taken into account.
The random successes and failures of just diving the fuck in and seeing which pieces are great is also fun – you could end up with Cosey Fanni Tutti'a (of Chris & Cosey/Throbbing Gristle) 'Biochismic' – a miasmic and modular piece, or Factory Floor's uncharacteristically restrained 'M T W T F S S 7'. Or, there's Luke Fowler & Richard Youngs' 'Zoning', which appears to operate by sliding in and out of tempo and form, before turning into something that's, well, blissful synth pop.
BTW - in the last paragraph are three places you could start. Aren't I nice to you?
And now for two albums out soon, both on the dependably excellent Gizeh records based in the top-right of the country. The first is from Fieldhead, a Leeds/Vancouver ambielectro outfit of about five years. A Correction is the follow up to their 2010 LP They Shook Hands For Hours. The combination of droning studio electronics and two violinists really elevates the album onto a plane where the two disciplines are mutated into one, with the boundaries blurred between what is acoustic and what is electronic. The track 'neon, ugly' especially captures that Selected Ambient Works… era Aphex Twin vibe to a tee, with the most understated drop that'll make you shiver your goosebumps off. It's really, really fucking magical.
The second Gizeh release is from Glissando, a(nother) Leeds duo whose ambient sound lies in more classical surroundings, with spiderweb-thin falsetto vocals that work at counterpoint with assorted strings, keys and the occasional shimmering chime. The World Without Us is hard to place, because while instantly familiar, and there are reference points your brain is making to the music, there aren't any concrete ones – it flits between shire-born gothic folk, but with more menace, and equal amounts of fragility, and… Well, it's great. One to burn a candle to.
A Correction is out October 22nd, and The World Without Us is out November 5th, both on Gizeh records. What's more, you can catch them both, plus Richard Knox and Frederick D Oberland performing Rustle of the Stars at Café Oto on November 18th.
Loscil, AKA Canadian Scott Morgan, released his 6th LP on Kranky records (Belong, Stars of the Lid, Grouper) at the beginning of September. Sketches from New Brighton is not an homage to his home, rather it is ideas that come through the spaces he occupies and his surroundings. It's full of synthetic textures and scatterbrain, squelchy beats that sometimes put you in mind of longer, lusher, more drawn out and spacey minimal techno, but with none of the occasional propensity that genre has for coldness. I mean, the sound invokes that isolated, freezing, wintery claustrophobia that must be present in the Canadian winter, but it has depth in the undulating soundscapes that break through from the regimented rhythms.
Sketches from New Brighton is available now from Kranky records.
Speaking of Kranky records (and with an alumni consisting of Godspeed and Low, it's good to speak of them), there is a new label swimming around the ether from Brian Foote (of Kranky) by the name of PEAK OIL. After a listen to its first two releases, I can confirm that they are destined to be a label of note (like my opinion counts for anything). But seriously, bare tunes.
Strategy's self titled is one in a slew of releases he's (Paul Dicklow) put out recently, and everything about it is pretty much wrong for this column, but it's also totally right. At times it's full of unbelievable funktronica, the severely diluted form of which is currently gracing NME pages as Everything Everything. Stylistically it has much more in common with John Maus's We Must Become The Pitiless Censors of Ourselves in so much as you can tell the ideas are using that potentially populist dancefloor-smash template as a wireframe to base some imaginative and innovative music on. In an interview with Resident Advisor, he told of how the human ear seeks out imperfections in sound, and you can hear that on Strategy. There's always something subtly, or not so subtly, jarring – and juxtaposed with the straight up funkiness of it, it's pretty awesome.
The second PEAK OIL release is Spontaneous Generation by PERSONABLE – the alias of psych hound M Geddes Gengras. This is a straight up monster of a psych-techno release, designed to keep you on that indefinite transcendental plane where endorphines flow at a leisurely pace from your pituitary gland like a double fucking rainbow. I hate dancing and I can't handle comedowns any more, but Jesus H Jones I want to go out and face the dank hole of all comedowns right now just to dance to this.
This month I'd like to talk about politics in music. To most, that means a middle- aged lefty with a guitar, or Bono rimming every world leader he can get close to for world peace (but a tax break on his millions would be an acceptable second). No, I have a theory – it's a simple one – that there is a positive correlation between music and politics, in that the more extreme the music, the more extreme the political ideas and ideologies expressed within that music will be. [read more]
In the summertime, the fields hum like power stations. Visually, the saturated light creates a permanent intensity, and the heat creates shimmers in the near distance - hovering just above ground level like a finger smudge on a camera lens. The crickets and grasshoppers are hidden generators, buzzing like a thousand tiny clackers. With the audio-visual assault this provides, it's not hard to imagine where talk of earth-energy and so much hippie bullshit propagated. [read more]
Last month I harped on about how I was sticking with grim stuff because it was still dark and cold out, and not quite spring, and brighter sounds are for brighter days. Well, it seems we've been stuck into an extended chill, so allow me to continue with the pounding and the squawking and general unsettling vibes. There is some swagger though, so that's something. [read more]
For the past decade, Capsule, an events company in Birmingham, have been putting on Supersonic Festival at the Custard Factory – the Media and Arts hub based in five acres of renovated industrial-revolution era buildings. A fascinating structure that still smells of factory floors, foremen and worker's foment – even though what you're actually smelling is Falafel and microbrewed ales. [read more]