Exercises in ambience

April 2019

The Rossi Bar

Not By Radium

So first, starting before anyone comes in for a proper long form set, is Not By Radium is sat sideways on at one of the small coffee tables that The Rossi Bar seem to have multiplied up from the one at The Green Door Store. We’ve seen his dice directed work before, but I don’t recall anyone ever performing with a notepad and paper. So everything unfolds very, very slowly. As you would expect. He starts with a slowly modulating wash of drone ebbing and flowing, after quite some time a fan like wisp filters through, to be joined later by what sounds like (but I’m assured wasn’t) the introductory chords to “Dream Baby Dream” complete with rim-shot tap at the end. By the time we get to about 15 minutes in things have filtered down somewhat and I’m starting to unwind. Around 25 minutes we hit minimal impact levels of stasis. The still of icy deep space. Somewhere around the half hour mark there is an odd interlude when someone slowly plays a piano in a church a couple of miles away. About 40 minutes in we get something a bit raspier in the drone department, and I’m starting to unravel a bit. As we come to the last 15 minutes or so a vaguely euphoric choral sound builds in and blissingly lifts us up towards the close. There is no climax or crescendo.


Stone Cornelius

Stone Cornelius starts her set with a wind up bird in a cage that chirps musically. There is also a loop of birdsong and some Mozart. The wind up bird in the cage winds down quite quickly. The birdsong is slightly distorted and a bit too loud. The Mozart is phased and looped into increasingly short loops. There is a voice as well giving what I’m sure is good advice, but it’s inaudible and uncomfortable. This should be ambient heaven, but it’s increasingly jarring; my shoulders slowly rise up alongside my neck. At various times Emu adds wind chimes, some kind of massive red apple, and various other ephemera into the mixture. It’s funny, at times it achieves a bizarrely cluttered level of relaxing as the Mozart loops have achieved a lovingly modulated numbness.


Distant Animals <in a forest of signs>

Distant Animals <in a forest of signs> started his set with an introduction saying it’s his first new piece of music for a while, and reading from the book it’s based on. After he’s finished reading Dann starts a two note wobbly beep loop that slowly emerges into audibility from his modular set up. Occasionally a sub bass rattles the PA in a wave underneath it like being chased by the Tardis in a snowstorm. Occasionally he crosses the room to pick up one or two carefully selected patch leads. There’s an odd flashback to Emu’s winding the cage sound that could be directly from the synth, or it could be rattling bits around the room. Here’s an odd thing, he never takes out any leads but at one point the sound subsides to a tiny vibration. He then builds it back up with a subtly layered set of durational sounds, whistles, washes vibrations and something of the icy calm from the deep space section of Tony’s set. This settles in nicely before some more patching brings in a spooky violin part counterpointed by ancient alien spaceships


A Hot August Night. Oh hang on.

March 2019

The Rossi Bar

Ensemble 1

The first act of the evening is Ensemble 1, sitting in (as has been the case a few times recently) for an act that couldn’t make it down. It turned out really well. Basically it was one person, Tom, a guitar, one effects unit and a looper. So a lot more minimal that we’re used to seeing with “real instrument and effects” setups. I think minimal being the operative word. He took his lead from Terry Riley’s “in C”, in that instead of layering up a bass line and a percussion part and something noisy etc., he started with small pointillist picked guitar lines, which locked together moving forward, enhancing each other replacing earlier parts, progressing always shifting. Yes it did layer up and build, even reaching a crescendo about 2/3 of the way through – but as I say not in the usual kind of manner. It was intricate. Delicate. Finessed even. There is a second slighter crescendo involving some light strumming and a small amount of distortion towards the end and that’s it.


Monzen Nakacho

The second act was Gary Short in his Monzen Nakacho disguise. He has eschewed the space visuals but still plays what I inherently feel is space music. It all sounds super analogue coming as it does off his laptop, nice little detunes and vibratos on various tones. He starts down tempo, a wash and chimes, light chittering percussion and slow development, some prepared some played. The key changes in the first song provoke the ghost of Piero Umiliani oddly. The second song steps it up, both fast and slow, with flashing arpeggios and slow-motion tonal bass drum washed about with a gritty tailed tuned down snare. Halfway through this gives way to some ray gun effects, and then we’re back into space, this falling through time segues at some length into the next song, evoking lost eons and tumbling starships. The third song when it arrives has massive string synths and fat analogue sounding bass and some proper squelch and after some development goes out on the groove of bass and percussion. The fourth song is a brief creepy nursery chime led horror waltz. The last number it’s only fair to say is a Moroder inspired stomper of the highest quality.


