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Spool's Out

Spool's Out: Tape Reviews For March By Tristan Bath
Tristan Bath , March 11th, 2015 11:55

Tristan Bath returns with Spools Out, The Quietus' regular tape review column. This month he covers Shit & Shine, Broshuda, Deathcount In Silicone Valley, Silver Waves, Dikeman, Roger Tellier-Craig, Félicia Atkinson, Eartheater, Nigel Wrench, Black Spirituals and Extnddntwrk

Extnddntwrk - By

(Fort Evil Fruit)

Produced "some time in November 2011", it's pretty unbelievable that this is the same Andrew Fearn standing silently at the back of the Sleaford Mods, sipping lager and triggering brash punky drum and guitar loops. Fearn's music as Extnddntwrk could barely be more different. Barely present, these compositions see Fearn often straddling the boundary between full on silence and music, conducting sparse loops comprising a musical topography of a haunted house. 'By Hand' is barely more than a field recording scattered with random glitches, 'By Arrest' is unbearably tense, eventually breaking into the devilish percussion that make the snail's pace march through 'By Day'. The full hour of By (which become an hour and a half if you download the digital bonus tracks), is some of the most unsettling, daringly malevolent music I've come across in recent memory.

Any fans of Bohren und der Club of Gore - or the original Alien movie for that matter - know that, when it comes to being scary, less is more. In that sense, Fearn's making some of the scariest music out there. A few lightly sketched melodies and throbbing bass tones, strewn across a candlelit desk and stitched together with semblances of funeral march rhythms. Quiet music, like small imagery, makes you focus in, walk nearer to the canvas. Each chapter By is a masterpiece of introverted, horrifying tension, and the whole album's almost too much to bear in one single sitting. It's not the first signs that Fearn's got his sights set beyond merely manufacturing beats for Sleaford Mods - back in the early 00s he already released murky electronic as the seemingly defunct Infant - but it's still a shocking powerful expression of another side to the man, and a harrowing depiction of paranoia, and the sheer might of silence and space. Frankly, this is the most stunning tape release of the year so far.

Shit & Shine - Chakin'

(Astral Spirits)

Shit & Shine always deliver the unexpected, and it becomes clear from the outset of Chakin' that out-there jazz tape label, Astral Spirits, is a pretty apt home for this release. Much of the album rides restless-but-relaxed drum figures straight from Bitches Brew- to Get Up With It-era Miles Davis, littered with smatterings of Wurlitzer and Fender Rhodes keys, which owe more to the freeform spacey tinkling of Sun Ra himself than to the more learned playing of Hancock, Jarrett, Zawinul of Corea. The key element that ties this to Shit & Shine, is the sheer persistence of the grooves over which improvisation takes place. It's not been necessarily omnipresent in all releases Shit & Shine, but it's certainly defined many of their highlights, including last year's very groove-heavy Powder Horn, and the epochal half-hour primitive drum repetitions at the heart of 'Practicing To Be A Doctor' from 2006's Jealous Of Shit And Shine. Some six of the eight tracks on offer in Chakin' originate from a series of weekly straight-to-Youtube jam sessions broadcast by Clouse back in 2013. The products of the Tuesday Jazz Chat series recorded at the titular 'Chak', ranges pretty broadly from the weird sparseness of 'TJC 7', to the propulsive high speed march of 'TJC 13' (see video below), and the snappy 'TJC 17' - which is perhaps the most convincing groove Miles never wrote. The jams aren't very searching, rather working through grooves to their logical conclusion, with the exception of 'TJC 19', which almost finds a cathartic light at the end of the tunnel, switching keys on the keyboard near its climax, only to flutter back down to earth and stumble to a close.

