Motion Sickness of Time Travel – Weeks (Self-Released)
Rachel Evans has been quietly but determinedly releasing modestly distributed but distinguished, swirling synth compositions since the late 00s. Her more recent has included last year’s ‘Ballades’, a series of twelve cassettes dedicated to the full moon of each month, with the name of each release taken from Native American nomenclature. This concept gives some indication of the magnitude of her material and the kind of odysseys often favoured.
Her latest, intended as an ‘aid for lessons in self-hypnosis’, maintains a certain stratospheric quality existent in her work to date, most notably realised on a 2012 self-titled LP for Spectrum Spools. As with the tempered velocity and dazzling luminosity of that material, ‘Weeks’ is marvellously weighted. Coated in an enervated glow but full of expanse, it’s a work of tender mesmerism. It’s as if it’s been committed in a vacuum, the extensive beauty of which is only unveiled over long but compelling stretches of graceful incandescence. Astral and monumental like prog without the crusty impositions, and mixed with drone which unfolds gradually, by finely spun degrees. Clocking in at an unabridged forty minutes it might be an intimidating listen to consider, but it’s one that quickly submerges as much as it subtly enchants. Music for abandoned planetariums.
Charcoal Owls – Mark Stone Rising (from ‘The Coventry Campbell’ cassette) (Blank Editions)
Released on Blank Editions - a humble but interesting outlet for limited 7s and small-run cassettes, with Thursten Moore and members of Blurt and Bo Ningen on their roster - this excerpt from their latest edition in the ‘Blank Tapes’ series features Russell Walker (of The Pheromoans & The Bomber Jackets) and Tom Skott (of Skire Music), a duo who’s ‘Tin Roof’ LP - released on the Night School label last year – set field recordings of coastal sift amongst makeshift, rudimentary organ and the discursive, rambling, spoken-sung confessions of tragicomic mundanity that Walker has brought to his many collaborative projects.
His words have often been acutely candid about the weariness native to the everyday: ‘Sundays on the Piccadilly line/you get these Kate Winslet types/Horse & Hound subscribers…’(from ‘Centurion Timeline’, The Bomber Jackets) and a healthy, trivializing attitude: ‘There’s this film called Vicky Kristina Barcelona/Basically it’s about this complete cunt with two girlfriends…’ (from ‘Conviction Street Part 1 & 2’, The Pheromoans)
Other shreds of imagery surface that only the most prosaically attuned will relate to: ‘two unemptied wheely bins’, ‘doling out Kettle Chips’, and as on the Charcoal Owls ‘Johnny’ there’s a hilariously unflinching observation of an unfulfilled ‘indie’ casualty living in irrelevant torpor: ‘Johnny loved indie but indie didn’t love Johnny/He was part of the live scene once/Nowadays he just gets called a nonce/Told to reign it in…’
It’s the attention to the smallest and the most humdrum of details and the peculiar level of significance that they're given within broader themes – often centred around modern anxieties – that makes Walker and his scruffy disillusionment strangely comforting in its relatable but skewed realism.
In this instance it’s not clear who the addressee is – an ‘activist surviving’ apparently - but its nonetheless touching, with lilting pianos and the languid vocals of Walker evoking Dan Treacy in Waitsian ‘Closing Time’ mode. Essential for those who find some truth in the inessential.
Ossia – Red X (Blackest Ever Black)/asda – three tracks (FuckPunk)
Following in the wake of Vessel’s trenchantly sparse outing (the ‘Killing Sound’ 12”) on everyone’s favourite mantle of miserabilism is another solo effort from one of Bristol’s Young Echo collective. Outlaying an industrialized form of dub not dissimilar to the often wily mixing desk experimentation of Adrian Sherwood’s On-U Sound, but with a more severe pulse-led minimalism at work, it often spills into eviscerating reverb, the kind a speaker doesn’t come back from. At points its redolent of the deep excavations of Rhythm & Sound, had those productions been distressed and blasted with ruinous discord.
Amidst all this comes the taped voice of Peter Tosh, who’s diary entries outline his dismay at ‘city life under Babylonian rule’ (‘the dirt, the filth, the corruption’) Unfortunately expressing his ills and misgivings about certain societal conditions and certain people didn’t prevent his murder in 1987. Yet here some of his more intimately aired thoughts are given a new lease, with effects which seem to exorcise his frustrations in punishing squalls of merciless feedback; like the final downfall of a soundsystem, all wildly panning, pranging aftershocks and echo overkill. Possibly one of the best productions BEB have ever put out…
Looking into Ossia’s background led, quite naturally, onto one of the labels he’s founded with Sebastian Gainsborough (aka Vessel) Emerging towards the end of last year (consider me a latecomer) FuckPunk have displayed a refreshingly different attitude to the tediously unctuous marketing many labels indulge nowadays. At their inception they sent out an infosheet to the press a la The KLF, mentioning slapped heads, squeezed arses and a desire to fuck with people. Many would consider that an objective they already achieved with a provocatively compressed mashup of ‘Pulse X’ and Bob Marley – a mere 50 second track – seemingly released on vinyl at a dubious price for the sole purpose of pissing people off. But seen in the light of the rampant consumerism and absurd reverence many of the more foolish of us are guilty of (whatever the fuck that Loefah ‘Woman/Midnight’ dubplate was about) it’s a canny send up and a bit of levity in a scene worthy of such escapades. Or at least a brazen way of funding ventures like asda’s ‘three tracks’, a three-pronged, short-form collection of brief but biting dubplate assaults, with wall-stripping low ends and excoriating, high pressure noise, given an even more rousing appeal courtesy of Chester Giles’ spoken word contributions, which evoke a familiar world of late night street convenience and prove just as concise and adept as the instrumentals in inciting a desire to get completely undone.
Joel Graham – Geomancy/Night (Music From Memory)
After illuminating discoveries, rooting through the archives of largely forgotten figures like Gigi Masin and Vito Ricci, Music From Memory continue their trawl through prescient electronics with a 12” from Joel Graham. In keeping with the reduced, glassy absorption often displayed on ‘Talk To The Sea’ and ‘I Was Crossing A Bridge’, the sound seems porous, all gleaming runs of synth filtering through crudely but lithely systematic drum machine patter. There’s one particular point on ‘Geomancy’ when a standout transition is reached, that mood-setting synth-shimmer opening out into a smooth, well-earnt crescendo. It’s a moment which establishes its dancefloor potentiality, something all the more stirring for its gradual progress to that point and the unlikelihood of this rare tape release from the mid-80s sounding so supremely suited to a contemporary climate.
On ‘Night’ a greater sense of abstraction abounds, with sinister clunks beginning a low burble of modulation. Eventually the light comes streaming in again, with chiming synth, halting percussion and garbled vocoder establishing a similarly rapt but stranger other state, one that only strengthens as the track progresses. Yet another extraordinary find from the MFM camp.