Number 1437

Week 20

SIMON WHETHAM – CHANNELLING (CD by Flag Day Recordings) *
FERNANDO JOSÉ PEREIRA & SAMUEL SILVA – FROM WITHOUT, FROM DEEP WITHIN (CD by Museum of International Contemporary Sculpture) *
PRMS – RUIN (CD by Cloudchamber Recordings) *
RATTI – THETA (CD by Barly Records) *
TERRE SOL FOUR – JUJU (LP by W.E.R.F. Records) *
INSTAGON – GHOST HUNTING (LP by Love Earth Music) *
JON WATKINS – LONE WOLF TAVERN (CDR by Inner Demons Records) *
μασχαλισμός – μ​α​σ​χ​α​λ​ι​σ​μ​ό​ς (CDR by Inner Demons Records) *
MCCLURE AND WHYTE – FARMING (cassette by Long Arms Artifacts) *
ROBIN STOREY – ON THE BORDERLINE (book & CD by Soleilmoon) *


Sometimes there’s no other way to describe the process behind a release than to copy the information. Summarising not always work, I think, or the process is something I only understand half of it. ‘Channelling’ by Simon Whetham is such a release. “Channelling is a kinetic sound performance that utilizes various components salvaged from discarded and obsolete consumer technology, reanimating them by piping amplified sound through them. The motors and mechanisms respond to these sound impulses in erratic and unpredictable ways. The actions of, and emanations from, the devices are subsequently amplified.” Whetham worked on this i a couple of countries, I assume on a number of residencies (Switzlerland, The Netherlands, Austria and France). I am sure you’d like to know what this discarded and obsolete consumer technology is, more precise that is, as I have no idea. Listening to the 12 pieces on this CD, I still have very little idea, but it sounds fascinating. Sometimes I am reminded me of field recordings, stream of water mostly, and maybe it is! Maybe that’s the amplifed sounds piping through. Sometimes it rattles about, sometimes it sounds like long wave recordings, in the vein of Disinformation. I assume the consumer technology is something that alters the sound, making it all muffled and hsuhed, a sort of processing technique you don’t get from using plug-ins. The music is very much a work of electro-acoustic music. And, as such, it is a very vibrant, with lots of small movements. Things roll back and forth, and again I have no idea how Whetham works, but I assume he’s actively involved in producing these sounds, manually, using walkmans with pre-recorded sounds along with acoustic objects, tossing them about freely, and small speakers used to get them through the discarded side of the installation. Again, unsure, but I’d like to think of this is an active installation, or perhaps a rather unsual instrument (although I am inclined to think it’s an installation, but I have no good reasons for this). Altogether this is some very solid music, right up my alley, because it’s a bit of a lot of things (noise, field recordings, electro-acoustic, sound art), and still something very personal. As always, Whetham doesn’t let you down. (FdW)
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If I understood correctly, the CD for Inexhaustible Editions was already online for two years but only recently released on CD. It’s a fascinating departure for Alfredo Costa Monteiro, as it’s not his typical solo release, but a piece he composed for a small ensemble. The instruments in this unique ensemble include a synthesizer, tenor and soprano saxophones, acoustic guitar, no-input mixing board, C and alto flutes, double bass, percussion and accordion; the latter played by the composer. As always with these modern composition works, I’d love to see the score! Bandcamp tells us that the score is “in the form of a card game or a fortune telling session and a music consisting of the combination of the key figure of three notes, the performers are placed in the space so as to evoke the apparent randomness of a constellation.” It’s a work about order and disorder, and about chance and randomness. Of course, that’s only true if you were at the recording, in Barcelona on January 17, 2021. If one were allowed to walk around (I don’t know if the audience was), you could create new points of entry for this composition. The spatial character of the performance is lost on the CD release, for obvious reasons; you could walk around the living room, but let’s assume that’s not the same thing. Even when this is a piece for a small ensemble of musicians, the music is unmistakably Alfredo Costa Monteiro. Throughout the music is minimal, with lots of small events going round, not colliding in any regular intervals, but of constant different shift. I believe we don’t hear all instruments simultaneously, but rather in smaller groupings, and of course these change all the time. That adds to the chaos that never becomes chaos. The music is very reflective and calm, but maybe, for whatever reason (or, perhaps, no reason at all), I also played this at a somewhat lower volume. If you turn up the volume a bit then other instruments may come to the foreground, such as the no-input mixer and synthesizer, both fiercely rumbling in the lower spectrum of the piece. This is a beautiful piece of music, very quiet, very meditative, and precisely the sort of minimalism of modern composition that I like.