Of the two tracks not stemming directly from the TJC, 'Jump On The Feeder' towards the end of the tape is the weirdest, comprising nine minutes of cubist dismantling of all that's come before, a la Nurse With Wound remixing 'Return To Forever'. Shuffled snare and kick hits clatter indeterminately between glitchy notes, vibraphone droplets and gently pressed keys, while a deep warped spoken word intones a strange stream of consciousness: "Every word seems to sound good next to 'Missouri'". Every part of the track is oddly filtered too, rendering the entire piece like some badly converted MP3, strung together from pieces left on the digital cutting room floor. Seventeen minute opener, 'Denim Do's And Don'ts' is undoubtedly the defining moment though. Built over a persistent, and malevolent jazzy rhythm, the piece features smokey spoken words of Pete Simonelli (from San Francisco's Enablers) and the deft freeform playing of Norwegian double bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (perhaps best known for his work with Mats Gustafsson in The Thing). The haunting atmospherics of brushed snare bouncing off menacing spoken word brings to mind several of Sam Shalabi's grander projects (Land of Kush, Osama), which were themselves inspired by the never-ending epics of Egyptian singer Oum Kalthoum. It wanders deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole, with the foreground growing increasingly weird with criss-crossing fusion detritus over the restless jazz groove at its core, eventually disappearing entirely while Håker Flaten's bass audibly splits off from the group in a state of zen resignation.

Nigel Wrench - ZA86
Black Spirituals - High Vibration Resonance Vol.1: Live at Disjecta

(The Tapeworm)

Few journalists have quite so intimately capture the essence of their era's great moral panics as Nigel Wrench. In addition to writings about life with HIV and AIDS since the early 90s the Birmingham-born, but South African raised, Wrench was on the frontlines of the struggle against apartheid throughout the 1980s. ZA86 takes us right back to South Africa circa 1986, when the regime entered its horrific final phases, and pockets of civil war broke out across the country. Bruises and all, the two 15-minute collages taken from nine recently unearthed archival tapes of Wrench's journalistic recordings also capture something of the very process itself. Clicks and buzzes, rough cuts, and multiple takes of the same interview questions appear, as well as recordings from radio of an ill-fated pop song put out by the government at the time in the style of Live Aid.

Several fantastic speeches lie on either side of the tape, with a pretty fair amount of time given to the almost bizarrely hateful right wingers as to the inspire black South African freedom fighters. The presence of Wrench's own voice on the tape lends the collages an unusually strong sense of first person narrative. Beautiful field recorded South African singing litters the background of the tapes, as well as the ugly sound of the aforementioned sickly Geldof-style pop song, 'Together We Will Build A Brighter Future, and we wander with Wrench through the soundscape of a place deeply troubled by struggle. How imperialism worked for as long as it did boggles the mind. Listening to ZA86 makes the sheer madness of anything as blatantly wrong as apartheid so crystal clear, and the obvious ways in which division and fear make life worse for all parties so unignorable.

In total it's a chilling and at times stunningly beautiful document from the time, and a testament to the very art of journalism too. Wrench's diaries (made at the same time , and documented on a website linked below) detail the precise moment the man couldn't remain neutral in his coverage on Wednesday 27 August 1986:
"Enough, no longer. A regime like this one sears to the heart. (They still want to bring out a pop song? Fiddling while Rome burns? This is a new slant on that.)"
Visit for more information on the project, including Nigel Wrench's diary extracts)
The improvising duo of Zachary James Watkins and percussionist Marshall Trammell perform gnarled noisy conversational freeforms under the name Black Spirituals. That name purportedly originated as the title of an interview cassette featuring Bernice Reagon discussing North American slaves' roots music, but it was also the name of a solo cassette tape put out by Watkins on The Tapeworm back in 2010. The formulation of a duet with Marshall Trammell takes Watkins' own music to the next level, and High Vibration Resonance Vol.1 draws its power from the medium energy conversational nature of the pair's noisy clatter. They're in fact currently touring with drone rock's godparents, Earth, and this writer had the chance to catch them play in London recently. Watkins unfurled the same sort of meandering drones as heard here, although more oriented around the guitar with a few passages of hard rocking riffage nestled therein (it may well be the same input he's using, but here he's credited merely with 'electronics'), but in person, all eyes fall on the beguiling Trammell. The man pays with an indescribably primordial energy, and somehow makes the drums sound like an almost new concept to all in the room. This live document from August 2014 presents us with two 20 minute jams, often finding Watkins maintaining a handful of ear-crunching tones, for dozens of seconds, or even minutes at a time. Meanwhile Trammell endlessly wanders his sticks around the kit, playing with the rarest sort of counter-intuition, avoiding all known tropes at all costs, identifying geometric shapes we didn't even know existed and criss-crossing them to form as of yet undiscovered patterns. For all intents and purposes, they're going nowhere slowly - Watkins resonating aimlessly away, almost like a man struggling with broken equipment, and Trammell tinkling away like an overactive kid at his first drum lesson - but it gradually takes on a sort of deeply affective funereal atmosphere. It's intensely uncomfortable to listen to, but just as tough to switch off.