Adam Bushell and Will Prentice perform Alvin Lucier

Rounding off the evening we had firstly Adam Bushell performing “I am sitting in a room”, after which he was joined by Will Prentice for “Criss Cross” both pieces written by Alvin Lucier. The first explores the sonics of a room by having the performer reading a text out into the room, recording it (in this case through a big old mic at the back) and then playing that recording back into the room, recording it and so on… It’s interesting and this is the third venue he’s performed it at for us. It degenerated fairly quickly into a spacey quite toppy drone with insect buzzes which I wasn’t expecting. “Criss Cross” is quite a different beast. Will and Adam sat opposite each other each with a guitar laying down in front of them plugged into an amp. They each had an e-bow on a single string, one tuned down from the normal note and one tuned up, they set the strings droning and at a set rate moved towards the normal note then on to where the other had been. This sets up all sorts of things in the room. You notice first the notes beating as they do when you tune a guitar, then you may accidentally move your head and all hell breaks loose inside as your mind tries to cope with what happens. On one level it’s a simple thing, on another…. wow


Snowshoes on, then

January 2019

The Rossi Bar

Rough Work

So we started our tenure at The Rossi Bar and the evening itself with Rachel Cohen and Kev Moore as Rough Work. Rachel most visibly had some teapots that she started, lid off, pouring water from one to the other, and bubbly blowing down the spout. Kev had some things probably electronic inside an attaché case, lid up. There are resonant ringings and janglings, chains and occasionally you can see Kev moves onto a physical thing. Rachel has found some school books from the year of the drought, if I’m any judge. She occasionally reads from them. There is paper unravelled and torn and some encounters with tightly stretched parcel tape that seems comically to stick to everything. Clatter and burble, rattle, the clash of lid on pot. Big electronic stereo exhalations. Tapping. Space noises – “The water came from the pond”. They chant in unison “A force cannot be seen” as a kind of chorus to readings from her physics exercise books. There is a brief discussion on whether a word is Pirate or Pivot. Then some more time spent showing unstructured can be fun and it’s over.


Kieran Mahon

In contrast to the empty improv of the first act Kieran Mahon kicks off his set with a thick meaty electronic drone, mostly sourced from a Microbrute, with a nice resonant sweep over the top. A third strand powers through the middle of this for a while, before chunking up into a slow stepping sequence, while we’re concentrating on this the original drone is mutating away out of sight into a LFO driven braid of intersecting tones. By now the drone has completely given way to melange of discrete sonics, beeps, buzzes, chunks of bass all stepping around each other in some semi delirious Edgar Froese vision. This slowly steps out of phase through noise into some inverted version of the original setup, a new stepping sequence, a drone with a new shimmering space tonality. At this stage Kieran introduces a hint of unfolding melody hidden away that again morphs into space dust.


Child

Child finished the evening off, Annabelle starting her set with an echoed chime riff and high flutelike parts underpinned by some seriously detached bass. She sings, while the parts loop around her. She speaks. Its eerie. She feeds some shaker into her delay chain and morphs into the second section. The decay on her vocals seems endlessly spacious. Some bass drum and twisting resonant synth brings in the next piece. Then its game time, it seems we start the Experience half way through her set. The bass has been pretty lightweight for a while, but she brings back seriously after this with a filtered bass line and a slow motion cascade of drums, she sings into a wine glass. There is some more physics (Newton’s Gravitational laws, rather than forces) as the beats drop away just to the bassline and vocals. To finish with the bass takes on a drone quality, while around it percussive synth parts shift in space and tone, her voice drifts in and out and weirdly Casio-tic keyboard melodies surprise us and shimmer.


By the time we finish and get upstairs, early as it is, the snow is thick and buses and taxis have stopped running. Kev has to get back to Southampton, and I think I have a hard time getting up to the racecourse.