I can’t recall ever reviewing two of his releases in the same issue, but I leaped straight into ‘Radiant’, a solo work for “electronics, feedbacks, resonant objects & recordings”. This too is a single piece of music, at 52 minutes, ten minutes longer than the previous one. If I lulled into sleep, right from the first second I straight awake. When was the last time I heard something from him this loud? Did he ever do anything that loud? Maybe, but I am not aware. The resonant objects mentioned seem to be cymbals, played with electrical devices to get a continuous buzz and they are amplified. With this amplification feedback arrives at the scenery and the whole thing becomes very much a powerful drone affair. However, not an exclusive affair as Monteiro drops in smaller sounds occasionally, or applies electronic treatments, to further enrich the music. He says, “RADIANT is heavily inspired by the idea that subjective simplicity can contain objective complexity, and that sound energy that can be resourced in the creation of a system without hierarchy, and expanding within this apparent contradiction”, which I guess shows in the music. Superficially the music might be one thing, but due to its density, there are various layers to be detected. There is a machine-like quality to the music, almost industrial, with conveyor belts and machinery, all sound simultaneously, and the listener is in the middle of this factory. Throughout these almost 53 minutes, the textures move and shift, albeit minimally. If the other CD is an odd-ball in Monteiro’s vast catalogue, because it’s a composition being performed by others, this one is an odd-ball for it’s massive, louder density. There is no hierarchy, as I enjoyed both; also playing them in this order worked well, just as I think it would be in a reverse order. (FdW)

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FERNANDO JOSÉ PEREIRA & SAMUEL SILVA – FROM WITHOUT, FROM DEEP WITHIN (CD by Museum of International Contemporary Sculpture)

You may recognise the name Fernando José Pereira as one of the members of Haarvöl, but here he’s on a different mission, working with Samuel Silva. He’s a photographer and the music on this CD is for an exhibition of his work. I assume the cover shows us examples of his work; “a set of images of improvised agricultural stratagems found in the embouchures of mudflats or part of paddocks and walled land in the countryside. Marks of private property or curbs on the boldness of cattle, these involuntary ‘sculptures’ constitute a surprising repertoire of materials: they are metaphorical power in a political reading of the reality of the interior of the country (Portugal), subject to exodus and rampant emigration; they are also seismographs of an economy. ecology of survival typical of these places”. One day, I hope to know what this means. The photos on the cover are pretty hazy; that’s all I can say. Seeing Silva take credit for field recordings, I assume he made this on his trails, taking pictures. We find these field recordings packed inside a swirl of electronic drones, where Pereira enters. I don’t know if he likes his methods to be analogue or digital, but just as with Haarvöl, he knows how to create compelling drone music. Whether or not he’s been processing field recordings remains a bit of a mystery; there are a few instances in which these are as clear-cut as could be—cowbells, water and birds, a very agricultural setting indeed. Most of the time, however, the music consists of pure drones and there is a raga-like feeling to some of this material, with various closely linked frequencies. Pereira creates marked parts which cross-fade slowly from one section to the next. Here’s where the field recording comes shining in again, and these slowly disappear in the next section or go way under without disappearing. In terms of drone or ambient, this CD doesn’t give us something entirely new and the material is among great works in a crowded field. The music is excellent, created with care, the right pace and a wealth of exciting sounds, both field recordings and electronic. Sometimes, that’s all one needs. (FdW)
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PRMS – RUIN (CD by Cloudchamber Recordings)