Eartheater - Metalepsis

(Hausu Mountain)

As the frontwoman of Guardian Alien, a group which currently consists solely of herself and Greg Fox (the masterful madman drummer for Liturgy, Ben Frost and many more), Alexandra Drewchin has made her mark as a freeform vocalist, ready to invert and reconfigure her screaming and ramblings on the spot. Unlike the almost surreal blowout psychedelia of Guardian Alien though, Drewchin's solo project, Eartheater, explores often dreamier territory across eight immediately pretty melodic songs, and the obligatory ten minute epic on Metalepsis, her debut out by the increasingly interesting Chicago-based label Hausu Mountain.

Multi-instrumentalist Drewchin utilises guitar, synths and percussion alongside stranger instruments like the recently developed analogue electronic wind instrument The Banshee, and crafts oddly accessible vocal-driven songs. 'The Internet Is Handmade' cycles processed vocals down an effects-laden rabbit hole ala one of Robert AA Lowe's Lichens epics, and 'Homonym' has Drewchin duet with herself over a pulsating hand percussion and plucked electric guitar bed - think Grouper after the anti-depressants have kicked in. 'Youniverse' picks up the pace a bit with punkier guitar strums over a lo-fi drum beat before dismantling for a dadaist mash up of field recordings and beatboxing in its second half. Scraped violins dance over deep house beats on 'Sigil Life'. Ten minute penultimate track 'Orbit' blends primordial cosmic meanderings with looped distant chiming melodies, all submerged beneath a layer of lo-fi fuzz, quickly cutting straight to the heartfelt, relatively straight-forward guitar and vocal song 'Infinity' at the album's tail end. 'Space is the place / where we come from' intones Drewchin, in a contemplative, and gorgeous end to a deeply multifaceted debut. Both Eartheater and Hausu Mountain are ones to watch. Drewchin manages to remain engaging whether exploring the deepest recesses of electronic space, or in outright singer/songwriter mode - and spends most of her time concocting alluring psychedelic compositions by blending elements of the two.

Félicia Atkinson / Duchamp - Sculpture


This split EP on Brussels-based Idiosyncratics label brings together pensive improvisations from French visual artist and musician Félicia Atkinson, and Italian accordionist, scientist and drone-aholic, Duchamp. Atkinson's grandiose 17-minute 'The Color Red' takes thematic inspiration from Brian de Palma's Carrie, but seems sonically very much inspired by the distant rumblings of Oren Ambarchi classics such as The Pendulum's Embrace, gradually building layers of odd noises and smatterings of ear-busting bass tones into structures resembling rhythm. Atmospherically, the piece is aptly cold, unfriendly and isolating, but musically things don't quite coalesce as well as some of Atkinson's previous work, where the musician's transcendental state has come across far more strongly on tape.

Duchamp's side comprises of two seven minute drone pieces recorded briefly after the death of a musician friend, and aimed at exploring "feelings and sensations that fill the void of a disappeared person." To that effect 'Occhi Pieni Di Lacrime' (eyes full of tears) and 'Occhi Pieni Di Luce' (eyes full of light) successfully capture the intimate sensation of mourning. They're intimate, yet expansive, and feel both sad and joyous. The day of a funeral can often be emotionally confusing, as we feel immense loss and sadness, while similarly often experiencing a peculiar joyful closeness to the deceased. 'Occhi Pieni Di Luce' celebrates with waves of at peace guitar notes and Duchamp's own distant voice, while 'Occhi Pieni Di Lacrime' takes a malevolent turn as almost angrily plonked out piano notes stompe through the cavernous atmospherics, and Duchamp's voice cries out in outright moans of mournful sadness. Not easy listening, but powerful beyond most in the drone genre.

Roger Tellier-Craig - Visites Possibles And Sightings: Music For The Videos Of Sabrina Ratté

(Where To Now?)

