The search continues, this week; cave-like, jarring dub resonances, a tense field-recording/techno hybrid rooted in trauma, hypnotizing cosmic unease, and a small fix of ragged post-punk from a pioneering outcast.
The Scientist/Roy Cousins – Malcolm X/Marcus Mosiah Garvey (10’’)
Firstly, this may fall outside of the remit of ‘outer reaches’, in the sense that this comes from the tried and true reggae reissue label Pressure Sounds. But in fulfilling a notion of sounding completely foreign in atmosphere, this perfectly adheres. For anyone less familiar with dub and reggae, Hopeton Brown aka The Scientist was the protégé of King Tubby, and the eventual principal engineer at Channel One. He made some of the more futuristic mixes of the dub pioneers, splitting with the raw earthliness of Tubby and his other antecedents, and adding – often indiscriminately - interstellar effects to the plate-shifting quakes of dub; that predilection holds true in these versions of two Roy Cousins productions. Cousins, on the other hand, made his name as leader of the vocal group The Royals and later moved into production, working on Prince Far-I’s last album. He was also involved in producing a Brenda Ray record, ‘Another Dream’ (her collection, ‘D’Ya Hear Me! Naffi Years 1979-83’, is well worth a listen; a meld of bright, DIY freak-pop fortified by homespun electronics and the rough finesse of dub)
That might go some way to explaining the interesting character of this particular collaboration; a slow-simmer of cruising, bruising bass and zinging sonar-effect pulses. In both mixes there’s a consistent, nodding trudge but latterly in the Garvey dedication, psych-pitched, reverb-charred guitar intermittently wails out. Still, it’s the unwavering, dead-eyed constancy of the lower end which makes this. Dub fit for the darkest and deepest crevice of a dancehall.
Dub Club – Dub Everlasting
Keeping with dub, this time from the less likely origin of Stones Throw. Usually synonymous with venerated hip hop eclecticisms from the likes of Dilla, Madlib et al, the labels now released some of its more interesting work in other spheres. ‘Meaning of Dub’ is its third strictly dub compilation. Helmed and produced by Tom Chasteen, a resident at LA’s weekly ‘Dub Club’, this is the first Dub Club release to feature the same rhythm throughout its course, much like Rhythm & Sound’s ‘See Mi Yah’ set. Whilst Chasteen doesn’t quite reach as full, thick, and smoke-drenched a sound as R & S (there’s not a lot in contemporary dub that can) ‘Dub Everlasting’ establishes a similarly entrancing but divergently jarring impact. All manner of drum-trance syncopation and fracturing effects engulf Blackout JA’s street-gruff vocal, and the echo and reverb present in these sounds is teased out into an interzone of reverberant hails. It’s definitely got more of a punishing tinge to its effects than The Scientist/Cousins cut; just wait until about 3:13 for an almighty death blow of electric-shock-rupture.
Scuba Death – Receptor Antagonist
Scuba Death is an alias of Ricardo Donoso (check out his other solo work and our previous interview with him here); a project not purely a peripheral exercise but an emulation of his previous work, at least judged by ‘Nitrogen Narcosis’, his second release under the guise. ‘Receptor Antagonist’ opens with vivid field recordings of lapping waves and rainfall which cascade throughout, evoking a quietly powerful sense of place. The context which surrounds their sourcing adds an extraordinary narrative layer. Donoso recorded them at the same location where he almost drowned twenty years ago, after being caught in an undertow in the South Atlantic. The captured sound is as precisely rendered as any sophisticated field recording, and that could be enough in itself, but it’s what Donoso contrasts this placid, tranquil ebb and flow with that sets this apart and heightens the power of its sway. A heft of cinematic, booming, slow-moving techno eventually surfaces and builds, making the setting more and more tenebrous as it progresses until the build is anti-climactically silenced around the four minute mark. The waves sound separately again and then the measured but substantial pulses re-emerge. It’s a thrilling moment, that re-emergence all the better for having had such a hanging silence precede it.
I won’t bore anyone with some grandiose aphorism about ‘the power of nature’ or some such (not quite anyway) but there’s definitely something about the way that Donoso makes such an initially serene scene as disarmingly ominous as he does here, as if capturing the strength and magnitude of what lies underneath the tide whilst simultaneously integrating the movements of its calming surface. One way to confront a traumatic experience.
Jo Johnson – In The Shadow of the Workhouse
This comes from the same source as Scuba Death, the Seattle based label Further Records. But this time from British musician and cohort of the Bleep 43 techno label, Jo Johnson. Contrary to the expectation that might elicit (its not techno) ‘In The Shadow of the Workhouse’ seems rooted in the Berlin school of electronics, albeit not as weightless as the more long-form new age works of some the schools exponents. The mood isn’t one for healing crystals and homeopathy either. There’s a persistent sequence that anxiously bubbles, falls and repeats in a computer-like process of modulation; a crystal-clear micro-pattern of staccato, mechanized cycles. This is opened up eventually to wider expanses; held tones which completely fill the surround as if the extensiveness of a starlit sky has been suddenly revealed overhead (Excuse the hyperbole, it does sound vast) Following that opening up of soundscape, the sequence inches back into view, completing an odyssey of transfixing space-synth minimalism.
The Homosexuals – Astral Glamour (Cassette release)
Proceeding (From Reality)/You’re Not Moving The Way You’re Supposed To (Part 1)
This has eighty tracks on it. I didn’t listen to eighty tracks. But I did pick a few which seemed to ‘kick’ more. For those unversed in their history, the band, led by Bruno Wizard, were a pioneering splinter of punk, separatists to its stale uniformity before many had cottoned on to the need for radical change. They lived in squats, barely gigged, and their original work is sporadically gathered on limited 7s, 12s, an EP and only one LP (although some have since been reissued) There was an ever shifting cast of members but Wizard remained, a character who conveys the same sort of staunchly anti-authoritarian outsider impression as Lawrence Hayward of Felt and Martin Newell of Cleaners From Venus. ‘Astral Glamour’ is the entirety of the back catalogue and is being released on Cassette Store Day this month. Considering the history of the band and the ideology which dictated their course, cassette seems a pretty fitting format, being the most economical format and therefore the one most synonymous with DIY ethics.
A lot of the material itself is defined by brevity but nonetheless packed with experimentation; upheavals of structure; the dropping of one song and style for another in the same breath, audio bleeding across the spectrum, moving from speaker to speaker (Black Ark if scaled back to the calibre and capabilities of a garden shed) vocals often clamouring over one another…its inexpert chaos but undeniably, undefinably great. On these selections, they sound like a missing link between the absurdities of Roxy Music, the sharper incandescence of early Wire and the boisterous ill-harmony of early Television Personalities, but still addled and defined by its own special freakishness. A missing link that should be a less absent presence.