By now, you could be aware that behind Prms is Primož Bončina, from Slovenia, also the man behind the label Cloudchamber Recordings. The label started with cassettes but only released CDs in atmospheric packages (lots of black and grey) for some time. This new release has collages by Niels Geybels, who works in music under the guise of Sequences and with the Audio Visual Atmosphere label; it’s a small world indeed. Bončina is a man working with various monikers, such as Alters and Prms, and, perhaps, to the outsider, the differences might be minor, but no doubt they matter to him a lot. You can safely say atmospheric music is close to his heart, but the outcome might be different. As Alters, he leans towards a wall of sound approach, which may be somewhere where unlikely genres such as metal and ambient meet. As Prms, his music stays on a mellow level but with similar intensity. Perhaps the music here goes more under your skin because it’s less of a direct, in-your-face approach. Prms plays “Synthesizer, Fuzz, Tape, and Electric Guitar” and offers six lengthy pieces of music. Sometimes, his drones take on a more church-organ approach (maybe I am thinking of different altars here), but there’s also that distorted guitar approach we know from his other work. Yet it all seems not as massive (and remember, all is relative; I can assume someone else thinks this is massive) as Altars, with an opener approach to sound, yet without compromise regarding density and the use of sounds. As said, the devil of difference is in the detail. In ‘Vine Of The Dead’, the shortest piece at nearly five minutes contains spoken word, which is quite an odd-ball and a nice throw back to the 1990s ambient thing when these were more common. But here, in the middle of the CD, it is also a fine point of relief. Do I really have to mention the music is quite dark, or do we know this without saying it? Let’s assume everybody knows. It’s that lovely spooky darkness with the qualities of an excellent soundtrack to a dark movie, preferably of a more apocalyptic or dystopian nature. Lovely and frightening, that’s how we like music at Vital Weekly (well, I do) (FdW)
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RATTI – THETA (CD by Barly Records)

In which universe goes around that Vital Weekly is one of the best places to send your ‘experimental jazz/rock music’? And can we be removed from that universe? Ratti, not to be confused with composer Nicola Ratti, is a trio with Antonio Ciaramella (guitar and live electronics), Roberto di Blasio (drums, alto and soprano saxophones) and Giulio Izzo (double bass). I am eager to learn which element of their music they think is ‘experimental’, because I don’t know. There are elements of free improvisation, jazz and free jazz and rock, or rather some more progressive rock. Some of the saxophone playing reminded me of King Crimson’s ‘In The Court Of The Crimson King’, certainly combined with some more rock guitar. I love that record. When I was 13, I borrowed this LP from the music library, later on I owned one, and when I found a cheap CD of it, I bought it. That’s all I ever needed to know from that side of the music world. I am not too impressed by the eight instrumental pieces on this CD. It’s alright, and I’m sure they are all very skilled musicians, but as I said on several occasions, this kind of music came into Vital Weekly’s backdoor, and we had more people to write about it for a while. That’s much less, and promotional copies might be better served elsewhere. And what’s wrong with ‘Ribite’? That song cuts out after a minute, and the rest is blank. Is that a pressing error or a deliberate thing? I don’t know, but maybe something I don’t care about. (FdW)
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TERRE SOL FOUR – JUJU (LP by W.E.R.F. Records)

Yes, one can indeed judge a record on the face of its cover. With an attractive image, the chances of the LP being picked up and listened to grow surely. And even without this eye on the picking-up and possible sales conversion, JUJU’s exciting jacket, without a shadow of a doubt, sports one of the most stunning images of the last years. Job expertly done here by Dominiek Claeys.