Roll up roll up for a grandstand finish

December 2018
Green Door Store

Noteherder & McCloud

Noteherder & McCloudSo our last show at The Green Door Store started with Noteherder & McCloud grey suited as usual, but sadly lacking the drummer we were expecting due to ill health, but still it was a pretty good set (even if I do say so myself).  Starting with a monster slow bass pulse soon this was joined by a circling, swirling reverb-y soprano sax. After a while of this the bass switches over to a mid-tempo arpeggio, and the sax takes flight over some aeroplane hums. The bass stops leaving the plane drone hovering, the sax becomes plaintive. Everything drops away leaving Chris circular breathing a lengthy note. A squelching digital mains pulsing starts, Chris shouts into the sax, feedback loops build up in the FX chain and things become hard to source while I laugh. Things get denser and more unfocussed The sax gets pretty serious, weird bass runs happen and nothing is under control. This reaches some sort of crescendo then some lengthy looping 2 note bass line swerves in, derailing everything, the sax gets distant and beautiful, electronics shimmer and decay around us. The high point of the set. After that we get some bass-y noise, some fast arpeggiating and Chris lets rip again.


Buckner Building

Buckner BuildingNext up were Buckner Building; a table of things that sound, a backing accordion drone and rhythm device, violin and a fuck off huge recorder and a teeny tiny recorder all make a contribution during their set. They open with fiddle drone and plain voice with occasional thickened flourishes of violin and odd rattles and sniffs before we get a scary layering up of voices and whistled nightmares and a sudden switch into medieval dance tunage to confuse us before returning to the stark open folk of the beginning for the end. That pretty much set the tone for their set. Five songs of misdirection, tunefulness and decay, rattling drum machines and drones. The second song has a John Barry-esque section underpinning a song about two Herons in the evening. The third a grinding hurdy gurdy drone and recorder that gives way to an antipodean flute and drum track. The fourth a light fluttering that drops into Tuxedomoon cabaret, the final song opens with a gloriously spooky xylophone part over some unravelling drones supplanted by a heartbeat bodhran that in turn gives way to a 4/4 whistling jig before again circling back to the dark opening drones.


Or

So Or, is Resonant Blue with a percussionist, they’re sat behind a bench stuffed with electronics at one end and rattle an bangy things at the other (and on the floor and other tables next to them). At this point it’s best to say that there is no guitar (in spite of my references to one later on).  They push a succession of singing bowl chimes, shakers, bells and some tuned percussion into a looping laptop over a simple bass drum and slow feedback wobble. The layered looping works well with this kind of rhythmic dance music derived groove. Some are on extra long loops that take a while to come back. A fat bass peeks out, and the rhythm parts shuffle round for a while. The whine and a thick mid range rumble wash everything away and some machinery cycles in, we get some matchingly harder percussion and more insistent melodic loops are set off by an axle grinder. It all get s a bit intense. The percussionist yelps. It sounds like someone is e-bowing a guitar in a wind tunnel. At this point some massive south American bassline walks into a bar with an electric whip drum to accompany him. The percussionist works around this for a while, we get some layered up chittering voices that twist into a backward conversational loop that set us up u for the ridiculously heavy bass that takes us lumbering into the next section. The percussionist digs out a megaphone and lets rip and a second fuzzy bass starts fizzing around the first. The Djembe works around the basses taking us into some pretty definite On-U-Sound space. Cascading echoed shells herald the final part, the bassline faster but no less heavy; some backward guitarral squeal melody; rhythm parts more syncopated playing off each other – the percussionist gets to work on the rim of the singing bowl, really working away on that thing. You can see it leaping in his hand. He’s right there with it. The rest is taking care of itself the percussion parts still whirring round, he is right there with that bowl until everything else is stripped away and you can feel that one zone, that tone has completely filled his mind.


Understudy in the breaking dawn

November 2018
Green Door Store

Klaus Von Mork

Loftslag

Stepping into the things at the last minute we have a welcome set from Klaus von Mork, caped and hooded with lighted up fingertips at one of the oil-drum tables, swirling in mist and mostly in the dark, he starts with slightly slowed reading from The book of the Revelation of John, some plainchant and drones and hyper slow beats. We’re getting a good head of spooky steam up and everything breaks. So we have a bit of silence while things are worked on. The hood goes down. And to be fair the mystique never quite recovers, however it’s still a corking set once it gets going again. Clattering beats under screaming drones and monster bass wooshes, the kind of thing that the green Door Store PA totally relishes. There are some nicely dark in a modern way bass pads, some evil bass lines, Bulgarian singing, along with some breakdowns to skewed slow beats. One track has a hard step D’n’B drum track under grinding gear bassline and harsh noise whooshes. He finishes on a epic obscure tale of slowly unwinding sitar drone, with mysterious beats hidden under impenetrable clouds of reverb.