This is the first release under his own name for Montreal's Roger Tellier-Craig, a man perhaps best known for his association with Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and Fly Pan Am. He departed GY!BE after Yanqui UXO in 2003, and Fly Pan Am has remained only sporadically active since 2004's N'Écoutez Pas , but Tellier-Craig's increasingly moved away from band and guitar music, and further down the path towards synthetic abstraction. Leftfield, abstract musical inversion was already prevalent in Fly Pan Am's music as far back as the 90s, and Craig's participation in Et Sans and Set Fire to Flames (both projects very much based around musical absurdism, improvisation and melting atmospherics rather than post-rockian crescendos) have shown a deep interest in the boundaries of music itself. Tellier-Craig's last nom de plume - washed out psychedelic synths project Le Révélateur, which saw a release on Jefre Cantu-Ledesma's Root Strata label, and revelled in multi-rhythmic asymmetrical soundscapes - was in fact more or less a collaboration with video artist , Sabrina Ratté, for whom Roger Tellier-Craig is once more providing sound for on three tracks here.

Sabrina Ratté's videos for the Sightings project, blend layers of geometric abstract forms into corridors that seem to disappear into the screen, while the flat surface comes to three dimensional life before the viewer's eyes. Roger Tellier-Craig's modular and analogue synth soundtrack fits perfectly to the project, at times reminiscent of a gathering multitude of buzzes bleeps and automated soundscapes of the kind one finds in a hospital or airport. The sense of geometric space is relatively perceivable even without the videos, and despite the Sightings score's almost total lack of traditional musicality (way beyond that of Le Révélateur), the density and tension as dissonant layers interlock, occasionally punctuated by a quasi-melodic wash of notes, makes for engaging listening. The track 'Visites Possibles' stems from a separate project, but again involves both artists, treading aesthetically similar ground, although this time seemingly jump-cutting between scenes in something of an audiovisual sparring match. For someone whose career started as a vital part of the world-conquering Montreal post-rock scene, Roger Tellier-Craig's creating a singularly original next chapter to his career, pioneering untrod aesthetic territory with Sabrina Ratté.

You can here/order the thing from bandcamp via this link

Dikeman / Serries / Verbruggen - Live at Le Vecteur Cherleroi (Belgium) 28 10 2014

(tonefloat presents a new wave of jazz)

This phenomenal new label from Rotterdam has already put out several stellar LPs traversing the rumbling spiritscapes between free jazz and ambient rock, and has recently added limited cassette releases of live concert recordings to its catalogue. Every release on the label to date features Belgian guitarist and label director, Dirk Serries, and here we find Serries in a trio with American expat saxophonist John Dikeman, and Belgian drummer (and one time Arve Henriksen collaborator), Teun Verbruggen. The tape kicks off with the seamless pair of songs 'Unity / Obsession Marks', and several minutes of drums and saxophone head quickly down the road of Ayler-esque cries and furious percussive clatter before dismantling and disappearing, ushering in Serries' first wash of reversed guitar loops and pretty high end drones. Dikeman slowly breathes into his horn, gradually mimicking Serries' increasingly fuzzy drones, breaking into passages of gnarled high-speed lines while Verbruggen's skins work shifts from contemplative to manic. The trio build to an acutely earsplitting climax.

Side two's single sixteen minute 'Monolith' again sees the acoustic instruments relegated to silent partners as Serries lets out several initial lengthy waves of drawn out distorted droning chords. As a pattern seems to emerge, Dikeman and Verbruggen slot themselves in, with Dikeman's sax seemingly blasting out the prettiest abrasive parps this side of Pharoah Sanders' Karma, slipping into an emotional groove they ride at full volume to its logical conclusion some quarter of an hour later. It's a stunningly beautiful piece of work, and like the rest of the label's releases, blends the unbound far-reaching possibilities of free-jazz with the earthy, rooted, and welcoming low end warmth of Serries' ambient guitar soundscapes.

In a new quartet with British players Colin Webster (sax) and Andrew Lisle, Serries and Dikeman are due to support Quietus favourite Stara Rzeka at his Cafe Oto gig this April Fool's Day. You're all advised to go along.

