I know. There’s not an eloquent phrase which can accurately encapsulate the ugly eventuality of the election. Nor much in the way of words which can appropriately commiserate the leagues of people and organisations who now face uncertain futures. Despite the crushing fatalism which goes with realising that a callous pack of ruddy, sneering fabulists resembling a reject-band of farcical villains from Midsomer Murders - the kind you imagine would do their worst at a church fete - have now inherited full scale power, there’s always a way to establish resistance, however indirect and seemingly periphery. Online and local communities, labels and artists are becoming more abundant every day and though much of their work may exist outside of any particular political context, the people who inhabit them don’t. These things rarely function within a vacuum, so supporting them is as vital as ever, all the better for establishing some sense of promising autonomy in an increasingly dismal climate.
In that spirit, highlighting the impeccable efforts of those who often don’t receive much in the way of column inches seems just as important. Bearing in mind SFTOR doesn’t deal in delusions of grandeur or overcooked facilitation of hype, this week’s selection nevertheless reperesents some small effort to double the sense of anti-quotidian extremity.
Hopefully these abnormal degradations will offer some kind of consolation next time a frontpage Tory smirk rears its wretch-worthy hideousness. If unadorned playback offers little in the way of comfort, while you listen, just imagine you hold ultimate sway of the volume control and these sounds are wired directly into the ear canal of Michael Gove. A fairytale of revenge through pulverisation.
Tribe of Colin – Fruits of Zion (5 Gate Temple)
An alias or affiliate of John T. Gast – it’s hard to tell on account of the playful obfuscation that, like Dean Blunt and James Ferraro, Gast indulges in – Tribe of Colin’s introduction to ‘Fruits of Zion’ shares some of the bizarre smarts of Gast’s debut Planut Mu LP; suspended smears of enervated deep-house-not deep-house chords and a revolving passage of tribal, spartan percussion. Considering the barmy splurge of gifs in stasis and visual detritus that litters Gast’s website (drith.co.uk) it’s a surprisingly straight welcome. ‘Alasallmenhathbeencreatedequal’ begins to illuminate stranger tendencies; a degraded, martial form of techno eventually concluded with a rudimentary and curt bit of keywork like a low-rent, tonal intersection of horror schlock and grime. Throughout samples which share some of the screwy deftness of D/P/I (of Leaving Records) are interspersed, heightening the ludicrous sense of source-overdrive and evoking a kind of hyperreal DJ Shadow. ‘Return to the Womb’ finishes in such a style with a manipulated documentarian voice and a lo-fi environmental bleed bringing to a close something which sounds like gremlins on amphetamines dabbling in a tuned down version of 8-bit production. ‘Wallace’ feels more exultant, accenting as it does ceaseless bass pounds, but there’s no avoiding the otherness bubbling under the surface, with animalistic rabidity (some kind of growl?) and alien pocking sounds interrupting – but also weirdly aiding - the buzz. ‘Communion of Ancient (Protect Your Children)’ follows, initially mesmeric in its cyclical twinkle but the coarsely textured tremors that flare up and diminish, as if born along by some astral tide, destabilize its initial delicacy. Like some kind of vacuum-contained thunder, its reminiscent of King Tubby if his more destructive dub-detonations were informed by a gritty strain of kosmische. It’s a track which encapsulates the nature of the record, mixing ethereality with estrangement. The EP concludes with ‘Japan’, something that seems perpetually entrapped in arcade-game-breakbeat, a purgatorial state more grating than interesting. However ‘Peckerwood’ redeems that misstep with a hammering, outsider freak-funk; a kind of grotty corruption of Theo Parrish.
As inferred, there’s little doubt that these are novel arrangements, strangely rendered. At points it’s a garbled spew of intertextual saturation and at others it’s a functional, dub-contorted, noise-afflicted corruption of techno. An arrestingly imperfect mindfuck.
Lee Bannon – Artificial Stasis (Ninja Tune)
Classicist, spaced-out boom bap, off-piste diversions into jungle, an imaginary soundtrack inspired by Drive, Bannon is one of the few contemporary producers from a hip hop background who warrants the hype, if only for the sheer diversity of the projects he’s made an impact with, in a such a short period. The first track to be unveiled from his upcoming Ninja Tune LP remains consistent with his characteristically adventurous and genre-defiant work. Given that he’s revealed a regard for Brian Eno’s work in the past, the crystalline serenity displayed here shouldn’t come as much of a shock. Still the quality with which this new direction is exacted might surprise some. Mirroring the artwork, everything sounds as if its dictated by a momentary, sub-aquatic pressure, with elegancy provided by slow-motion piano and vocal fragments which seem similarly frozen in balletic, underwater tranquillity. An undercurrent of drone and occasional ticks of percussion fill it out until everything’s jolted out of immersion by a peculiarly incongruous addition of what sounds like a field recording of a press shot shoot. Despite this abrupt disruption it shows that even in the midst of cool bliss, there’s a drive to throw in interesting foils. Although redolent of Oneohtrix Point Never’s work, particularly ‘Returnal’, there’s enough of Bannon’s own character here to make it a worthwhile excursion. It could be argued that the depth of texture in Bannon’s hip hop productions hinted at this development all along.