Are we here to tell you about nice covers? Sometimes we are. But that’s not nearly the whole story or story arc, of course. The four human-ish forms on the sleeve, shrouded in deep blue cloaks in the guise of geometrical shapes, projected in a landscape of fleeing perspective lines, light sources coming from the right, direct shadows to the left… this quartet goes by the name of Terre Sol Four. It comprises of Karen Willems (voice, drums, percussion objects, keyboards and field recordings), accompanied by Marc de Maeseneer, Vincent Brijs and John Snauwaert on various saxes.
Terre Sol Four is not your average band, not even your average improv group. Things move and work differently here, in these lands of wonder. There’s an infectious groove, packing a sucker punch or two, doors wide open in terms of accessibility yet carefully crafted along the lines of free jazz and energetic improv, with all works composed by Willems. A kaleidoscopic universe of interconnectedness that is collective as much as idiosyncratic – assured as much as it is searching, probing, questioning and questing.
Karen Willems’ tape K A A P M I J ventured and adventured into regions only the most fearless tread: quixotic and enigmatic, fragile yet firm, in a realm beyond the realms of (improvised) music, towards pure sound art. Her massive 2LP Grichte projected lines from this aural universe of tinker and composition onwards: one platter towards the It Deel series with the Kleefstra brothers (hopefully out this year) and the other disc putting forward a proposition more akin to a rock band feeling and setting. The multidimensional approach of Willems is constantly immersing itself in tactility, forward drive and an uncertain uncanny mood of Twin Peaks-y not-quite-OK-ishness: cryptic yet crystal clear post-Dada.
It’s the second LP of Grichte that’s picked up on here with JUJU. A profound sonic tapestry of intensely haunting human shared existence through progressive musical processing. Also: a bold statement, far beyond the frailty of K A A P M I J, bringing to the fore Willems’ experience as the drummer in several Belgian rock acts of name and fame. This a record brimming with the drive to cover ground left uncovered. To push through, move beyond – to breach. And to not consider the work done but to continue and extend the work done – further, so to say, where expressive rock riffs collide with introspective intimacies.
JUJU fully opens the cracks in the pavement, picks up the cobblestones and uses these as spellbinding weaponry in the arsenal of attractions that relentless experimentation can provide. The caustic sense of urgency underlining these works – invitational, participatory, reminding us of responsibilities and togetherness (versus self-centred hyper-focus) – even manages to imbue JUJU with a political call to action, a call to change.
More confident and assured than on earlier releases, the bold and vigorous JUJU bridges Swans and Duke Ellington, eccentricity and playfulness, eerie soundscapes and smouldering or infectious pulses. What makes this record shine is – of course – not only the cover. Not even the spectacular music, the self-assured coherence and Karen Willems at the peak of her artistic powers, but the sense of joyful glee with which the moving beyond, digging deeper, opening up, speaking out is taken up and made performative. A manifest performativity that is intriguing and utterly compelling, and – also and more importantly – an inspirational call to action for all of us – a gesture like a hand extending from the album to join in, to ecstatically dismantle what is and to don the cloaks of what could be: a possibly unstoppable thrust and truth. (SSK)
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Hot on the heels of ‘Songs In The Key Ov Y’, reviewed in Vital Weekly 1432, there is a new work by the musical omnvirous monsters of Instagon. That previous work was a bit too hippy-dippy for me, dwelling on the free edges of psychedelic free rock, but it’s Instagon, so you have no idea where they will be next. This new album proofs this theory. We have an entirely cast of players here, next to uber Instagon LOB, being Austin Rich (Mini-Mutations), Roger Smith (Chefkirk), Andrew Wayne (Chopstick), Marc Schnieder (Medicine Cabinet), Brandon Abell (Microwave Windows), Jim Willig (Waning/Venetian Veil), Daniel Warner (Collapsist), & Guitarist John Keeling, which reads like a few names from the noise scene and some I never heard of. The music on this album was recorded at three