Le Pavement

ESP

Next up it’s Le Pavement with a sweet but too short set of modern electronics, starting with a low level drone with the two of them working around each other over a laptop and keyboard setup. There are some synth chord riffs that John Barry would have been pleased with introduce a slow rhythm succeeded by the unnerving sounds of electronic insects about their business. Some voices work their way into these field recordings along with small radiophonic flourishes and jungle birds or maybe electronic delay effects. A fairly old skool slow beat starts and one of them reads some words from a book. This feeds into a bass drone with them taking it in turns to play a “drum solo” on the keyboard, sparse detuning clatters with the intensity of both the drone and percussion building towards the set’s climax. They oddly provide an ideal segue between the first and last acts.


Matawan

Nil By Nose

Matawan return to SoG to round off the evening, eschewing their guitars, they have a table with effects lines based around cassette recordings to build their drones this time. And boy they really work with the sonics of the room, as the sound swells filling using every part of the sonic spectrum that the not inconsiderable PA will allow pretty soon everything that can rattle in the room is going, I’ve heard odd bits go before – the air-conditioning pipe, the metal fittings on the door, but Matawan get the whole place resonating, all of those things, the cage around the mixing desk, the actual door, the chains inside the curtain. Every bolt, glass and piece of my clothing is thrumming away. They pull it back for a couple of quite lovely swelling patches of church like beauty, where tones slowly move around gently filling the room and your mind with its pleasantness, before they come back for one quite unbelievable leathering of the room. If it wasn’t for the fact it had withstood 100 years of trains rattling over it I’d be quite concerned for the safety of the room.


One in twelve

October 2018
Green Door Store

So that was the Fort Process Dispersion our contribution to the season of events surrounding the amazing event that was Fort Process at Newhaven fort.

Loftslag

Loftslag

We had a great start to the evening with new duo Loftslag (apparently Icelandic for “Climate”) starting with a what sounds like a pounding kick that quickly sweeps up to a rhythmic mid range boinging thing (it’s not a boing, but it escapes my descriptive powers) that gets a lopsided drum pattern under it, its got some major drive and gets a weird overlay of scrapes, whirrs and beeps, with words. The rhythmic part drops out to be replaced by something a bit more randomly scrapey and the drum pattern notches up the intensity a couple of places and the rhythmic boing comes back almost as a gated pad and we get some proper bass in briefly before a two note drone comes to life. With a mirroring noise layer after a few bars that slowly increasing intensity until Greg starts groaning over it. Somehow it reminds me of late 70s Eno. Eventually all the melodic elements fall away leaving kick and noise. That builds up again with snatches of bass warp and skwirls of detuned synth. This gets increasingly randomised as we head towards the end with gurgles and more intense drums. So raucous party music instead of the noise set they promised us, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.


ESP

ESP

Second on the bill, another duo ESP; 3 turntables and shed-loads of effects and a couple of boxes of records. So pitched down warped psychedelic kaleidoscope of stuff. A cash register pings and pays out, bass drones loop. A boxing record (?!) provides percussion. Records start up and slow down, voices drop from chipmunk to buzzing bass. 70s Space noise sweeps by launching swirling gurgles, audio vistas of bubbling spaceship. A spaceship that seems to be travelling through the dinner hall at my old school. There’s some wonderfully dissonant orchestral drone passages reminiscent of Attileo Mineo’s world fair music from the 50s. Train records, some denser passages where Raymond Scott daft percussion underpins winds and planes. A couple of passages get quite dense but mostly its space and decontextualised sounds. The whole thing is online on their MixCloud, it’s really good, you’ll find it at this link: www.mixcloud.com/Electronic_Sound_Pictures/esp-live-spirit-of-gravity/?fbclid=IwAR1VtzgWdewVMyvqVJCfuRaNRoxr5E2oU0CNmtW_A4YQ1t6mq7sNk9C5t-c (NB. Copy the link into the address box of your browser for best results)