Licking Mirrors – Feed The Dog, Boy! (Cerberus Future Technologies)
It’s always satisfying when the simple compulsion to ecstatically cane it is undeterred by some more premeditated treatments in production. Not that this track from ‘Frequency Adjustments Vol.1’ – one of the first few cassette releases from this Manchester based label – has anything remotely studied in its sound. It’s acid given backstreet surgery. A bastardised, tainted form of ‘Trax’ hacked at until its systems and frequencies are defiled into a viciously distorted jack. Even with the level of damage thrown at its pulse this still surges with a wild quality likely to vitalize even the more conventional of dancefloors. This is something that becomes all but certain when volleys of zap-effects and blown-speaker dub erupt in its later stages, raising the effectiveness and energy even more. Yet such is its efficiency, there’s a sense of intent behind the mess. Its apparently one of many productions masterminded by ‘Ste Spandex’ who operates under a slew of other guises, with names like Kindred Dicks and Skanky Magic. So there’s definitely an adolescent humour – the kind that often coloured rave and hardcore - informing the direction. Though it’s refreshing to hear that its oddness isn’t tempered by some critic-bait smartarsery a la PC Music. Just crooked, scrappy but essentially danceable amusements.
Glass Isle – Glass Isle (Mordant Music)
Mordant Music, through the esoteric escapades of ‘the Baron’, have courted a wry, enigmatic persona over the years, partly for the nature of their communications. Usually arcane and fragmentary, they’re an apt fit for the sounds they exhume. For instance, take the surrealist address for this latest release from Glass Isle:
‘A refracted hall of mirrors south of the stream…a duo of perturbed deities tramping invisible floors of The Concrete House…The Horniman's display cabinets subsumed via hand-built harmoniums…compositional time slots allotted by Mother Lung as she saw fit…so slow sloe - the incremental birthing of a billowing behemoth…sand with soda & lime please…IBM’
Fortunately these oddly realised ascriptions are matched in the crepuscular, radiophonic lullabies, nervy drone vignettes, and satellite-sound defection which abounds over the course of a sprawling full length. It’s all very much post-Broadcast but whereas Trish Keenan and co filtered their futurism through florid psychedelia and uncanny giallo, Glass Isle’s sound feels more rooted in the here and now. Though there’s still a thick echo-vapour submerging things, the defining colour feels burnished to a steely grey rather than a full kaleidoscopic spectrum. That’s to say there isn’t an affecting charm here. Frequently there’s a descent into spectral intimacy. Along with the profuse and outlandish sparks and volts, it’s a bewitching listen, demonstrating that whereas the loosely associated Ghost Box label have felt rather too tethered to the hauntology bracket, Mordant have used it as a springboard for captivating divergences.
Golden Teacher Meets Dennis Bovell – At The Green Door (Optimo Music)
In which the lovers rock pioneer and post-punk and dub cross-pollinator Dennis Bovell adds mixing desk alchemy to the dancehall disco hijinks of Glasgow’s Golden Teacher…
As you’d expect from ‘versioning’, everything’s boiled down to a spare essence but lavished with paradoxically dense echoes. Bovell takes the vocals to lower realms, screwing them into a kind of titanic Prince Far-I voice-voodoo. Drumfire rolls endlessly, a tight anchorage from which springs scatterings of spoiled organ on ‘Instigator Dub’ whilst ‘Like A Hawk Dub’ emphasises what’s best about the band; their balanced deviation between the organic and synthetic.
For a producer with such an estimable record (The Slits, The Pop Group, Orange Juice, Linton Kwesi) it’d be easy to avoid the risk of tarnishing his rep, but as this testifies there was never much danger of his contemporary irrelevance. So much of his work remains ahead of the curve. There wasn’t that much divorce between the ragbag spree of Golden Teacher’s live shows and their studio productions, and that quality is sustained here, the difference being that now their work is primed for soundsystem havoc too.