concerts in 2022, at Norcal Noisefest, Sacramento Audio Waffle, and NW Loopfest in Corvalis, OR. Curiously also mentioned is “these recordings are MIXER SET performances by Instagon from 2022”, whatever that means. As said, unlike the previous release we are here in a different musical field, and while it’s not harsh noise, elements of noise music is a prominent feature on this album. In ‘Grogu’s Dream’ there is some extensive use of feedback and screaming. Yet, it also contains the carcking of acoustic objects as heard on the opening piece, the milder ‘An Echo, A Waffle, Then Drive’. In this piece also bouts of noise, along with feedback and guitar improvisations (the only audible ones on this record). The second side sees the almost twenty minutes of ‘Ghost Hunting In Oregon’, which is by the first side standards a quiet piece. Someone blowing into the microphone, some synthesiser fading in and out and heavily obscured action with contact microphones and delay pedals. The latter may sound a bit too cliched, and effectively breaks down the ghost hunting quality of the track. Still it’s the sort of deconstruction that I like. Also the deconstruction of what a band should be or sound. In that sense it’s great to have a noisy set such as this, which is not as noisy as it could have been. Great! (FdW)

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Love Earth Music released another new vinyl, a true split album between Subservientdominance and Peasant Farm. The first side I’m listening to is by subservientdominance, a.k.a. Doug Dewalt. He is from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, runs Eternal Nightmare and is known under many names of which Sodom Hussein raises the most eyebrows but triggers all the giggles also. In under 20 minutes, Doug gives us three tracks, which can best be defined as harsh noise of quite a complex order. “Sixty Second Snuff” opens with a sample after it bursts out of your speakers. Deep bass drones with more than enough happening in all layers to make a tired brain active again. The 8-minute “Blanket Of Pearls” has fewer extremes but is based on an excellent looped-like structure that brings you into a hednodding state. Finally, “Hatred Has A Home” also doesn’t have those basses of the first track, but it’s so brilliantly chaotic … So yeah, hatred has a home, and it’s either Bethlehem, Pennsylvania or just plain old Hell.
The reverse side of “Engineered For Oppression” has four tracks by Peasant Farm, a.k.a. Ian Tyler. Ian only had four traceable releases on Discogs, but holy sh1t, I hope this is not the last thing I hear from him. In the time I’ve been writing for Vital Weekly you must have noticed I do like my power electronics and death industrial dirty, gritty, in your face and throbbing in all directions. And well, Peasant Farm checks all the boxes. Where Power Electronics is in my book a bit more US-based as Death Industrial – with icons Atrax Morgue, Lille Roger / Brighter Death Now – is more EU-based, there are always a few bands that will not fit an actual scene or style. And at THAT moment, it becomes interesting. So yes, Peasant Farm fits that latest category. I can’t get over how the four tracks speak to me. There are no long tracks (roughly between 3 and 5 minutes), vocals I can’t decipher, analogue-sounding layers, loops, and structures with a lot happening in subtle layers of heavily manipulated vocals and added noises. It will speak to fans of Genocide Organ, Atrax Morgue, and I can’t WAIT to hear more !!! (BW)
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JON WATKINS – LONE WOLF TAVERN (CDR by Inner Demons Records)

Despite starting as a 3″ CDr label, Inner Demons decided to do different formats at some point. Like in this case, a ‘normal’ 5″. When you release 3″s, a double 3″ is sometimes a ‘must’ when it concerns the thoughts behind the conceptual approach. All good, and a triple three is also a magnificent thing to work with … But hand-copying 126 CDRs for a single release of 42 copies can be tedious. But having said that, it’s completely true towards the medium and the concept behind the label. So yeah, I fully sympathize with the fact that you want to stick to an idea, but it’s also okay to deviate at some point. Postage worldwide isn’t getting any cheaper, and after you’ve released a box set with a 12x CDR for which you copied 42*12=504 3″ CDr’s (ed: yes, Mr. Wilson, I’m looking at you! You made Dan do that 😉 ) well, it’s an easy choice to at some point focus on getting things out a bit easier.