Silver Waves - EP 2

(Bulb / Howling Owl Records)

Bristol's noisiest teenager is back! Silver Waves, aka 18-year-old Dylan Mallett, goes all out industrial on his second EP for Howling Owl records offshoot, Bulb. While EP1 proudly wore the colours of Branca and Chatham in two sides of solo ambient chamber rock,EP2 adds drum machines and metallic clattering to Mallett's arsenal, along with outright ungodly screaming. 'III' builds duelling channels of feedback, gradually introducing kick throbs until bursting to life as an outright Reznor-esque apocalyptic jam. Passages of very pretty distant voices and gentle tones follow before climaxing with a swift smack of kicking screaming noise. 'IV' seems to shed the droning semblance a of guitar entirely, instead heading straight for throbbing slow marching percussive stabs. It's at time reminiscent of the noise informed narrative soundscapes of Ben Frost's Aurora - industrial music to soundtrack Satan's own space travels. It twists and turns through several passages of warm bassy rumblings, pretty ambience and jagged noise peaks, and never lingers too long on any one thought, alluring you one minute then smacking you in the face the next. Silver Waves is yanking aspects from all manner of aggressive synthetic music, and the two suites on EP2 prove the 18 year old's first stellar release was no fluke.

Deathcount In Silicone Valley - Acheron

(Extreme Ultimate)

Nostalgic Londoner, Andrew Nixon, spends his time flitting between washed out gnarled drones and pulsating John Carpenter arpeggiations. The retro synth-vibe is rarely this well done, and the Nixon's interests clearly range wider than your average retrofuturist. The simmering intro to 'LV-246' spends four solid minutes hovering in ice cold atonal stasis before familiar arpeggiations and synth washes straight from the Vangelis cook book emerge. 'Chrome' tickles the space-age Schulze and Jarre vibe, while 'Habitual Arp Worship' takes those John Carpenter action themes to their logical conclusion, pummelling the speaker for a full seven minutes. Side two sees Nixon produce more of the same simmering horror and action movie soundtracks from outer space, circa 1978. Despite largely mimicking his idols, it's an excellent set of tunes from Nixon, impeccably put together, and with enough originality to make it essential listening for fans of Carpenter, Vangelis, Shulze, et al.

Broshuda - Flares


Don't really know much very about this Germany-based producer and illustrator, but his tape Flares - the fifth for mysterious UK label Seagrave - has been getting repeat plays here at Bath towers. On the surface, it begins like so many contemporary electronic producers; beats, loops and meticulously crafted decay. Much like Warp's tough-to-define producer Patten though, the depth to these constructions reveals itself with deeper listening. 'Whyckoff' unwinds over a downtempo pulse, halfway through channelling Hancockian Rhodes chords into the mix. It's all painted in broad strokes, smushing tones and timbres together in the mix until coagulating into one amorphous mass - listen close though, and you'll hear precision, in every distant handclap, and every criss-crossing vocal sample, slowed down and re-pitched to perfect imperfection. Things get more upbeat elsewhere, as on the housey two minute jam, 'Low', or in collaboration with Reckno veteran Kinlaw on the clicking percussive groove of 'Temple'. For the most part though, Broshuda's constructions remain bathed in dreamy atmospheres, stuck in shuffling locked grooves, and unexpectedly transportative. Highly recommended.

Old Smile - Over This Wall


Self-producing New Jerseyite Tom Herman has crafted a weighty gift to the world in the form of Over This Wall. The man plays everything as far as I can tell, and the fifteen songs that lie therein are of the softly folk-informed psychedelic rock revival type done by the likes of Ty Segall at his gentlest, or Tame Impala at their least shit. Just check out the colourful flourishes and Lennon-like vocal delivery over sunny strummed guitar anthem 'Carried Away', or the cyclical shapes of the deceptively simple 'Worn Out Day'. Most of the songs are three minute 60s flavoured jams, with a touch of wide-eyed Bolan-esque whimsy thrown into the performance, occasional detours into synthier interludes, and smatterings of jangly guitar ('Eyes of Approval'). Herman's a gifted tune writer and arranger, allowing the simple beauty of his overtly pretty and friendly songs to simply be, devoid of showboating solos, or the sort of swagger which can instantly put off any sort of modern day revivalist act. After countless recent waves of revivalist bands embracing jangly psych and sixties music - Temples, Tame Impala, Ty Segall, etc. - Old Smile is the best I've come across. And this dude managed to do it all himself at home! What's more, there are no pictures of the artist dressed up like a smug flowery bellend, simply a unique abstract photograph taken by Herman on each of the limited cassettes.