Nil By Nose

Nil By Nose
Unfortunately Katie English / Isnaj Dui was ill so couldn’t travel down to play which meant that for the first time this year we had an all male bill. Nil by Nose who stepped in made up for this to some extent by basing his set around a recording of his mum. It was another audio collage, but this time off a couple of tiny boxes that he had at the front of stage (where he sat in his usual wrestlers mask). It starts with a loop of a recording of his mum playing a timple (the Canary islands equivalent of a Ukulele) with some singing, looped on about 2 bars. This continues (through a shed-load of reverb) for all of the set. The first thing that happens other this is a slowly rising pinging riff. An icy bass drone loosely comes in under it. Everything stops and restarts. Other odd noises come and go. I swear at about 5 minutes in I was starting to hallucinate. The whole thing was uncanny in the Victorian sense, but not in the Victorian way. At one point the whole thing winked out of existence in a filtered disco sweep, but came back as disturbed as ever. There are ghosts in there, it isn’t safe.
Carl, he who is Nil By Nose, produced this video taster of the whole night:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpx-xmh1zyY&feature=youtu.be


Bookends

September 2018
Green Door Store

rdyer

rdyer

rdyer (really roll that first “r” like the pirate you forgot to be on ‘talk like a pirate’ day) started the evening off with a spooky song with Becca playing musical saw played over a chime loop, with Casio and vocals. And if that doesn’t get your memory buds going I don’t know what will. I think the song was called “Little Raindrops”, and ended on a crescendo of multi looped vocals. She then set up a string telephone with a cassette talking down it, plucked the string into a loop and played a couple of loops of skronk from her soprano sax to get something going to sing over. The next song had some more brutally bowed tin can string action to start that was absorbed into a nice long loop. Some light feedback, Casio drones and saw layer up subtle background for some multi-tracked vocals and a sax solo that takes me back to old Tuxedo moon. The last tin can song used a bass string for the string, which gave a really nice flappy bass part when looped. I think there was some melodica and looped vocal parts, before a really disturbing death shanty of cannibal lust developed out of a saw solo. The last one (“Today”?), another proper song, even with a cassette playing interviews with random folk is a celebration of small victories, a click track with piano, sad vocals.


Zeyn Mroueh

Zeyn Mroueh

So next up is Zeyn Mroueh, with an exotic inheritance we won’t go into here, laptop and low chair with guitar and shed-tons of effects. Notes go in and come out washed and denuded of form, thrums, squeals ebbing and flowing with several discrete cycles going on. He does four pieces each one discrete but overlapping. The second has an epic chorused quality to the introductory guitar notes. He also uses the loop pedal, to keep these Morricone notes going, while he hides them in mandolin frills and distortion nodules which gradually overwhelm them before the circular saw comes along and some epic riffage. The next one starts out thing and reedy before revisiting the twang of the previous track and whining out in a thing screechy feedback session that gradually thickened up and washed out. The final piece starts with a vocal recording before the guitar steeps in cyclically in hot Mediterranean waves, and it winds out with a melodic picked guitar part with detuning tendrils of delay flowing around the room.


Braindead Ensemble

Braindead Ensemble

Braindead Ensemble start with Thor sending cod generated tones into the cellos and double bass. They each have physical modifications, the cellos have speaker drivers built in, one has extra strings for drone and resonance, the other has a circuit board with dozens of knobs on. The contrabass has some modifications but these seem to be strapped on – I suppose finding a double bass to abuse in the same way would be prohibitive. So the tone goes into the cellos and double bass, we get some resonances and someone starts some bow work, from here its hard to know who does what so its all about the textures, beating, long drones. Mechanical scrapes. There is a lot of physical work, we can see everyone working, the changes Thor makes are reflected in what goes on with his visuals on screen (even if some of the explanatory coding is happening way off to the right). We get some righteous bass sonics; really get into the dirty depths of the GDS subs. some horrifically damaged high frequency sawing from hard bow work cuts through. And we get down to some pure waveforms and UFO electronics and modulations. Occasionally you get some pure strings coming through, which get subverted by extended acoustic techniques and then general sonic disruption happens. They do walk a fine line between free improv scrape and scrawl and uber drones.