Jon Watkins has had a few reviews already in VW, and a few weeks ago (1432), I reviewed the collaboration between Jon and label owner Dan. Where Dan made the noise, and Jon had layers of guitar manipulations. “Lone Wolf Tavern” is a complete CD(r) with experimental guitar music. Soundsource: Just Guitar and effects. The vibe can only be described by swampy experimental blues with moments of ambient and jazz. With Jon being Canadian, I wouldn’t blink my eyes at all if someone told me he was Australian. He’d fit in there perfectly. It’s a warm weather CD, it’s a ‘sit on the porch and drink lemonade’ CD, it’s a ‘damn I need to revisit my old stash of swamp stuff’ CD … Is it the best CD I’ve heard on this label? I can’t say it’s the best with my musical taste, but I am happy to see Inner Demons do more than ‘just’ noise, HNW, drone and rhythms. And within a broader aspect of what experimental music is, Jon Watkins’ music deserves to be heard. (BW)
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μασχαλισμός – μ​α​σ​χ​α​λ​ι​σ​μ​ό​ς (CDR by Inner Demons Records)

So how is your Greek these days? Bad? Gone? Never existed? Inner Demons gives you a reason to freshen it up again! At least, it did for me. I only had two years of Greek in high school but that was so long ago that the language is now really dead to me. That little I remembered was enough to decipher the letters and make something of the track titles. Twelve tracks are named after the 12 first letters of the Greek alphabet. Each plays in between 3 and 7 minutes; notmore information is needed to get behind the concept of this one. For that I need the help of Google and some additional info.
The project/title translates as ‘Maschalismos’, which is the act of rendering a corpse unable to return to life. For example, drive a wooden stake through the heart of a vampire before it’s buried, or leave a silver bullet in a werewolf’s corpse so it remains dead for eternity. You can find more information on the webz if you’re curious about it, but it guides me a little towards what to expect on this release.
First, as with other experimental music, it’s not a happy release. Imagine Taylor Swift or Billie Eilish writing a song about the subject. Not gonna say anything and definitely not telling you to use Udio to see what would come of it … But Maschalismos does a good job here in creating a ritualistic feel without using -sec- rhythmic layers. Tracks are gritty in structure, loopy in nature and weird in composition. I can relate to the act of ‘preparing a body’ and the used sounds, the directness, the atmosphere, and maybe even the smell. And no, it’s not something I do or did. But being an avid fan of horror movies parts of this album could well be projected onto films covering the subject.
So a lovely album, a fun concept and a perfect release to play while you’re doing chores. Like the preparation of bodies, that’s also the sort of work you do without thinking what you’re doing, right? (BW)
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MCCLURE AND WHYTE – FARMING (cassette by Long Arms Artifacts)

Behind these last names, we find Bruce McClure and Oliver Whyte. The latter I know from his duo Coims, and the first I didn’t recognise as one half of Storyteller, of whom I reviewed a cassette before. They are a duo with Adaadat label boss Bjorn Hatleskog. That was a project of stories, and I now realise that’s McClure’s doing because his new duo is also about stories, poetry, or spoken word. When I reviewed Storyteller (Vital Weekly 1182), I wrote, “You know me and lyrics, stories, vocals and voices? Well, maybe you don’t. I love a good story; books, short stories, magazines, I will read it (well, surely anything with/about music is preferred, but science fiction, fantasy or the more idiotic conspiracy theories is fine). I love weird music, but you knew that from reading these pages. However, the combination of someone reading stories over a hotbed of music is not too well spent on me. The voice distracts me from the music and vice versa.” But with the voice low in the mix, it was okay for the man who doesn’t love words. On ‘Farming’, the voice is way more important than the music, which is, most of the time, some chords on a keyboard. There is nothing overtly complex in that department, so we are focused on the words. As I recounted before, besides having little interest in words, I also don’t understand what literature is about, and it’s not something I know much about. Much of this is about farming, as I read on Bandcamp, “‘A saga of horrors and revulsion fables. Exploring the mythic relationships between the human animal and mud fork. Do the animals control the farm? Does the machinery choose the job? Farm or be farmed?” I would love this to be more of a radio drama, with the music being less supportive and instead more part of the story. This cassette has nineteen rather shortish tracks, and I heard it with interest and enjoyed the effort, but I admit some of this eluded me. If you are after something different, no more standard drones, free improv or noise, then I wholeheartedly recommend this. (FdW)
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ROBIN STOREY – ON THE BORDERLINE (book & CD by Soleilmoon)

Asmus Tietchens once told me we must write our own histories, as nobody would do it. That might not be entirely true, but some do so; every man is a volume. The interesting question is how to approach your story. What do we think makes a great story, and what do we leave out? I’ve said it before, and here again, I love reading. Biographies and autobiographies are top of the list of my interests, and I am not ashamed to say that I read all books from all members of Kiss and The Police, and Phil Collins seemed more likeable after reading his memoir. I also read the one from Bruce Dickinson, the Iron Maiden man and here’s what I mean by ‘what’s interesting and what’s not’. Dickinson is also a commercial airline pilot, which could have been more interesting, especially when it was hush-hush espionage.
Closer to home is ‘On The Borderline’ by Robin Storey, also known as Rapoon. Before that, he was a member of Zoviet France, a band dear to my heart. It is a book I was looking forward to reading a lot. Partly because of knowing more about the earliest days of Zoviet France, which, in the 1980s, was a mystical band, not unlike The Residents, why he left and to know more about Rapoon, next to whatever else he does daily, assuming he’s not full time occupied with his music. And last but not least, something about the business.
The book is in two parts. The first half is his story, early years, Zoviet France time, going solo, memories about touring (good and bad), and so on. The second half is Storey’s paintings, five sections, one per decade. Some of this is what we know from the artwork of his records, the sort of tribalist, mythical caveman painting, but also, surprisingly, some non-abstract sketches and paintings, portraits and such like. I do not know the quality; I have no expertise in that area. I enjoy what I see but I always liked his cover artwork, which is highly personal.
In the autobiographical part, Storey delivers partially delivers the goods. There is an extensive first section, say the first 20 pages of densely printed A4 pages, which is all about his youth, growing up in a small village in the North of England, getting to know strange music, getting into drugs, doing music, painting, girls and just when I thought this was all good and well, but now tell me about Zoviet France, because that’s what I like to know. When that started, I was delighted, and while not (luckily perhaps) the kind of story in which every record is talked about, it was an exciting read. Also, Storey created some material that was deemed to be rhythmic but attracted the attention of Death Ov Vinyl Entertainment, which became his first solo release as Rapoon. The explanation of where the name comes from is later, in a lengthy chapter consisting of shorter bits of life at home. As for playing music, Rapoon never brings in the amount of money to support a wife and two kids. There is also a day job, and he talks about his career within an AV company and with children later on, which also brought him some trouble, all explained in the section about daily life. The tour stories are of more interest (depending, of course, on what you want to know) as they cover things that more people experienced – my thinking here is a few musicians are reading Vital Weekly; comparing notes is always funny. Storey only tells us a little about dealing with labels, rip-offs (maybe there were none) or such things. On several occasions, he says, “I don’t know”, or “I am not sure”, which is a pity: we like to know!
Throughout a fine book; some of it I didn’t need to know, some was very interesting. Storey’s style is not always to the point, but he doesn’t meander too much, which is good, obviously, along with the hardcover book (as said, A4 or so sized, thick paper; imagine a Vinyl On Demand book, which looks great, but isn’t easy to read) comes a Rapoon CD, and knowing more about technology (and here too, he is relatively concise; no endless lists of software, hardware, or all too technical), this is something to hear with different ears. I know Storey took offence in the past when I wrote his work sounded the same (and he quite rightly takes offence when people ask him if he recorded another ten CDs before lunch; I know I would), but there is certainly a signature sound that undoubtedly makes Rapoon instant recognisable. The shorter loop approach, using various delays, creates this tangled web of voices, sounds, and patterns with that overtly minimalist percussive feel, adding that tribal flavour and connecting with the cover artwork. I haven’t heard all his work, so it’s not for me to say where this fits the overall Rapoon history. That’s not what this book is about; there is no descriptive list of his output. In terms of having a bit of ‘our’ history, this is a great book. (FdW)
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Besides books about a limited subject, say Robin Storey/Rapoon reviewed elsewhere, there are books about labels, movements, genres in a country, and big subjects as ‘cassettes’. I’m taking the liberty here to expand a bit further than the specific book at hand, as cassettes are a vast subject. There is a limited view, the independent cassette releases starting in the late 1970s and still a force to this very day; let’s say the natural historical background of Vital Weekly. Or from a more macro aspect, also looking at the world of heavy metal, hip hop, field recordings and mixtapes. These stories, if I’m honest, are fascinating and reveal the profound cultural impact of cassette tapes. One of the oldest books I know on this subject is Robin James’ ‘Cassette Mythos’, which hinted at the macrostory I just mentioned. Vital Weekly spent a lot of words on ‘Unofficial Release’ (Vital Weekly 843) by Thomas Bey William Bailey, who looked more at the world of DIY releasing music on cassettes, linking it to the world of mail art and interviewing people like Rod Summers, Vitorre Baroni, Al Margolis ad GX Jupitter-Larsen. The reviewer back then, not being me, mentioned the incomplete aspect of the book, which is also something I could say about Jerry Kranitz’ ‘Cassette Culture’, which went unreviewed in Vital Weekly. A history of the same DIY as Bailey wrote about, but now mostly from an American point of view, and a handful of European examples. Very little about Japan, if I recall well. Also a book that isn’t easy to read, due to its size (like the Rapoon book) and various editing errors.
Recently two more books came about, and there is a slight overlap. The first is by Marc Masters, ‘High BIas, the Distorted History of the Cassette Tape’. In his book Masters describes, per chapter, scenes that used cassettes, not just the ‘noise’ underground, but also hip hop, but also people sharing live recordings, doing mix tapes, launching scenes or tapes from what we would once have called the third world, and how they end up in DJ sets, such as Awesome Tapes from Africa. His books ends with ‘the cassette is not dead’ and that’s also the conclusion of ‘Unspooled’ by Rob Drew. These books underscore the enduring influence of cassette tapes in the music industry, inspiring us with their longevity and adaptability.
His book is entirely about the history of cassettes as a medium to share music. Somewhere, he mentions Thurston Moore’s coffee table book with mix tape covers, and I remember he invited me, but I politely wrote back I had no mix tapes, nor do I think I ever made one. I knew very few people who shared my musical taste, and when I found them, all we traded were cassettes of our own musical making. That makes me an anomaly, as, believing Drew, everybody made a mix tape at one point in their life. It’s a book by Duke University Press with extensive footnotes. Drew starts early, in the 1950s, when reel-to-reel machines became affordable and people started placing adds to seek like minded to trade recordings made from the radio, plus the copyright implications brought on by that. The copyright element returns later, when ‘home taping kills music industry’, when cassettes were used to record LPs and shared with friends. Simultaneously, it was also a way for people to discover new music. Drew has many examples of that from interviews with old fanzines. The ‘noise’ underground plays a minor role in this story, as many of his examples are from punk and alternative rock (labels like ROIR and bands like Cleaners From Venus, one of the few non-US examples mentioned in his book). His stories about hip hop overlap with Masters’ book, but he also has an exciting story about how mix tapes were used by women, from The Raincoats to Riot Grrl. Also, there is quite a bit of underground press writing about cassette releases, magazines like OP and Sound Choice, and how the reception shifted. Mixtapes play a significant role in this book, and people trade recordings through classified ads to share music with like-minded people and get to know new music. Everything seems well-researched, and it’s a most pleasant read. as said, there is some overlap with Masters’ book, but both are great reads, supplementing each other. (FdW)
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